"Tea" by Jehanne Dubrow + Almond Poppy Seed Scones

Almond Poppy Seed Scones from Eat This Poem

In the early days of the Eat This Poem blog, I accepted poetry submissions for upcoming posts. One day, a beautiful little sonnet appeared, and I loved it so much I tucked it away. I'd just started exploring the idea of a cookbook, and knew I wanted to keep this poem to include inside. The only problem was, it took years to finalize and get to the point when I needed to reach out to publishers and poets for permissions.

"Tea" just sat in my file, marked up, underlined, waiting. When I finally emailed Jehanne to thank you for submitting it all those years ago, and the good news that it was going to be published in a book (hooray!), I was thrilled she said yes. And since today is publication day (woooo hoooo!), I thought I'd share this little poem and one of the recipe pairings from the cookbook.

On the topic, some very kind things have been said about Eat This Poem, so I've basically been sobbing happy tears for the past week, and might continue well into April. Being at this point in my writing journey is such a special experience, and I'm trying to soak it up while it lasts! 

Here's where you can find some extra recipes and peeks inside Eat This Poem. You can also read more on the book's press page.

Radicchio Panzanella | Considering the Radish
The Earthy Beauty of Mushrooms | Food Republic
Interview with Jessie Voights | i8tonite
The Pleasures of Eating Mindfully | UpBeat Living
Chasing Creative
Podcast | Wild Elixir


By Jehanne Dubrow

Tonight I’m fruit and clove. I’m bergamot.
I drop a teabag in the cup and boil
the kettle until it sings. As if on cue,
a part of me remembers how to brew
the darker things—those years I was a pot
of smoky leaves scented with orange oil.
Truth is: I don’t remember much of school,
the crushed-up taste of it. I was a drink
forgotten on the table, left to cool.
I was a rusted tin marked childhood.
I don’t remember wanting to be good
or bad, but only that I used to sink
in water and wait for something to unfurl,
the scent of summer in the jasmine pearl.

Almond Poppy Seed Scones from Eat This Poem

Within this brief sonnet, “darker things” from years past go unnamed, and a new language is formed. For fourteen lines, the speaker personifies tea, embodying familiar flavors of bergamot, fruit, and clove while becoming an invisible cup “forgotten on the table” and recalling the “crushed-up taste” of school. It’s easy to put yourself in her place, walking the halls with friends, pulling notebooks out of a locker, sitting in bleachers during football games, trying with desperation to grow into the person you are meant to become.

It takes courage to access nearly forgotten experiences, those that simultaneously shaped and shamed us. Although we might outgrow who we once were, faded memories tend to follow us into adulthood, and sometimes we need a cup of tea to make it right, a moment to settle our hearts and allow both the sweet and bitter leaves of our past to steep together.

Almond Poppy Seed Scones from Eat This Poem
Almond Poppy Seed Scones from Eat This Poem

Almond Poppy Seed Scones

Nibbling on scones fresh from the oven while sipping a cup of tea is a habit I picked up when living in London. But food is only one gratifying aspect of this ritual. What I love most is the state of mind tea places you in. For a few moments in the late afternoon, bodies pause and the mind slows down, focused wholeheartedly on the task at hand: inhaling, drinking, and taking that first, hot sip.

Makes 8

¾ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons almond extract
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 ½ cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup almond meal
½ cup toasted almonds, chopped
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 to 4 teaspoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400°F and set out a baking sheet lined with parchment. Stir buttermilk and extract in a glass measuring cup and put it in the refrigerator until ready to use. Dice butter into small pieces and place in a small bowl; chill for at least 15 minutes. This helps keep the butter from melting as you work.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then scatter the butter on top. Blend using a pastry cutter or two knives, until small pieces form and it resembles coarse meal; this can take about 5 minutes. The butter doesn’t have to be the same size (some pieces will be larger than others), but it should be evenly distributed throughout the flour. Pour the wet ingredients over the top and stir until the dough just comes together and big, crumbly clumps form.

Gather the dough together with your hands and transfer it to a lightly floured cutting board; pat into an 8-inch circle. Cut 8 wedges and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake 16 to 18 minutes, or until golden.

To make the glaze, whisk sugar with the almond extract and cream until thick but still able to drip from the back of a spoon. When the scones have cooled slightly, drizzle the glaze on top.

Almond Poppy Seed Scones from Eat This Poem
Almond Poppy Seed Scones from Eat This Poem

From Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry by Nicole Gulotta, © 2017 by Nicole Gulotta. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

What Eat This Poem Is Really About

Photo by Peter McEwen

Photo by Peter McEwen

In elementary school, I always cringed whenever I was assigned a group project. I was the kid who believed she could do the report/presentation/research better, faster, and more successfully than any of my classmates.

I wanted to work alone.

This remained my guiding philosophy for years until, slowly but surely, I started embracing the benefits of creative collaboration.

I can probably thank adulthood for this. As kids and as students—even with part-time or summer jobs—life is decidedly more simple, and time more abundant. As I’ve honed in on what I’m good at (writing, mostly), and what I’m not (photography, website design, etc.) I’ve enjoyed the benefits that come from doing my thing, and letting others do theirs.

My first clue was in high school, when I edited the literary magazine with a friend under the supervision of our creative writing teacher. For months we read submissions and put them in just the right order, then we worked on the layout, and finally, our teacher took the pages to Kinko’s and had the issue printed and saddle stapled. We were so proud! We made this! 

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By the time I started writing for Life & Thyme magazine, I knew what I was good at. I remember spending one morning sitting inside Providence restaurant, across the table from Michael Cimarusti, a chef with two Michelin stars to his name, talking about fishing and sourcing ingredients.

I asked questions while a photographer roamed the restaurant, then I walked back to my car feeling so… light. So happy. It was a warm day in February, and I had the windows rolled down and was looking at the bright blue sky feeling like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

The best part was after finishing the story and sending it off, photographers, editors, and designers went to work creating the issue. All I had to do was contribute my part.

The 11-year-old me never saw it coming.

Photo by Peter McEwen

Photo by Peter McEwen

And now, there is a book. A cookbook. The one I’ve been telling you about for the past year.

The more time I’ve spent on the other side of writing, and focusing more on marketing and promotion these past few months, the more I’ve realized just how amazing it is to publish a book at all. But not for the reasons you might think.

A book is a collaboration.

There are artists, designers, editors, agents, publishers, publicists, librarians, bookstores. Without all these people and their talents and shared visions, the book would still be a word document on my computer. In 12 point Times New Roman font.

It wouldn’t be able to do what all books are meant to do.

Whether it’s to teach, encourage, instruct, or inspire, books are beginnings.

Books are an invitation, the start of a relationship. They are meant to live in your homes and form to the rhythms of your life. They last.

There are lots of ways to describe Eat This Poem, and it’s always a copywriting challenge to choose just the right words to print to the back of a book or copy and paste to an Amazon profile.

The book is, in fact, about food and poetry, and the intersection of these two mediums. It's also about bringing more meaning to our meals.

But it's also about this.

Eat This Poem is a call for more stillness.

Reading a poem and cooking a meal are, quite simply, acts of self-care.

This is especially true on days that are full, sometimes rushed, and peppered with to-do lists. 

So let's be quiet, just for a moment.

Let's read, let's stir, and let's see how our hearts feel afterwards. 

We have three opportunities each day to pause, savor, eat.

Poetry forces us to slow down. Food does too, when we let it.

The combination of the two is, I hope, is permission to take a few minutes out of your day and truly enjoy your meal, the spiritual nourishment of poetry, and the physical fullness of the recipes paired with it.

As always, thanks for reading. Thanks for for letting me onto your screens, and now your bookshelves.

The Day the Books Arrived

I want to tell you what it felt like to hold a copy of Eat This Poem in my hands. I wanted to tell you sooner, right when the box of books arrived at my door, but I needed to think. Process. Absorb. Gather my thoughts.

So, let’s start at the beginning.

The books were scheduled to arrive at my publisher’s warehouse in Colorado on February 17, so you can imagine my excitement to receive an email a week early saying the books were here (!!) and UPS would be picking them up in a few hours (!!).

It was Friday, and I was expecting them Monday, so all weekend I tried to distract myself. I bought champagne and chilled it in the refrigerator. I brought my dog to work on Monday to help the time pass more quickly. But when I got home from work, both my dog and my son in tow, the books were not there.

Of course, I was disappointed.

I made soup for dinner, and every time I opened the fridge to pull out stock or half an onion I’d saved, I saw the champagne bottle, reminding me of the occasion I was waiting for to pop the cork.

The next day, I realized something.

As excruciating as it was to wait (also, for two nights in a row, I woke up at 3 am and tossed and turned before falling back to sleep, plus, I had a perpetual knot in my stomach), I found tremendous peace in one small and obvious detail.

The book exists.

Even though I don’t have my box filled with the proof of my years of work, the book exists. I told myself this over and over as I walked after lunch. The book exists. It will be published. It is published. You made this. It exists.

It’s worth noting I’m not the most patient person.

I’ve softened over the years, but usually when I want something or I’m ready for something, contentment is not always my first instinct.

Waiting the extra 24 hours was excruciating and anxiety producing, but it forced me into learning yet another lesson about creativity, which is, everything in its timing.

So even though I couldn’t hold it (yet), I knew it was out there in the world.

And on Tuesday, the book did come. A small package rested against my front door when I came home, again, with Henry in my arms. I still had to wait for Andrew to get home from work before opening it. I couldn’t have this experience without him, so again, I busied myself, first playing with Henry for a few minutes in his room, then scooping a pile of food into Emma’s bowl, then starting to pull leaves off the chard I was planning to saute with garlic and oil before swirling with spaghetti.

I pulled out the champagne glasses.

As soon as the keys turned in the door I screamed “Ok, let’s go let’s go!!” and started tearing into the package. Andrew came over and picked up Henry, holding his phone with one hand to try and take a few pictures.

Slowly, I pulled out two copies of Eat This Poem, then ran my finger over the raised cover. I pulled open the flap, looked at the photo and bio I had submitted months earlier. I flipped the pages, smelled them, and saw the words I’d nearly memorized after years of writing recipe after recipe, story after story.

One day I was sitting in Starbucks, writing notes next to a poem, and now I was holding the book I hoped for so long I would get to write. I want you to curl up on the couch with it, underline it, dog-ear it, use it.

Strangely, the publication of a book is both an end and a beginning.

The end of one writing journey, but the beginning of a relationship between my words and everyone who might read them.

So as much as this book is mine, soon it will be yours, too.