Writers have been thinking and rhapsodizing over the wonders of the culinary world for centuries. Who hasn’t wanted to sing the praises of that perfect peach or your mom’s homemade noodle dish that no place could ever surpass? Here are 15 great poems about food covering odes to particular food items, food and immigration, and food and humor.
Here are some classic poems about food from eminent authors of old:
Inviting a Friend to Supper by Ben Johnson
“Tonight, grave sir, both my poor house, and I
Do equally desire your company;
Not that we think us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignify our feast
With those that come, whose grace may make that seem
Something, which else could hope for no esteem…
Goblin Market By Christina Rossetti
Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries…
Odes to a Single Food
These are poems dedicated to a single category of food. Personally, peaches are my preferred poetic food.
From Blossoms By Li-Young Lee
“From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market By Pablo Neruda, Translated by Robin Robertson
among the market vegetables,
from the ocean
lying in front of me
The Traveling Onion by Naomi Shihab Nye
When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles…
Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
Mutton by Jonathan Swift
Gently stir and blow the fire,
Lay the mutton down to roast,
Dress it quickly, I desire,
In the dripping put a toast…
Coolness of the Melons by Matsuo Basho, Translated by Robert Hass
Coolness of the melons
flecked with mud
in the morning dew.
Food and Immigration
Here are poems reflecting on the experience of immigration and connection and alienation from one’s cultural foods.
América By Richard Blanco
Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half a dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.
Oxtail Stew By David Dominguez
At five o’clock in the morning,
I walked to work and passed the green ponds
of Horizon Park where the last bluegill,
caught on the low, slight bank,
panted hard in the dark mud, crushed glass,
sour bottle caps, whiskey,
and the iron weight of heat and smog.
When talking about food, you have to talk about food in fun and silly ways.
I Wave Good-bye When Butter Flies By Jack Prelutsky
I wave good-bye when butter flies
and cheer a boxing match,
I’ve often watched my pillow fight,
I’ve sewn a cabbage patch,
Sorry I Spilled It By Shel Silverstein
The Clean Plater by Ogden Nash
Some singers sing of ladies’ eyes,
And some of ladies lips,
Refined ones praise their ladylike ways,
And course ones hymn their hips.
I had to include this poem for my dark dark heart.
The Walrus and the Carpenter By Lewis Carroll
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright —
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
Sometimes we do not want to eat.
The Gourmet’s Love-Song By P.G. Wodehouse
HOW strange is Love: I am not one
Who Cupid’s power belittles,
For Cupid ’tis who makes me shun
My customary victuals.
Of, Effie, since that painful scene
That left me broken-hearted,
My appetite, erstwhile so keen,
Has utterly departed.