"Sunday Morning" By David Budbill + Baked Brie With Easy Grape Jam

Baked Brie with Easy Grape Jam via Eat This Poem

The last time my parents came to visit, my mom brought a small cookbook that belonged to my great grandmother, published on December 14, 1940. It was compiled by the King's Daughter's Class of the First Methodist Church in Las Animas, Colorado, and from the description looks to have been a gathering of young women, some newly married and others recently graduated from high school, who met on Sundays. There's even a sonnet inside, making clear that the virtue of this book is not in its looks, but in its usefulness.

"My pages will be stained and written o'er
With careless pencil or pens.
My leaves will be ragged, my back bent,
And I will never look the same again.
But, oh the dainties I helped to make,
In the busy summer morning..."

Cookbook from the 1940s
Cookbook from the 1940s

As I flipped the pages, I found the preserves section. The timing was right since I was looking to make a little cheese platter for a dinner with friends, and warm brie slathered with jam sounded perfect. The only problem was, there were hardly any instructions. Case in point: The instructions for the Grape Conserve recipe totaled six words: Blend and cook down as marmalade. No tips about how long to cook it, no notes about whether or not to strain the sauce (I didn't), or visual cues to tell you how it should look. It harkens back to a time when cooking acumen was handed down and recipes assumed the cook already has an understanding of the fundamentals.

I got to work. But first, poetry.

Easy Grape Jam from Eat This Poem
Easy Grape Jam


by David Bubell

Our neighbor's home-cured, applewood-smoked, slab bacon
I've sliced myself. Mary Jo's cage-free organic eggs "the girls"

Have made for us. Two for each of us, one for Lu Shan, our dog.
And sometimes my own homegrown potatoes parboiled and fried

in oil with onions, green pepper, celery, herb salt, and black pepper.
A little stack of toast from bread baked locally and spread with local

butter. Three or four kinds of jam, one of which I made myself from
my own grapes. A pot of tea—Keemun or Assam, a little golden Yunnan

tossed in. Then sit down at the table as the early morning sun
comes streaming through the windows.

From Happy Life by David Bubell (Copper Canyon Press, 2011). Reprinted with permission from Copper Canyon Press.

Grapes via Eat This Poem

This is how I like to eat on the weekends, and I imagine many of you appreciate a leisurely morning as well. There are slabs of bacon, eggs, homemade jam, and bread. It's an idyllic scene, made better because it's actually attainable. It's about friendship and sharing, too, and that's exactly what I did with my jam. I spread it over a hunk of warm brie, and shared it with friends in their backyard while our kids played in the grass. 

We need more of these meals, where we're not checking Instagram, carrying stresses from the work week, or worrying about needing to get out the door at a certain time. Meals where we're laughing, filling our plates (two or three times), and sipping on a summer wine. Poetry and food have always been an antidote to stress, chaos, and uncertainty, and what I'm always surprised by (though I shouldn't be), is how they're always available to us. It doesn't matter if it's Monday morning or Saturday night. We can always nourish ourselves and read a little poetry.

This book of poems was one of the first I've read in a while, and I devoured it cover to cover in bed one night. It did my soul some good, and reminded me (although I should never be surprised anymore), of how a beautiful line of verse can go straight to the heart. And in this space, we bring poetry straight to the stomach, too. 

Grape jam on the stove via Eat This Poem
Baked Brie with Easy Grape Jam via Eat This Poem
Baked Brie with Easy Grape Jam via Eat This Poem


You might be skeptical when you read the instructions. The walnuts threw me off, especially when I pureed everything in the blender and the ingredients turned pale brown and soupy. Was I actually making jam? I wasn't convinced. I was mentally preparing to stop by the store on the way to our dinner party for a jarred option, but then everything started warming on the stove and as I tasted it after it thickened and bubbled, my fears melted away. It tastes like the inside of a fig newton. 

This is a very unfussy jam. I don't boil my jars and save them for winter. Instead, I make a batch and eat it within a couple of weeks. It pairs beautifully with cheese, and after the dinner party, I added a big spoonful to my oatmeal the next morning.

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds grapes, washed and stemmed
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup granulated sugar

A round of brie
Crackers, for serving

Add the grapes, citrus juice and zest, walnuts, and raisins to a Vitamix. Blend on medium high speed for 1 minute, until smooth and pale in color. Add to a 4-quart stock pot and bring to a boil; reduce and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour, until reduced and slightly thickened. Let cool slightly, then transfer to glass jars. Use within a week, or freeze for later.

For the baked brie, heat oven to 350 degrees. Place brie on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook for 5 minutes, until warmed through. Drizzle thickly with jam and serve with crackers.

"Looking for Melville Winery" by Nicole Gulotta + Mushroom Quesadillas with Brie and Honey

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I've written this blog for a year and a half without so much a word about my own poetry, and there's a good reason for that, a simple reason. I stopped writing it.  

I'll spare some of the minutia, but shortly after my chapbook, Migration, was published in 2009 (it won the annual contest from Flyway: A Journal of Writing and Environment), my writing experienced a tectonic shift from poetry to food. That shift is partially responsible for leading me here today, confirming once and for all that there is a reason for everything. 

When I started Eat This Poem, my soul longed for poetry again. Not the writing of it myself (at least not yet), but the reading and enjoyment of it. The power. I've always believed that when the time was right, when enough poetry made its way through my veins like a daily dose of Vitamin D, I would put pen to paper again. I haven't gotten there yet. Right now it's just fragments, a line or two now and then, or maybe a draft of a poem that needs some attention, but nothing whole. 

Maybe sharing today's poem will help start me down that path again. As an Eat This Poem offering, I have "Looking for Melville Winery," from the aforementioned chapbook. Re-reading this poem five years later is like being thrust back in time. I wrote this after our first visit to Melville in the Santa Ynez Valley, a winery my husband and I are now club members of.  

The first time you make the drive off highway 246 towards Lompoc, you'll think you passed the winery entirely. The road is a long stretch, about 10 miles, and you might doubt your directions, or in our case, make a wrong turn and find yourself in the driveway of a farm, watching horses.  (We were also using a real paper map, not our iPhones.)

We called for directions and eventually arrived. As the poem describes, everything about the place was inviting. The vines were golden, the tasting room Dijon mustard yellow, and when the sun set, it cast a blanket of warmth over trees.

Melville 2.jpg

Looking for Melville Winery

by Nicole Gulotta

The tasting room is honey, Mediterranean
stucco, vines the color of a coriander seed.

Small rocks split under the pressure of our tires
as we roll toward the tasting room. 

I press our map against the dash, watch wind
waft through the drape of a horses

The world of this animal—nothing to do but gallop
into the shade of an oak

this gentle morning. 


Poem first appeared in the chapbook, Migration, published by Iowa State University Press. Reprinted with author's permission. 

During the first pick-up party for our wine shipment in January 2012, Melville hosted club members in the barrel room, and in addition to serving library wines (poured by Mr. Melville himself), the catering team passed around truffled French fries and quesadillas filled with mushrooms and drizzled with local honey. I never forgot it.

mushroom quesadillas5.jpg

When I pulled my chapbook from the shelf and lingered on this poem, I was surprised to have used the word "honey" to describe the tasting room approximately four years before honey would appear in an appetizer there. When I wrote this poem, Melville's wine club hadn't even been established yet.

It just means the world goes 'round, and hopefully you'll be able to look back and see the course, know it led you in the right direction. This need not last for days. We just need a long pause now and then, to take a deep breath and remember that every choice made built upon another like a ladder, and one day we'll emerge from the hanging and the climbing, the effort of it all, and just stand at the top of the hillside for a brief moment, full of nothing but peace and satisfaction.

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Mushroom Quesadillas with Brie and Honey

Spelt tortillas have become a favorite of ours, but use any tortilla you'd like. Normally, I cook quesadillas on the stove top, but I find that browning the tortillas, then melting the cheese in the oven helps get a nice assembly line going, and everything finishes at the same time.

Makes 4

 Extra virgin olive oil
1 package cremini mushrooms (about 8 ounces) 
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, minced
Salt and pepper
4 tortillas (fajita size)
8 ounces brie, thinly sliced
Warm honey, for drizzling
Parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and have a sheet pan ready. 

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium low flame. While the oil warms, thinly slice the mushrooms and add them to the pan as you go. Stir, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender and golden. Scrape into a bowl.

Heat a bit more olive oil and brown the tortillas on one side only, then place them on the sheet pan. Now you can assemble. On each tortilla, place 4-5 slices of brie on one side, followed by a couple of spoonfuls of mushrooms, then a few more slices of brie. Sprinkle with salt and pepper before folding the other half of the tortilla over the top. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the brie is melted. Before slicing and serving, drizzle the quesadillas with honey and parsley (if using).

"For the Buyer of Breakfasts in Salem" by Colleen Michaels + Cheddar Scramble

While waiting at a stoplight last year, I witnessed something that stayed with me. A homeless man stood on the divider holding up his cardboard sign asking for food and money and help, and in the minute before my light turned green, I watched from my rear view mirror as a man extended his hand with a few bills. It was one of those gestures that likely went unnoticed to most, but the kindness of this stranger informed the rest of my morning. I couldn't help but smile, shake off my frustrations, and believe that it was going to be a good day. Reading this poem by Colleen Michaels helped me remember the experience, because her poem captures the joy of doing something for others.