I had a different Bishop poem in mind for today, one about coffee and bread and a little bit of magic on a balcony at breakfast time (a fine combination if ever there was one), but leafing through my Complete Poems of Elizabeth Bishop, 1927-1979 I rediscovered this little masterpiece, which I’d forgotten about. It may very well be the only “light” verse she ever wrote (or at least the only light verse anyone besides the person it was intended for got to see), and since it’s a gorgeous spring Friday here in Brooklyn, it caught my fancy. It’s dedicated to Frank Bidart, another great poet, and it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the very reassuring truth that even poets, despite their lofty reputation, like to make dinner.
Lines Written in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook
You won’t become a gourmet cook
By studying out Fannie’s book—
Her thoughts on Food & Keeping House
Are scarcely those of Lévi-Strauss.
Nevertheless, you’ll find, Frank dear,
The basic elements are here.
And if a problem should arise:
The Soufflé fall before your eyes,
Or strange things happen to the Rice
—You know I love to give advice.
P.S. Fannie should not be underrated;
She has become sophisticated.
She’s picked up many gourmet tricks
Since the edition of ’96.