Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lentils, Carolyn Kizer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and William Butler Yeats

Because of my new found respect for quinoa, while looking 
without success in my West Nashville Costco for quinoa, I stumbled upon a product, new to me - Lentil Trio. Since I figured lentils are healthy in the same way as quinoa (18 grams of protein per cup), I decided lentils could be substituted for quinoa; lentils would be another weapon in my effort to infuse more complex carbohydrates into our diet.   

The three color lentils at Costco are beautiful, and I thought, mistakenly, that beautiful raw lentils might result in beautiful cooked lentils.  Lentils, as you probably know, look like mud when cooked. A tip - tri-colored lentils look just like any other lentils once cooked - like mud.

Here's Mud Soup by poet Carolyn Kizer who passed away last week at the age of 89.  If you've ever spent the day with a recipe from the New York Times and been disappointed in the result, this poem is for you.

"Mud Soup"
by Carolyn Kizer

Had the ham bone, had the lentils,
Got to meat store for the salt pork,
Got to grocery for the celery.
Had the onions, had the garlic,
Borrowed carrots from the neighbor.
Had the spices, had the parsley.
One big kettle I had not got;
Borrowed pot and lid from landlord.
Dice the pork and chop the celery,
Chop the onions, chop the carrots,
Chop the tender index finger.
Put the kettle on the burner,
Drop the lentils into kettle:
Two quarts water, two cups lentils.
Afternoon is wearing on.
Sauté pork and add the veggies,
Add the garlic, cook ten minutes,
Add to lentils, add to ham bone;
Add the bayleaf, cloves in cheesecloth,
Add the cayenne! Got no cayenne!
Got paprika, salt and pepper.
Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer.
Did I say that this is summer?
Simmer, summer, summer, simmer.
Mop the floor and suck the finger.
Mop the brow with old potholder.
Time is up! Discard the cheesecloth.
Force the mixture thru the foodmill
(having first discarded ham bone).
Add the lean meat from the ham bone;
Reheat soup and chop the parsley.
Now that sweating night has fallen,
Try at last the finished product:
Tastes like mud, the finished product.
Looks like mud, the finished product.
Consistency of mud the dinner.
(Was it lentils, Claiborne, me?)
Flush the dinner down disposall,
Say to hell with ham bone, lentils,
New York Times's recipe.
Purchase Campbell's. Just add water.
Concentrate on poetry:
By the shores of Gitche Gumee
You can bet the banks were muddy,
Not like Isle of Innisfree.

Here's a tiny bit of The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow which she referenced.

On the shores of Gitche Gumee,
Of the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood Nokomis, the old woman,
Pointing with her finger westward,
O'er the water pointing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset.

And, here's The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats, the final poem Carolyn Kizer references in Mud Soup:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

don't believe all lentil recipes have to taste like mud, and, if I figure out one that doesn't, I'll post it.


  1. Lentils look and taste amazing if cooked right. I enjoy them everyday in some form or another. Their texture will not be like cooked grains but they do add a lot of flavour and lend themselves to any recipe. Please try them in a recipe for 'mixed dal' - a kind of Indian lentil soup served with rice or make a 'khichadi' that is a rice and lentil savory porridge or make Lebanese lentil soup with them. There are so many cultures and cuisines that use lentils that you will not be disappointed. Please don't give up on them so easily, look up recipes and give it a try.

    1. I actually kind of like lentils, and I will try more recipes. But it was funny to me that the beautiful three colored lentils, when cooked, look like all other cooked lentils.

  2. Luckily, your sacrificial lamb usually likes lentils.

    Or maybe he's just succumbed to rigorous training.