The writing foodie
A poet finds her groove with pie crust
By Susan Reilly firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope Jordan has helped put Manchester on the map as a poetry hot spot, helping to organize open-mike poetry nights at Bridge Café. Here she discusses the virtues of unsalted butter and food as a recurring character in her poems. Jordan works in development at Plymouth State University.
What did you eat growing up?
I grew up I in a farming community in upstate New York in a Dutch and German family. I think that the way I cook has been heavily influenced by that; we grew up eating simple foods, lots of chicken and dumplings and casseroles. I did not have my first bagel, Chinese food or Middle Eastern food until I went to college at Syracuse.
Do you eat out a lot?
No, not really. We stay away from all of the chain restaurants that everyone around us seems to flock to on Loudon Road in Concord … [I]t has forced us to be more creative and to cook more at home.
You told me that you shun bread machines.
Yes. I once wrote a poem with a working title “Death to the Bread Machine.” For me, bread from a bread machine is like drinking a non-alcoholic beer. I have no interest in it. It is as much the process as the end result.
Do you try to stay away from processed foods?
We do. But I am also a mom who buys Red Baron frozen pizzas for her son because he really likes them. It is a compromise.
Have you written any other poems about food?
I am not a food writer, but food is a recurring character in my poems. The poem about bread machines became titled “It Rises.” Food is part of who I am and it appears in my writing. I wrote a poem about a bowl of soup at the Bridge Café and how it lifted me out of a winter depression on that particular day.
Do you cook Sunday dinner?
I try to as much as possible. But we are a busy family. My daughter cooks when she is home, and since she is a vegetarian, we all eat vegetarian and it is wonderful. As it is, we only eat meat once or twice a week.
Is there something that you really enjoy cooking?
Yes, apple pie. I believe that it is just one of those things — that I was born knowing how to make really great crust.
Do you ever do anything else with the crust?
Not really. Once when my kids were small they picked a lot of wild berries and I made a pie with them. To this day, it is the most amazing pie we all remember. Other than that, it is apple. With apples from a local orchard, preferably ones that I have picked myself.
Crust can be difficult. Any tips?
It is just something that I am really good at. Seems simple, because it is just three ingredients, but it isn’t. Plus, my kitchen is cold, and I think that helps with the pastry. A friend once asked me to show her how to make apple pies. She wanted to make some for a friend who was battling cancer. That was when it hit me that they are so good that people find them comforting. The pie always tastes very good, but doesn’t always look pretty.
Do you find that with cooking you don’t follow a recipe?
I cook both ways, with and without recipes. But I cannot do soups. I have never made a soup that I have been really happy with, with or without a recipe. Maybe my expectations are too high. I think that people have a knack for certain things — mine is crust.
What is in your refrigerator?
An old tube of black olive paste that I keep telling myself I will find a use for. Lots of homemade chicken stock from a chicken I roasted over the holiday. Capers — my son loves chicken piccatta — and unsalted butter, plus all the other usual stuff.
Just curious — why unsalted butter?
It started in college. My roommate had a cookbook, something like “Pasta and Cheese,” that I stole, and every recipe called for unsalted butter, so it became a habit. I just read an article about the merits of unsalted butter and how it allows the butter flavor to come through in cooking. I am flexible with a lot of things, but I always have unsalted butter and King Arthur flour.