On Florida Matters "Food as Muse," we're talking to people who communicate their passion about food in particularly interesting ways.
In this preview of the show, WUSF's Robin Sussingham talks to Elisa Albo, a poet and English professor at Broward College in Ft. Lauderdale.
Albo was born in Havana, and her family fled Cuba after Castro took power. They came to the United States, and ended up in Lakeland, Florida when Albo was in the first grade.
Her book of poems, "Passage to America," is largely about her family's immigrant experience. She also writes often and vividly about food, including in the poem, "Why It's Delicious."
Why It's Delicious
Because my grandmother marched out to the end
of the yard, threw the white oval seeds on the ground
and walked away, and almost overnight the tangle
of vines wrapped itself around the clothesline pole,
the fence and screened in porch. Then small green
pumpkins sprouted and brightened in places so odd
we had to move them to give them room to grow
or to keep them from breaking through the screen.
And when they were large and heavy, Mima ambled
out, lifted the pumpkins and carried them in to carve
and cook the chunks for days in soups, with rice and
with lemon. And except for a handful, she toasted
the seeds and we ate pepitas with salt, cracking shells
with our teeth to reach the slim green meat inside.
Because Jeanne’s mom planted and tended a garden
that grew peas we shucked on her new husband’s
farmhouse porch at the foot of a Pennsylvania mountain,
and she steamed them and served them for dinner
with chicken and mashed potatoes. Because that
bicentennial summer Jeanne and I joined her mom,
she arranged a net over blueberry bushes under which,
clever birds, we snuck to steal the dark ripe beads.
Because Jeanne’s mom took us to pick fat strawberries
we boiled and stirred into jam in huge pots all day,
slathered on thick slices of airy Amish bread, carried
home in mason jars sealed with paraffin, souvenirs.
Because the fleshy grapefruit in the neighbor’s yard
overhangs our fence and personally announces the coming
of winter in our central Florida town, is sweeter and
juicier than store-bought fruit I would never pay for,
and reminds me of the time we lined smudge pots up and
down the rows of groves to keep the freeze from killing
the crop and of how I welcomed my first kiss one evening
in the crook of the arm of one of those fragrant trees.
Because the moon was full and teasing the tide with her
shimmer when I caught a striped schoolmaster at midnight
even though the fish weren’t biting on our side of the party
boat, and you scaled and fileted my keeper on the dock,
packed the pink flesh in ice for the ride home, and I cooked it
with lemon butter and wine, and with our fingers,
we fed the perfect flaky morsels to each other’s mouths.