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Florida Matters Preview: Food As Muse

Elisa Albo
Photos from the front cover of "Passage to America," a book of poems by Elisa Albo.

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. 

Credit Elisa Albo
Elisa Albo

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."

Credit Elisa Albo
A young Elisa Albo and her parents.

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.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
Robin is Senior Editor at WUSF, spearheading the station's podcasting initiatives and helping to guide the vision for special reporting projects and creative storytelling. She created The Zest, the station's podcast that's all about food, which she continues to host and serve as senior producer.