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Poet of the Month: ‘Could it be in Longing We are Most Ourselves?’ by Liora Mondlak

The Big Mamou is closed
now. You used to be able
to go in and order a dish
called southern eel, and stay
all night.


Liora Mondlak is The Inquisitive Eater's Poet of the Month for December 2017.

Liora Mondlak remembers accompanying her mother to the market in Mexico City, where she grew up. She remembers the chickens hanging by their feet, and the sawdust around her saddle shoes. Years later, she would return to the market to buy ground chameleon, a well-known love potion, which she uses sparingly.

She lives in New York with her teenage daughter, where she teaches art and poetry. Lioramondlak.com

Featured image via Pixnio.

Essay of the Month: ‘Against Food,’ by Mika Bar-On Nesher

I

I hate going to restaurants, especially ones with dim lighting. I like food that tastes like cardboard, preferably just rice. I know it’s an art form for some. I watch my partner read every single ingredient on whatever product she buys, handling her sharpened knife like a serial killer. Going to the supermarket with her means I’ll be waiting by the cashier clutching rice and avocados for twenty minutes as she goes on scheming, pacing up, down, and around all the aisles. I get it. Her brother is a cook. They like discussing different body parts of fish, different degrees of dark chocolate, and so on. To me, food tastes good if it’s made by someone I love, and that’s the only criteria. Having worked in too many restaurants, I assure you the employees don’t wash their hands, the chefs are mentally strained, the servers are underpaid. It’s a terrible industry and I don’t understand what’s wrong with just wanting to eat rice twice a day until I die. The phrase “food porn” makes me uncomfortable. I do not find food in itself sensual—fruits, vegetables, raw meat. I have a hard time decorating my hunger. It’s not the food that’s sensual after all, but the appetite. Often my lack of participation in food pleasures makes others defensive, or they criticize me, diagnose me, show concern. I ate my first strawberry at age twenty-one. I didn’t like it. An entire short lifetime of resisting peer-pressure ended in one anticlimactic bite into that fuzzy, red triangle people will not give up. Food is emotional. Food is expensive. Food keeps us alive. It’s complicated from every angle.

 

II

Food and femininity are painfully aligned. I see my grandma frying schnitzels in sweatpants. She has been preparing the same meals for over fifty years. She’s obsessed with feeding us, haunted by night terrors about our stomachs. She’s brilliant—without finishing high school in Poland, she was able to climb up and manage Israel’s leading hospital. She did this in her thirties after giving birth to my mom when she was only nineteen. Her dream was to become a lawyer. She texts the members of my family daily to check when was the last time we had eaten, and what we want her to make us next. She is the food giver. It’s her channel of love and care taking. My grandpa is very fat. At seventy-six he can’t eat anymore. He’s finally full. On the verge of tears, he screams at her to stop making him chicken, but she, like many brilliant people, tends to be obsessive and thorough in her misplaced mission to ensure none of us will starve. Food no longer depends on a women’s imprisonment in domesticity alone, but someone somewhere is always carrying the weight, paying the price for this cavernous industry.

 

III

A few years ago I tried dating a man. It was a short, exhausting failure. What struck me most about that experience was discovering that men complain about their appearance and weight even more vocally and less shamefully than women do. When men express these food anxieties, they are not usually judged or diagnosed, they are answered seriously, laboriously, by the ear at hand. I asked my three straight friends for confirmation, and they agreed this was common. Some of them are unwell, but their masculinity will not allow visibility of their vulnerability. Many women are doing just fine, but their individuality is threatening to the long-held gender roles, specifically those regarding food and the female body. The boundaries of our bodies in space seem to be controlled so painfully by food. The relationships between space, gender, and food are inevitable. I remember sitting on a stool in a kitchenette during my freshman year of college, legs crossed, hand under chin. Suddenly, someone remarked how feminine I was, like a revelation. Surprised, I objected defensively. In my experience, I had always felt neither feminine nor masculine, just a gaze. Others joined in, and the more I objected to this intrusive adjective and the way it rang, resonating the gestures of my mother, the more they insisted. I won’t deny it if that’s what people see, but why does such an arbitrary binary allow for boundaries of my space to evaporate? Coded a femme woman, what I eat or don’t eat becomes a public forum for discussion. Anything a woman does that does not align with the social codes of expectation becomes a platform for diagnosis.

 

IV

I cannot think of anything more private than my intestines, so why are we constantly searching for external authorities on food: how to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and so on. In reality, it’s a lawless, genderless realm based purely on self-knowing and adjustment. In a privileged society, it’s possible to say each body is different, we all react differently to different ingredients, we all feel strong at different weights. The shallow aspects, the symptoms of food, are carried so publicly and insensitively while the burning core is completely ignored. Instead of policing each other’s plates and discussing diets while surrounded by nauseating abundance, why aren’t we asking how to treat our food givers with the respect they deserve and have never received? The funds surrounding food are mysterious. The amount of money that goes into branding those awful frozen pizzas or food reality TV shows could feed at least one of the nine million who die of hunger each year. I’m not that naive. I grew up in the 1990’s when there was a lot of talk about world hunger, cheesy all-star celebrity music videos, and intense anxiety over the ozone layer. Food is intoxicating. The most complex aspects of our lives end up being institutionalized the most easily. I’ve been too fat through one eye and too thin through another eye. These unstable calculating eyeballs of ours are misdirected in their informational fevers. For such smart animals we can’t seem to figure out our own hunger. Perhaps we could be kinder when trying to understand one another’s hunger.

 


Mika Bar-On Nesher is multidisciplinary artist and writer based in Brooklyn & Tel-Aviv, she studies creative writing at the New School.

Featured image by Mika Bar-On Nesher.

Poet of the Month: ‘Iron Chef,’ by Liora Mondlak

Donatella: A smart story, even though it’s a salad.
                    I particularly love the Portuguese
                    laurel with its dark-red perfumed
                    flowers. I’ve tasted them only once before.

Laurence: I spotted some on my way here. In the garden
                    next to the Birds’ Fountain.
                    This is a very vinaigretty cocktail.

Gina:          I lived on the border of the Basilica
                    and ate bitter gooseberries near the mouth
                    of the river. I’m an escargot
                    fan from way back.

Laurence: You wouldn’t expect escargot and corn
                    to harmonize so well. I secretly drink
                    skim milk and dream of a British country
                    home. I’ve always wanted someone
                    to call me The Master.

Donatella: The Brussels sprouts add just the right amount
                    of bitterness. They have a bite and piquancy
                    entirely their own. Any more would have been
                    too much. Pass the gnocchi, please.

Laurence: I took the train here from Valencia, past
                    the grazing lambs. Past the orange
                    groves. I’m not usually a gnocchi guy.

Gina:          The lambs eat from the fallen fronds
                    in the Queen’s Fern Valley. The trees grow
                    twelve meters and naturally regenerate.
                    I don’t understand it but I love it.

Donatella: In Japan, I chased a lover around a milk-bush.
                    We squeezed the leaves between our fingers,
                    which expels a poison. In small amounts
                    it is delicious. Such a tender lamb.


Liora Mondlak is The Inquisitive Eater's Poet of the Month for December 2017.

Liora Mondlak remembers accompanying her mother to the market in Mexico City, where she grew up. She remembers the chickens hanging by their feet, and the sawdust around her saddle shoes. Years later, she would return to the market to buy ground chameleon, a well-known love potion, which she uses sparingly.

She lives in New York with her teenage daughter, where she teaches art and poetry. Lioramondlak.com

Photo via Pixabay.

‘The October Diet,’ by Akachi Obijiaku

On a fasted stomach
walking past babies and broccoli,
yams and empty palms,

I turn orange like an orange
my skin exposing my overdose
of bastard bargains.

On a sunny but slow day
I tell everyone “look! See how fit I am!”
even though the October Diet is not by choice.


Akachi Obijiaku is a new Nigerian poet, who started writing poetry in 2017. Her works are forthcoming or appearing in The Inquisitive Eater, Abstract Magazine, Meniscus Literary Journal, The Basil O’Flaherty, Rising Phoenix Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, and Sentinel Literary Quarterly. She emigrated to England four years ago and holds an MSc from King’s College London.

Featured image via Pexels.

Food & Writing: Chris Gramuglia

Chris Gramuglia is a second year Fiction student in The New School MFA program, whose writing expands from Fantasy to realist prose about dating in modern times. In addition to being a writer, Chris is also a film-maker and a drone operator. For the interview, he wanted to grab a burger at a place known for its burgers, Bistro & Barrel. B&B calls itself a “winepub” –the very concept of which sounds a bit like an oxymoron.

I arrived to B&B realizing I had been there once before for drinks and that B&B bore no resemblance to a pub, sporting heavy fixtures, warm lighting, and old New York, art deco inspired décor. I was late due to the manic tendencies of New York’s subways, and found Chris waiting for me (and a table) at the bar. A very nice gentleman with his young son gave up his seat for me, before I realized he would be forced to stand.

A gin martini, an in-depth discussion about Louis C.K., and a half hour later, we built up an appetite enough to give up on a table and decide to eat at the bar. As it turned out, with soft buns and thick patties well-marinated nothing like their dry diner counterparts, the burgers were delicious and worth the wait.

Felicity: Tell me a bit about your writing routine, if you have one.

Chris: Well, the ideal day is a day where I have no obligations otherwise. Where I can wake up and I have no social or work obligations. Usually I start writing in what I wore to bed the night before. I drink a ton of coffee, and before I start, I like to take care of all my basic needs. I eat a big meal, because I don’t want to think about anything except the project.

Felicity: So what’s your big meal?

Chris: Depending on what time I wake up, I either make myself eggs—there’s a very specific process to that—but if I don’t do that I’ll go get a muffin or like a sweet pastry, something to mildly sedate me. And then a big coffee that I sip on throughout the two or three hour struggle that occasionally is writing.

Felicity: So what’s your process for making eggs?

Chris: So I actually learned this from watching a Gordon Ramsey YouTube video. What I do is I crack four eggs and I will take like a nob of butter I’ll put that in, and then I’ll scramble them with the butter in the actual mixture. I don’t cook them in a pan I cook them in a pot and then I periodically take them on and off the flame so they don’t burn or get too crispy, and put a little cheese in there and you’re good to go. That’s pretty much it.

Felicity: Do you have a go-to snack when you’re reading or when you’re deep in the process of writing?

Chris: Usually what I’ll do is I’ll go forty-five minutes, whether it’s reading or writing and then I’ll take a break to go eat. And it’s usually very like quick. It’ll be just like a chunk of cheese or a piece of fruit or something. It’s usually heavy. Cheese is probably the best example. I will have a block of cheese and I’ll be like “Good, I can resume. I can pick up where I left off now because I got that dopamine hit.”

Felicity: What’s your favorite broke artist meal?

Chris: I know this is a cliché, but I don’t dislike ramen noodles.

Felicity: I love ramen noodles.

Chris: But I very rarely eat them as is. I modify them. Sometimes what I’ll do is I’ll get ramen noodles and I’ll get tomato paste, and I’ll literally put tomato paste and vegetables in my ramen noodles to thicken it up and make it more heavy. Tomato paste, broccoli, all that stuff. It makes me feel a little bit better about eating all that MSG.

Felicity: Yeah you got some vitamins in there. So what food do you think is the most fun to write about?

Chris: I think any new food. Any food that you haven’t had before is the kind of food that—if you like it, if it’s a good experience—will inspire you into writing about it. Like, I’ve never had cheese curds before. I’m extremely interested in having them. It’s not a super exciting thing, but food to me is curiosity. If you haven’t had it, even if it doesn’t look great, you still want to try it just for the experience. So I guess the answer is anything new.

Felicity: I think it’s kind of like an allegory for writing in general because when you’re writing something you want to bring a fresh perspective it, regardless of if the reader has experienced it. Like you may have gone on a hundred dates but when you’re writing about it you want the reader to think about it in a new way. And I think that writing about a new food is like bringing a fresh perspective to it. Speaking of which, what’s your favorite piece of writing or art that has to do with food?

Chris: I will tell you the first thing that comes to mind. I just think that those Epic Mealtime guys are incredible because they are so shameless in the kind of stuff they put together.

Felicity: I don’t know who that is.

Chris: It’s a Youtube channel. It’ll just be like 15 thousand calorie fast food pizza, and then they’ll make a pizza with like four different kinds of fast food on it. They’re insane. They’ve been around for a really long time. I don’t know if that classifies as like art.

Felicity: Oh, no that totally classifies. I love My Drunk Kitchen. Have you ever watched that? It’s so good, and I would totally think of that as an art form because it’s so creative.

Chris: Right. To me, food is a form of creativity. I love cooking. And I love when I don’t follow a recipe and I come up with something that you give it to people and they roll their eyes because they’re so excited about it, you know? I love that feeling…. There’s also a really lovely movie. It’s on Netflix with John Favreau, and it’s called Chef and it’s this story about this really well-known chef who falls from grace, because this reviewer writes some terrible stuff about him and he lashes out at the guy, and he’s got nothing. Then he buys this food truck, and he and his son drive across the country, making these Cuban sandwiches and all this traditional Cuban food. The movie makes me hungry and it’s just a really sweet, cute movie.

Felicity: I love movies that make you want to eat what they’re eating. I think that’s true for all the Miyazaki films. Also, I was just watching Ocean’s Eleven again recently and Brad Pitt is constantly eating in that film for absolutely no reason at all. It’s completely unexplained why he just keeps on eating, and I’m like “Ah yes, I want to be eating while I’m planning a heist.”

Chris: Watching people eat and enjoy food, it’s weird, it makes you feel good to watch someone be really into something that they’re eating. It’s strange.

Felicity: Alright, what would be your ideal meal, finances put aside? With no consequences, and as many courses as you want.

Chris: I don’t know about a first course, but one thing that I’ve only had once is dry-aged beef, dry-aged steak. I think the process is so fascinating, taking a piece of meat and then just drying it out. You take a five-pound piece of steak and you’re left with a pound and a half because you have to cut so much away, letting all of the flavors develop. I love dry-aged steak. For a first course, I know it sounds kind of basic, but I love salads, you know?

Felicity: I love salads.

Chris: But not a basic salad, an exciting one with pear and gorgonzola and walnuts. I love fruit in a salad. That would be a good way to start. Raisins, mandarin oranges, whatever crazy combination you can come up with. And then my answer for a dessert or a last course is something that I baked myself, because I love baking.

Felicity: What do you like to bake?

Chris: I actually bake really good cheesecake. I’ve done a dark chocolate Guinness cheesecake. I’ve done a cinnamon bun cheesecake.

Felicity: Oh my god, that sounds amazing! I love cheesecake so much.

Chris: If you have trouble sleeping. You have a slice of cheesecake and you’re done.

Felicity: It’s like Golden Girls! Whenever they couldn’t sleep at night they would eat cheesecake. They would just always have cheesecake around.

Chris: It’ll make your troubles go away. It’ll knock you out.

Felicity: If you had to live off of one food for the rest of your life what would it be?

Chris: Probably pizza. I know everyone thinks pizza is bad for you, but it’s a pretty complete food. You got your fat, you got your protein, you got your carbs. And you can never get sick of pizza.

Felicity: Alex gave the same answer! That’s so funny. I’m wondering if that’s going to be like a theme. Ok, what is your favorite book or piece of writing—it can be like a short story or an essay—and what food would you associate with that?

Chris: My favorite book of all time—and it may change but for right now it’s been this way since college—is Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. I would associate that book with a piece of chocolate wrapped in bacon. Because it’s kind of a weird book, but it’s fun, and it feels good. Like you don’t know why but it feels like a good book to read. It just makes you feel good when you’re reading it.

Felicity: So what do you think is the most writerly food? Like, this is what writers eat.

Chris: I’m sort of being funny when I say this, but I do notice this a lot. Writers are really into appetizers. They’re really into finger foods, finger sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres. I don’t know if that’s the case when writers are alone struggling. I think when writers are alone struggling it’s more a matter of “I’m gonna eat peanut butter right out of the jar because I don’t have any money and also because I’m focused and I don’t want to cook anything.”

Felicity: Yeah, but when you’re taking part in the social aspect, the social ritual of being a writer, it’s like finger foods are necessary. That’s so true. I never thought about that. Alright, what’s a food that has been written about that you wish you had experienced?

Chris: So I always thought that it was really interesting that in a lot of old bits of mythology, especially in Norse mythology or even Scandinavian like Beowulf, there’s a big obsession with mead, with this very heavy beer made of honey. And I always just wanted to know what that tasted like. That and just wild game. I love that.

Felicity: Like foods that don’t exist anymore, “What was that like?”

Chris: When the food is part of the milieu of the story. All that stuff I find very interesting.

Felicity: What do you eat in a typical week?

Chris: Mondays through Fridays is sort of unpredictable so it can be anything. It’s usually like deli sandwiches. If I have time I’ll make something for myself. But it’s very quick. And the reason that’s the case is because I like to build up an appetite for the weekend. I cook on the weekend. I like to really make a big meal on a Saturday night, and get all my pleasurable eating in then. The week is just too chaotic. It’s unpredictable.

Felicity: Where do you get your recipes from when you’re cooking on the weekend?

Chris: Usually, if I want to make something, I will look at a few different recipes. I don’t like to follow them exactly. I like to look at a few and then take what I like from each one and then do my own thing. I just find it more rewarding that way. I’ve been doing it long enough that I don’t mess it up. It’s usually good.

Felicity: I totally believe that being a good cook just means knowing what you can replace in a recipe, being savvy enough to know “I can cut this down” or “I can add this in” or “I can replace this,” because I think people who have that talent within them are able to figure that out by instinct somehow.

Chris: Good cooking is a form of fearlessness, because I think that when people are too afraid or they’re too focused on getting it right it comes out worse.

Felicity: Yeah, like understanding that the process is its own experience. It doesn’t have to be a replica.

Chris: Right. If you’re more focused on the process and the joy of doing it chances are your food is going to come out better.

Next, we moved on to food associations. This round, Chris and I did genre and food.

Romance – “Red Wine.”

Mystery – “Diner food, like bacon and eggs at two o’clock in the morning and a cup of coffee.”

Thriller/Horror – “Foods that you shouldn’t eat, or that you feel guilty about eating, like to eat a pint of ice cream. Like you just keep doing it. Someone’s watching you and you know it’s bad but you just keep doing it.”

Sci-Fi – “I always think of like Red Bull and candy, because I feel like it’s colorful, it makes you feel hyper, and I feel like there’s an old cliché that kids who are into Sci-Fi live off Red Bull and candy. Candy kind of reminds me of like, ‘It’s a food pill.’”

Fantasy – “A really beautiful, colorful cake. A fluffy, beautiful, colorful cake.”

YA/Children’s – “Comfort food. So like, for me a food would be anything that my mother used to make when I was younger. Whatever food you used to eat as a kid that has a special place in your heart. Like mac n’ cheese, things you always return to. It’s simple, it’s innocent, and it’s always when you were young.”

Self-Help Books – “Kale.”

Poetry – “I think poetry is like a pastry cake. Poetry to me is a pastry cake in a café somewhere and everyone’s having espresso. And it’s variety, it’s unpredictable. Something like that.”

 


Chris Gramuglia is a graduate student in creative writing at The New School. He is a regular contributor to The Social Man and Classiques Modernes, and his fiction has appeared in Babbling of the Irrational. He is currently working on a novel about dating in the digital age, and spends his free time taking photos, making short films, cooking and reading.

 


Felicity is a Second Year Creative Writing MFA Candidate at The New School. She is also the Deputy Editor for The Inquisitive Eater and the Digital Strategist for Barbershop Books. Along with The Inquisitive Eater and The New School Creative Writing Blog, her writing has been published with Barbershop Books, Healthy Materials Lab, and Enchantress Magazine, where she was also an editor. Felicity enjoys writing in all forms. You can find her on Twitter @charmingfelic

Featured image via Pexels.

Poet of the Month: ‘Midnight Tortillas,’ by Virginia Valenzuela

When the tortillas run out and the stores are closed, my father stands at the counter mixing maiz and water and lime. He finds the tortillera, whose home is under the sink, and presses mounds of dough into circles, asymmetric and coarse like the hands that make them. He says, “warm up the comal, daughter.” And I do. The light blue flames lick the bottom of the cast iron skillet, its blackness deep like the heart of a volcano.

The hearty smell of
homemade staples
hovering like a
Goodnight kiss.


Virginia Valenzuela is The Inquisitive Eater's Poet of the Month for November 2017.

Virginia Valenzuela is a poet, essayist, and yogi from New York City. She is a second-year MFA candidate for Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at The New School. She is an Education Associate with Teachers and Writers, a Research Assistant at The New School, the Prose Editor for LIT, and the Curator/MC for a monthly reading series at KGB Bar. You can find more of her work on her blog, Vinny the Snail and on the Best American Poetry Blog.

Featured image via Flickr

‘Having a Coke With You,’ by Hillary Adler

Having a Coke With You

is even more fun than traversing upstate to Peekskill and hiking
            to the summit
or playing pacman at Barcade on 24th Street or St. Marks
or eating plates of expensive Omakase or real Italian pasta
            out in Brooklyn
partly because of how happy a customer service brawl makes you
partly because of how competitive you are, partly because
            of your smile
partly because of the bog you tiptoed across over the pond
            in Prospect Park
partly because you held my hand to stay balanced
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there are other people
            out there better for us
even
            after you said
we would wait six months to see how we felt

the nails you ordered from Amazon are still waiting for me
to hang all of those paintings you ordered online
                                    As Frank said, “I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits
in the world”
            and that scares me
especially the portrait of you I have in my mind standing
            in the doorway
when I said I couldn’t do this anymore and you said you didn’t
            love me
and that very same day earlier under the four pm late New York
            summer sun
we split a bottle of wine and dipped into the same bowl
            of Tiramisu
and walked for two hours telling stories which is why, even now,
            I want to have a coke with you


Hillary Adler is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Warblr, a political humor website fighting the Trump administration one laugh at a time. She holds an MFA from The New School and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Poetry Foundation, Huffington Post, Bustle, Marie Claire, Public Pool and elsewhere. She curates and co-hosts The Red Room Poetry Series at KGB Bar in NYC, and can be found on twitter @HillaryAdler.

Featured photo via Flickr.

‘Bread,’ by Tiziano Colibazzi

Composed with my son.

I. Bread Flour
Powdery ivory dust, snow turning into a crust,
gold of my kitchen that wise wizardry churns,
into muffins, pies, farfalle and sourdough.
Kneading and kneading, you grow,
plunging ahead into the stove.

II. Yeast
Breath of life; ancient mold, you softly
whisper bubbles, you work this dough
into a lattice cobweb, without effort.

III. Salt
“Papo, it hurts!” the sea water got
into my son’s eyes. “It’s salt” I explain.
“But why?” he quizzically replies.
In the Appenine villages, where I grew up
away from the sea, the bread is sold
unsalted: yet savory, pungent, bold
in flavor, but insipid.
There is an ancient road in Rome,
Via Salaria, named for salt
that travelled far and wide.
Unfortunately, salary is no longer
paid in salt: we have benefits, today.

IV. Oil
They come in different forms on the shelf.
Luscious velvety gold: more expensive for sure,
you can smell the sun dissolved in a spoon.
Canola oil in a plastic bottle we just cannot
use: pallid like urine, industrial and cold.

V. Water
My fingers feel your moist presence,
you are always the same, everywhere.
A list of “waters” I do not dare
to write down: Fiji water, Dasani, Aquafina and
the lubricant of office gossip: Poland Spring:
different names, but just one thing.
As with uncountable nouns
such as happiness or money,
you only get one chance in life:
You just cannot “unburn” your bread.


Tiziano Colibazzi is a poet in addition to being a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He is currently a first year MFA candidate for Poetry at the New School. Originally from Rome, Italy, Tiziano lives in NYC and he is the proud father of twin boys.

Featured image via Pexels.

Poet of the Month: ‘Jell-O Mold Day,’ by Virginia Valenzuela

When I was a kid, I loved Thanksgiving. It was an opportunity to eat all day—pastries and fresh fruit in the morning, olives and cheese and sliced veggies with dips throughout the day, and then dinner and desert at sundown. It was always held at my Great Grandma Mary’s house in Dobbs Ferry, New York, a trip which meant going to Grand Central Station to catch a train upstate.

While my mom was at the ticket counter in Grand Central, my sister and I would look at the astrological signs up on the green and gold sky. My sister’s Capricorn and my own Aquarius appear next to each other, so that’s usually where we gawked. Then on the train, we would find one of the four-seaters which made a little cubicle for us, and the ticket man would pass by and clickclickclick, clickclickclick our tickets, placing them in the flap by our heads.

When we arrived, Grandma Eddy would pick us up and drive us through that small town where my grandparents met. Then she’d unload to the rest of the family for hugs, kisses, and bad puns.

Great Grandma Mary always pointed out if you looked funny or if you needed a haircut, so Thanksgiving was the best time to see her because I always got a haircut and a new dress right before the holidays. (Thanks mom and dad.) I wanted to impress her because she was so charming and so funny, and I could tell it was hard to gain her approval by the way she would criticize my mom’s funky 90’s outfits.

She had beautiful crystal animals and gems that sparkled in her windows, a huge yard and a hidden garden, which reminded me of my favorite movie at the time, The Secret Garden, which later turned out to be one of my favorite books. There was a mother goose statuette Great Grandma Mary dressed for the different seasons, and for Thanksgiving it wore a turkey outfit.

Grandma Mary didn’t trifle with the food those days. She was much more likely to be sitting in the indoor patio with a martini, entertaining guests with witticisms and stories. She did, however, always make this lime jell-o mold, which was served at dinner along with everything else. It was not only the weirdest looking thing on the table, but the tastiest. It had chopped nuts and dried berries in it and it was somehow creamy and sour at the same time. I would later find her recipe handwritten on a card that revealed the secret to this incredible dish, which I now make every year for Thanksgiving.

My whole family was gathered there, my mom’s brother, Uncle Kris, who was so tall and with whom I always felt so shy, his beautiful wife Karen, my maternal grandparents, and my many cousins and family friends who lived along the boulevard.

I think back to this place whenever I get swept up by unwarranted family drama, which now dresses every holiday escapade. Both my Great Grandma Mary and my Grandma Eddy have passed away, and my uncle barely talks to my mom, sister, or me. The house in Dobbs Ferry has been demolished, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are always up in the air. No one seems to be able to fill the space Mary made for us.

I wish I could see Mary and my grandmother and my mother and my sister together now. We would clink martinis while the guys watch football, share compliments on what radiant women we are all becoming.


Virginia Valenzuela is The Inquisitive Eater's Poet of the Month for November 2017.

Virginia Valenzuela is a poet, essayist, and yogi from New York City. She is a second-year MFA candidate for Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at The New School. She is an Education Associate with Teachers and Writers, a Research Assistant at The New School, the Prose Editor for LIT, and the Curator/MC for a monthly reading series at KGB Bar. You can find more of her work on her blog, Vinny the Snail and on the Best American Poetry Blog.

Featured image via Flickr

Autumnal Gallery by Bhavna Misra

Rising Sun II
Corn on the Cob
Autumn Leaves
Broccoli Party
Autumn Garden
Tastemakers
Rising Sun
An Apple a Day
Nature-Scapes

Bhavna Misra has been painting since she was a little girl. She grew up in the beautiful region of Himachal in India, surrounded by forests of pine trees, Himalayan mountains, green valleys, clear-water lakes, and diverse wildlife that made a lasting impression on her artistic endeavors. She never doubted that she’d be a painter one day!

She works as a contractor for the Alameda County Library System and she owns and operates Bhavna Misra Art Studio. Bhavna is professionally affiliated with Fremont Art Association. She lives in San Francisco Bay Area and online at bhavnamisra.com