Contemporary Verse

Recipes in a Dead Language 

~ Amy LeBlanc

cupboard number one:

Folded flour bags

glazed like snow –

breaking twist ties

on cans with labels

turned inward.

You see the light

between their dents

and vertical lines,

ingredient lists in Latin.

The door shuts in an ode

to the truffle and the saltine,

with only a paper

corner to show.


sink plug:

In swimming pools,

shorts above the water

shirts above the head,

the blockage is mediated

by pumps and pipes.

Here there are only church mice –

small hands breaking

through the grates

to loosen the tendons,

spread the atrophy to

circle a little bit wider.


broken fridge bulb:

Seeping liquid light

and the scent of decay,

an apple is split in two

with the edge of a fingernail

potatoes grow eyes,

carrots sprout legs,

cucumbers produce winter fur

in an ambient phone light,

then seized by hands

for winter sustenance.


(Originally published in CV2, 41.3 Winter Issue of Canadian Poetry)


Image courtesy a remodelled 1940s bungalow by owner-designer Leslie Dawson Mouzis, Portland OR


Kitchen Experiments – Basbousa

Some extra time on this week day evening had me tinkering around the kitchen, looking for something to try out from what was available in the house. I remembered a recipe I had read some days ago, of the traditional Middle Eastern sweet cake known as Basbousa. The cake has various regional and dialect names – basbusah in Arabic, shamali in Armenian, revani in Turkish, gabelouze in French. Nammoura in Lebanon, hareesa in Jordan, pastusha in Kuwait. It is popular in the cuisines of the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Horn of Africa, and is primarily composed of semolina or milled wheat, soaked in sugar syrup. All the required ingredients readily available at home, I decided to have a go in trying it out.

I used semolina and desiccated coconut, to which yogurt and butter were added along with lemon juice, rose water, and baking powder. The entire mixture was filled into a baking tray, and baked for about twenty minutes at 160° Celsius. On cooling for a little while post baking, hot sugar syrup was poured on the warm cake. I cut the cake first, giving the syrup space to soak into each piece. Alternately, one can also poke holes with a knitting needle for the syrup to soak in completely. Garnishing is optional – I used an almond for each piece.

For those without a sweet tooth, this recipe is not very sweet and fun to try out. I used homemade yogurt which was unsweetened and made from low-fat milk. The desiccated coconut was also unsweetened. Remember, you can avoid the sugar syrup topping if you want – the cake is soft enough due to the yogurt. It makes for a healthy and filling snack.

All ingredients mixed together, except for the sugar syrup.
Out from the oven and left to cool.
Pieces cut before pouring the syrup, ensuring it soaks in completely.
Optional garnishing. You can also use chopped walnuts or pistachios or flaxseed powder.

If you like trying cuisines from around the world, have a go at this and let me know how it turns out.