Poem | Recipe Book

The hand-bound book is brittle

Note the fingerprints done in cinnamon,

the accidental watercolors too where ink bled from steam:

a recipe for Persian Rice penned in red cursive,

clearly hers, has nearly



At the time we had a corded phone.

You could go only so far before taking out

a vase of Daffodils.

I’m sure this is why phone numbers are recorded

in the corner of pages.


There are sicknesses

and dinner parties

and Sunday afternoons when nobody

knew what to make,

and the reason

we have this book, I guess,

is that some things turn out better than others, It


was summer.

We had no money, but cardboard boxes full

of nightshade vegetables—tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants—

lined the small apartment.

A lady at the market traded us flowers


I started saving the iridescent scraps of onions

trying to understand what could be

taken to the back yard and buried and become,

next spring, a garden


It was the sweeter yellow tomatoes rising

where we dumped only red

that made me think, much later, it was okay

to have clams for Christmas,


and it was best (she was right),

if the homeless came

and afterwards we all sang O Come, O Come

Emmanuel on the porches of people who

preferred to be alone.


And now in the cold kitchen, as the smell

of coriander and cumin warmed in oil rises,

I am grateful to know what can

and cannot be used

in place

of these missing spices.

Published in the August 16, 2013 issue: 

Emily Stout is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana English Program. She works nights as a registered nurse in the oncology deparment of a Midwestern hospital. 

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