Kitchen poems can help to brighten your day. While looking through my mother's old recipe scrapbooks and handwritten recipe books, I was struck by all the newspaper clippings of poetry that she had placed between the pages of her recipes many years ago.
Mom proved that poetry and cooking can work together to lift one's spirit. Let the thoughtful little poems below lighten your busy day and lift your spirit.
This little poem clipped from a vintage newspaper was given to Mom by my Grannie Bell who being Scottish, took great delight from it. She called it "a cheery wee poem." Perhaps it reminded her of her own grandpa when she was a bonnie wee lass in Uphall, West Lothian, Scotland.
The following poetry must have given Mom strength when days were difficult and things didn't turn out as expected.
Question not, but live and labor,
Till your goal be won;
Helping every feeble neighbor,
Seeking help from none.
Life is mostly froth and bubble:
Two things stand like stone—
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.
—Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870)
Cars run past my neat front door,
I gave up trying to keep the score.
Ships salute as they pass me by
And the lighthouse winks a merry eye.
Puppies are walking their owners out,
Slimming those who are much too stout.
The waves rise high with a wild outcry
Then gently they're lapping their own lullaby.
The gulls aloft are tilting their wings,
Playing they're jets and planes and things.
Lonely I? How could I be?
When there is so much for a lass to see!
—Margaret Wallace Reid (1885-1973)
My Great Aunt Peggy was a remarkable lady and Scottish through and through. She was known for her fancy gelatine desserts and homemade candy, and she loved to write poetry that reflected her bright and optimistic view of life.
In her latter years, "Auntie Peggy" lived in her little white house by the seaside at 1486 Dallas Road, Victoria, British Columbia. On blustery days, she cheerfully wiped the salt spay from her windows and wrote a wee poem.
The example given above was always kept carefully tucked in Mom's old recipe book and fondly kept as a cheery kitchen poem. It was published in the Victoria Times newspaper in the late 1950s.
And every cook who has ever borrowed a recipe can smile at this one.
She found it in that corner—
The recipe, so rare.
She made it to perfection,
And asked us out to share.
We had chicken, rolls and salad
And things we couldn't make.
But oh! the most delectable
Was Annie's fresh Dream Cake.
Now we're going out to Annie's,
Just when the day is fair;
For when we tried to make that cake
The Dream was one nightmare.
The little kitchen poem that follows likely reminded Mom of her own
wooden baking cabinet that stood against a wall in our farm kitchen. The
white metal shelf that pulled out for rolling dough was decorated with blue squares
in a sort of checkerboard pattern that I improvised to play games on as
I have a kitchen cabinet,
Painted green like grass that's wet,
And when I want a flower vase
I use the sugar jar of glaze,
And marking squares off, more or less,
I use the baking board for chess!
—Margaret Clarke Russell, author of Housework Poems, 1923
If I want to be happy
And quick on my toes,
I must eat my food slowly
And breath through my nose.
I must press back my shoulders
And hold up my head,
And not close my window
On going to bed.
I must soap my bath flannel
And scrub all I know;
I must then take a towel
And rub till I glow.
I must love what is noble
And do what is kind;
I must strengthen my body,
And tidy my mind.
Yes, if I would be healthy
And free from all cares;
I must do as I've told you,
And mean all my prayers.
And this little kitchen poem is a thoughtful reminder that our time is so precious.
I am the Kitchen Clock.
A friend, not a slave-driver to be feared.
The guide to leisure, not a whip.
I measure the minutes that make up life.
I tick serene and steady in joy or catastrophe.
Often I had best be forgotten, for watching
me too closely means time lost, not gained.
I am not your mentor.
There is but One.
He does not recognize me,
For I cannot measure the infinite.
When is the tomorrow that you fear?
Do today the thing's that are today's.
Let me work happily with you.
Let me play with you.
Forget me—and win a race with time.
It isn't life that matters —
It's the courage you bring to it.
—Hugh Walpole, in Fortitude
A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in,
A minute to smile and an hour to weep in,
A pint of joy to a peck of trouble,
And never a laugh but the moans come double;
And that is life!
A crust and a corner that love makes precious,
With a smile to warm and the tears to refresh us;
And the joys seem sweeter when care comes after,
And the moan is the finest of foils for laughter!
And that is life!
—Paul Lawrence Dunbar
A world of love shut in;
A world of strife shut out.
Mom always believed in combining pleasure with her work, and by sandwiching poetry between the pages of her recipes, she had only to turn a page or two to find some helpful thought or word of encouragement or a smile to help her through a long day.
Her favorite cooking poetry was always present whenever the days got too stressful or busy, and she needed a boost.
Do you have favorite little poems you've clipped from magazines and newspapers? Try inserting them one by one into your recipe books and have them handy whenever you need a little dose of happiness.
Let poetry and cooking be a part of your day!