Dinner and a Poem

We were gathered around a large table for the neighborhood potluck. My husband and I are fortunate to live in a community where this is not a rare occurence. On this particular eve, we were celebrating a marriage.  At some point during the meal, our neighbor J stood up and announced, “I’ve got a poem.” And he read that poem from his tall wiry Elvis Costello like frame with animation and emotion. I was sort of embarrassed, a bit amused and definitely intrigued. Days later I followed up with his wife, “Does he read poetry often?” “Oh yes,” she sighed “and he’s serious so I have to stop and listen. There was the time at our daughter’s 16th birthday…” her eyes roll to the back of her head and she relives the teenage embarrassment of the girls gathered for that event.

That was then. I’m not sure when things changed for me. Maybe it happened while taking a writing class or when I was helping with a school project for one of my children. Regardless of the when, at some point, poetry crept silently into my interests and began rearing it’s head.  There was the purchase of a Shel Silverstein collection and an anthology put together by ee cummings. One evening I had the opportunity to listen to Naomi Shihab Nye read with a voice that was so lyrical I couldn’t tell where the poetry ended and where she cascaded into conversation. In Omaha, I listened to the creative poetic exchange between Ted Kooser and Kim Stafford and of course, I bought their books. On vacations I began challenging my friends and children to finish their days by writing haiku.

At dinner I often pull down a poem to read aloud. My kids roll their eyes unless there is a bad word (like pee) and then they giggle and decide that they liked it.  At night Shel Silverstein’s fun and chaotic verse still weaves us into slumber. This is National Poetry Month. Read Poetry.

Easy Fennel Pasta
Serves five
  • 1 large fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
  • 2 medium leeks, white part very thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • Thyme
  • 1 16 oz. bag of pasta such as penne or bowtie
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 handfuls of peas (fresh shelled if possible)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated parmesan
While waiting for a large pot of water to boil (I add salt and a bit of olive oil to the water), begin sauteing fennel and leeks in olive oil. Add thyme. Occasionally add a bit of the pasta water to the saute pan to help it cook. When the pasta is about halfway done, add the garlic and the peas.  Add a bit more pasta water if necessary.  Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Mix well so that the fennel and peas are mixed through. Salt and pepper to taste and top each serving with grated parmesan.
Leave a comment


  1. Lisa H

     /  April 18, 2010

    As an assignment, my daughter has to read us a poem each evening. It has been fun listening to the different styles and types of poems she has read. She even read one that her teacher had written.
    The fennel pasta sounds delicious, and perfect timing, as in Phoenix it is harvesting time for fennel bulb, leeks and peas.

  2. It’s so nice to have a window into your lives now through your writing. Big rain here today. Washed out the Marley Festival and the coat of oak pollen covering everything. Lots of love to you.

  3. Bonnie

     /  April 18, 2010

    I did not know you enjoyed poetry so much. I am very impressed and inspired. Thinking we may need to add poetry to dinner one night next week. Thanks Tammy.

  4. I love Rumi. Incomparable except the beloved Hafiz and Tagore.

  5. Poetry is part of life for me, I wish i could translate it into words when i walk through the woods or enjoy a special moment. I try to express it in my pictures. We used to learn poetry at school, there are still some verses that come to mind at times.
    Another tasty recipe from you that I will try, fennel, leeks, two of my favourites! Thank you. Have you tried “leeks in vinaigrette” ?

    • Lisa H

       /  April 18, 2010

      Leeks in vinaigrette? Sounds divine…could you share your recipe?

    • I haven’t tried them and we’d like to. I agree that your photos are like poetry. You live in such an amazing place.

  6. Leeks in vinaigrette, here is how I prepare them, very easy.
    Depending on your appetite and the size of the leeks… choose 2-3 leeks per person. The white part but also a bit of the green if you like it (and for the vitamines !).
    Cook them whole (steam is better) until very tender.
    Let them drain before adding the vinaigrette:
    Make a sauce with oil (I prefer olive oil), lemon juice or vinegar, salt, pepper, parsley or dill.
    I find them more tasty when served at room temperature, slightly warm.
    In French we sometimes call the leeks “The poor peoples’ asparaguses”, I think they are just as good ! In Winter we eat a lot of them in gratins or soups.
    Bon appétit, if you decide to try the vinaigrette 🙂

  7. Have you read any of Anne Sexton’s poetry? Or Charles Bukowski?

    • I am not familiar with Bukowski (will look him up). A while back (can’t remember when) there was a story about Sexton on NPR. Someone wrote a biography about her and it fired off a controversy because it included some transcripts from sessions with her therapist. There were privacy issues despite the fact that the author had permission from the family. Anyway, at that time, I read quite a bit of her work. As I recall, the pieces were fairly stark – some painful but words chosen so carefully that they always made the words much more than the words.

  8. I love the sounds of this – what fun, i was at a potluck a few days ago where the guitars were passed around (:

    • We actually did an around the room poetry reading on our ski trip last year. It was great fun – a part of the fun is seeing what people choose.

  9. Heather T

     /  April 19, 2010

    The two people who write poetry in my family are my sister
    (who only writes for special occasions such as 40th birthdays or 50th wedding anniversaries if the spirit moves her) and her poems document the life of the people involved not unlike your weekly blog.
    My daughter also writes poetry which is both deep and dark and make you wonder where the talent came from. Thanks for sharing your families life and food.
    Heather ST

    • You made me remember that a great grandmother who I never knew wrote poetry. In fact, my dad has a copy of her book. I need to dig that out!

  10. Someone else mentioned him, but Hafiz is a poet you really should take some time to dance with as soon as possible, if you haven’t already!

    • Thanks Jenny. Someone posted one of his poems on the comments of one of my earlier blogposts and it is beautiful!

  11. the dish sounds fabulous.
    My 12 year-old loves poetry-constantly writing and reading it.

    • What a great habit for him/her to make at a young age. Do save them! You can make a delightful book at some point in the future.

  12. My 9 yr old and 6 yr old daughters love poems. It’s their favorite past time creating their own . They even create a tune for it . I have given them a notebook to save their work.

    • That’s great Amutha. I’m sure it is a talent that they will always carry with them because you have acknowledged it. Great parenting!

  13. Hey! I’m one of the authors of the “We Like to Eat in Phx” blog. That blog isn’t active anymore…we’ve moved to Tempe and (soon) to San Fran. You can check out my blog at:

    or my sister’s at:

  14. I loved your comment on my blog – thanks! Hard to know if anyone is out there sometimes. I just joined in on a project you might like to read about: http://inthegreencircle.blogspot.com/

    No poems yet but maybe you have one that would be fitting.

  15. After dinner with a friend last night I was so excited about a new book of poetry by Robert Hass I had to read one to her and then she read one to me. It was so fun. And the night before I read them to my husband. I’m sitting here smiling at all the people reading poetry with and after meals. How wonderful. Thank for a great topic. I love your haiku at the end of the day idea too!

  16. Hannah

     /  May 2, 2010

    I will never stop loving Pablo Neruda – I quoted him on my blog awhile back, but maybe I should have held off until this National Poetry Month which I hadn’t heard of (I guess it’s an American thing?)…

    Love the idea of reading a poem out at dinner. I’m sure, secretly, your kids like some of them more than they’ll let on… 😀


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: