"Coconut" by Paul Hostovsky + Coconut-Lime Scones

One of the benefits of coming home with a box of coconut flakes is the inevitable quest to find new ways to use it. Coconut hasn't always been in my repertoire. In fact, it's quite a new addition. I suppose blame can be placed on the beautiful island of Maui, where I had enough coconut to realize that my childhood aversion no longer ruled my taste buds. Since then, I've made Luisa's coconut banana bread more times than I can count, added coconut to tropical smoothies, and now, I've made scones.

I make no secret of my love of scones. One of my favorite ways to indulge is with a proper scone, Devonshire cream, and jam, but it's also the ritual of tea that I adore so much. Wherever you are, tea forces you to slow down. It resets your mind. I drink it all morning at work (only made possible by the mug warmer I can't live without), and in the afternoon when I'm working from home. If I'm not in the mood for coffee on the weekends, I'll brew tea while my husband grinds coffee beans. When I need to write, I make tea. 

Tea is a trigger. It tells my mind that it's time to work, to be creative, and to accomplish something. Poetry is a trigger, too. You can't read poetry without really reading it. You can't scan poetry like a magazine article or an online newspaper. Do that, and you're bound to miss something incredibly important.

For example, if you only scan this poem, a synopsis might go like this. Father and son go to the supermarket. While putting produce in the basket, the son finds a coconut and asks his father if they can buy it. The father says no. The son begins to cry. The father changes his mind. The son stops crying. When they get home, everyone is happy again.

But that's not what the poem is really about it. So read on, and then I'll tell you more.


by Paul Hostovsky

Bear with me I
want to tell you
something about
it's hard to get at
but the thing is
I wasn't looking
I was looking
somewhere else
when my son found it
in the fruit section
and came running
holding it out
in his small hands
asking me what
it was and could we
keep it it only
cost 99 cents
hairy and brown
hard as a rock
and something swishing
around inside
and what on earth
and where on earth
and this was happiness
this little ball
of interest beating
inside his chest
this interestedness
beaming out
from his face pleading
and because I wasn't
happy I said
to put it back
because I didn't want it
because we didn't need it
and because he was happy
he started to cry
right there in aisle
five so when we
got it home we
put it in the middle
of the kitchen table
and sat on either
side of it and began
to consider how
to get inside of it

From Bending the Notes (Main Street Rag, 2008)

The speaker knows this is more than a coconut story, and he wants us to understand. He even gives us the written equivalent of pressing down of his hands in he air. "I know, I know," he tells us. "You think this is about going to the grocery store." The speaker predicts our hesitation, and pleads with us to keep going.

When we do, we discover that the coconut is a teacher. Embracing life moment by moment isn't the easiest exercise for any of us. Take the speaker. He entered the grocery store with a list that did not include coconut. He was not in the best mood, maybe still dwelling on some exchange at work or at home earlier in the day. Whatever it was, he carried that mood into his errand. And to him, that's what it was. Just an errand, a task, something that needed to be accomplished in the shortest amount of time possible. His state of mind was irritated, focused, clouded.

So when his son is suddenly mesmerized by a coconut, the speaker isn't prepared emotionally. He wasn't open. His reaction, the one that made his son cry, reflected this, and by the time those 10 seconds passed while his son's cheeks were turning red and Dad agreed to keep the coconut, the magical moment had passed. It reminds me of that Florence and the Machine song. "Happiness hit her like a train on the track..." Happiness can come at any moment, so we had better be ready.

Luckily, the magic reappeared, and the last few lines just make my heart burst a little.

If you take anything away from this poem, let it be this: We must be open. And in the spirit of slowing down, finding happiness in coconuts or anything else, I offer scones.

Coconut-Lime Scones

Makes 8 scones

6 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut (chopped if flakes are very large)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of 2 limes (about 1 tablespoon)
1 egg
3/4 cup coconut milk, plus more for brushing

Grate the butter on a box grater and keep it in the freezer until you're ready to mix everything together. It's helpful to utilize the wrapping, or a small paper towel, otherwise the butter will start slipping through your fingers.

Whisk together the flours, sugar, coconut, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the egg, coconut milk, and zest.

Add the frozen butter to the bowl of dry ingredients, and mix it quickly with your fingers until small pebbles are formed. Pour in the wet ingredients, and stir with a spatula until the dough just holds together. Place it in the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you wait.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Generously flour a cutting board and gently form the dough into a 1- to 1 1/2-inch thick round. Cut the disc into eight triangles, then place on the baking sheet. Brush additional coconut milk on top, and sprinkle with extra sugar or coconut flakes, if you'd like. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.