Found Poetry 101: The Restaurant Menu

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RAVIOLI AI QUATTRO FORMAGGI
Tuscan Kitchen: Salem, New Hampshire

Courtesy: Tuscan Group

Courtesy: Tuscan Group

Delicate pasta pillows
stuffed—
with hand dipped ricotta
burrata,
fontina
and
parmigiano cheeses.

Light brown butter pan sauce,
shaved
black
truffles. ($15)

In the amount of time it took my waiter to return with my glass of sparking Prosecco andthe complementary bread basket, I had happened upon a perfect little poem.

Unknown

While eating those delicate pasta pillows in brown butter pan sauce, I considered the art of the restaurant menu, remembering more than a few occasions where I’d been stymied over what to order simply because one dish after another was so delectably described.

imagesI surely wasn’t the first to dwell on the connection between the well-written menu and the well-made meal, but perhaps I could be the first to break new poetic ground by reconfiguring menus into gastronomic verse. I’d be the next M.F.K. Fisher of the eating ode! I’d be the new Calvin Trillin of the culinary couplet! Plus all those meals out would suddenly be tax deductible—a necessary work expense!

images-4With great excitement I dove into my found poetry project, deciding to scour the web for menus while following one simple rule. My found poetry pieces must be compiled from:

  • Restaurants I’d loved enough to return with regularity
  • Meals I’d found delicious enough to order over and over again

I figured these rules would be a breeze—I am not a picky eater, and while I don’t eat out a lot I’ve been enough of a vagabond to have a pretty good breadth of experience. I figured the worst I’d encounter would be a bit of repetition—for example, I might have to cull the number of poems with the phrases “slow-roasted” or “lightly tossed.” No problem.

What I discovered was slightly different from my expectations. Below, enjoy my first efforts:

IMG_0421

HADDOCK NUGGETS
Sawyer’s Dairy Bar: Gilford, New Hampshire

Haddock nuggets,
w/fries & tartar sauce
. . . simply delicious! $5.99

Unknown-1

BAR-B-QUE SANDWICH
Van’s Pig Stand: Norman, Oklahoma

Regular
(4 oz. of your choice
of meat)
$4.85

Make it a VAN
(add curly fries $1.25)

Unknown-2SPECIAL #4
Lee’s Restaurant: Lincoln, Nebraska

2-piece Southern Fried Chicken
$8.75

Choice of
Soup or Salad &
Potatoes or
Baked
Beans,

Served with Roll & Butter
Add $2 for
“All White”,
“All Dark”, or
No
Wing

You get the picture. I discovered the food I liked best required the fewest words (and the greatest amount of deep-fat frying—I should probably get my cholesterol checked). But while my favorite restaurants failed me in my found poetry quest, they also quickly reminded me of the one simple truth of art—show, don’t tell. Or maybe taste, don’t talk.

Perhaps one day I’ll be able to make art out of eating, but until then I’ll happily settle for takeout. And yes, I will add curly fries for $1.25.