House of the Tomato

If a woman wants to be a poet, she must dwell in the house of the tomato. -- Erica Jong

Regional website for the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, in partnership with the Reader's Loft.


Celebrating, sharing and inspiring poetry throughout Wisconsin.

In My Mother's Recipe Box

There’s new anthology for migration poems. Lisa Vihos. It was in the Museletter. I wanted to send this poem. Is it “immigration” enough? I’ve been working on this since Thanksgiving when I went into my mother’s recipe box. Still fussing with stanza lengths..balance etc. LMKWYT.

In a cloud of rising flour you will
find my great-grandmother Marie. Aunt Minnie.
Grandma Mimi. My mother.

 Here in this winter kitchen meet them
on three by fives packed into a flip-top wooden box.
Divider tabs thumbed by them are worn
enough to expel paper dust
the bent edges divide tastes of the old country,
into breads, cookies, desserts, meats, main dishes, vegetables.

 In my mother’s recipe box you will find handwriting
in slant cursive, always in blue fountain pen,
cards filled with lists of ingredients,
with directions and temperatures continued on the backs.

In my mother’s recipe box you will find Minnie’s
sugar-dusted smudges next to instructions for cut-out cookies,
and that gravy stain, graces our beloved Norwegian meatball recipe.

In my mother’s recipe box see chocolate fingerprints
on the card for our favorite brownies,
just out of the oven, shiny on top, moist in the middle.

In my mother’s recipe box find Grandma Mimi’s
light lemon cookies served for tea time,her secrets stir in the mixing bowl,
her pie crust, rolled with the one-handled,
handed-down, rolling pin.

 In my mother’s recipe box you will find
how to make delicate potato dough for lefse at Christmas.
Rooted in the old country, my mother’s recipe box migrates to me, 
filled with the imprint of strong women,
hands that kneaded the dough of yulekake
that stretches across four generations
and one wide ocean.
Great-grandma escaping scarcity, bringing her recipes,
seeking abundance in a new land,
back then, open to all.

© 2019 House of the Tomato