Poems: Why Pasta Tasted Better on the Terrace & European Menu Reader

by Jen Karetnick

Why Pasta Tasted Better on the Terrace

The painting hung near the communal table,
portrait of plastic surgery at Vino
e Olio, syringe-stung lips pulled
as if by the opposing tides of Aventura
traffic, the skinny dorsal fin of nose,
the eyes, shadowless, that would not approve
my choices: sweetbreads to begin; a course
of gnudi ravioli; suckling pig where I’d have
skin as thick and easily shattered—more—
than peanut brittle. Under my own flesh,
sunk into celebratory fat, my bones hid
like nougat. “Perhaps the patio.” The downpour
was over. Bougainvilleas and a waitress
trained, clung to a frame, beckoned outside.
European Menu Reader
            -- from Berlitz

I failed at French
   with its slippery eel sounds
      but am willing to be sibilant
         for bouillabaisse, sarcelle, sabayon.

I came late to Spanish
   though its beat appeals and I can
      keep basic rhythm to jamón and tortilla,
         rev it up with racy zarzuela.

In the morning I have ordered pão
   followed by pökelfleisch for lunch
      and dinnertime bowls of acquacotta or brodetto
         simply because I like the sounds,

regardless of country or sense,
   and because I can find them all in one
      book. With such worldly fluency
         I speak menu! With what delicious conceit!

Jen Karetnick is the author of three chapbooks: Necessary Salt, Bud Break from Mango House, and Landscaping for Wildlife (forthcoming from Big Wonderful Press). Her poems, prose, playwriting and journalism have appeared widely in Gastronomica, The Miami Herald, and The New York Times among other publications. She works as the dining critic for MIAMI Magazine and is the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School.

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