"The Corn Harvest" by William Carlos Williams + Farmer's Egg Sandwich with Basil Aioli

Today I'm collaborating with fellow blogger Megan from Feasting on Art. We both take a similar approach to our food blogs. She creates recipes inspired by paintings, and I do the same for poetry, so it seemed like only a matter of time before our paths crossed. When Megan and I first started discussing this post, William Carlos Williams immediately came to mind. He wrote a series of poems titled Pictures of Brueghel, in response to Brueghel's paintings. (If you're curious about Brueghel, head over to her post to learn more about the painting, too.)

I once took a writing workshop that met in a museum once a week where we spent our time crawling the galleries for inspiration and wrote while sitting directly in front of the piece that inspired us. It's a nice way to get outside of your box, quite literally. This practice isn't new. In fact, writers have been inspired by art for centuries, creating poems in response to paintings or sculptures (in the literature world, this style is called ekphrasis).

When the romance fades, there's a moment in every writer's life when they realize that in order to achieve their artistic dreams, they'll need support from a little something called a day job. My moment came in college (probably good that it was earlier instead of later), and while sulking in this reality, I became drawn to poets that wrote while sustaining other careers, of which there are many great examples. In the case of Williams, he was a medical doctor in New Jersey. I relished in the knowledge that it seemed possible to have both a high-powered career and be a somewhat prolific writer. Frank O'Hara worked at a museum in New York City, Ted Kooser worked up the ranks of an insurance company, and Wallace Stevens often dictated poems to his secretaries.

Williams has long been a master of simple language and economy. He shares things with us as he sees them, as they are in the world, while also managing a stroke of insight and the ability to use only the amount of words that are absolutely necessary. In the case of The Corn Harvest, he announces the season immediately, and with the use of words like "enjoying," "relaxed," "sprawled," you can't help but feel the sense of relief at the lunch hour. The workers have splayed out under a tree to rest, enjoy "a spot of wine," and gossip in the shade.

The Corn Harvest

by William Carlos Williams

Summer !
the painting is organized
about a young

reaper enjoying his
noonday rest

from his morning labors

in fact sleeping
on his back

the women
have brought him his lunch

a spot of wine
they gather gossiping
under a tree

whose shade
he does not share the

center of
their workaday world

from Pictures from Brueghel and other poems

While we're viewing workers taking a break from their corn harvest, I thought about what their lunch would be comprised of. I thought of the wives, packing a pail for their husbands early in the morning, and the kind of ingredients that may have been available to them. I considered the pastoral landscape, and eggs seemed like a natural ingredient one would find on a farm and make a suitable, filling lunch. While I don't traditionally like heavy egg salads, one with fresh, fragrant basil seemed to do the trick.


7 large eggs
3/4 to 1 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large basil leaves
4 slices dark rye bread, toasted
Handful of spinach leaves

Place 6 of the eggs in a 4-quart stock pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool in the fridge.

To make the aioli, add the remaining egg to a food processor along with the salt. Slowly stream in the oil until the aioli is thick and emulsified. Add the basil leaves and whiz until combined. Chill in the fridge until ready to use, and test for seasonings before using.

Peel the eggs and coarsely chop them. Mix in enough aioli for the eggs to be well coated and just a little bit wet (I used about half). Spread onto slices of the toasted bread and add spinach leaves over the top. Cut crosswise and serve.