This excerpt is from Canadian writer George Elliott Clarke's Whylah Falls. The book is written almost like an epic poem, but each poem is a separate entity that can stand on it's own. The narrative follows the story of a black community living in Nova Scotia or Acadia, which is the name for the french speaking roots and culture of our Atlantic coast. It is a book of passion, colour, murder and strife, rich with language. Here is an excerpt from the section "The Trial of Saul."
How To Live In The Garden.
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
Cora brings a rural nobility to making food, a solid love, staring into her huge, copper pot like a gardener staring into a pot of lush earth, bright soil, glistening with newness, or tending a bonsai tree, the trunk of steam rooted in the pottage, the branches of steam wafting into nothingness. She salts her stored miniature sea, churns it with a walnut spoon, then lifts goodness, a kiss, to her lips while spicy, flamboyant smells green her kitchen into Eden.
Cooking is faith. Cora opens her antique cookbook, a private bible, enumerating Imperial meausres, English orders, - pinches, pecks, cups, teaspoons, of this or that - and intones, "I create not food but love. The table is a community. Plates are round rooves; glasses, iced trees; cutlery, silvery streams."
Her Jarvis County cuisine, gumboing the salty recipes of Fundy Acadians, the starchy diets of South Shore Loyalists, and the fishy tastes of Coloured Refugees includes rappie pie, sweet potato pie, pollen pancakes, steamed fiddleheads, baked cabbage, fried clams, dandelion beer, mackerel boiled in vinegar, and basic black-and-blue berries. For breakfast, Cora offers fried eggs, sausages, orange marmalade, and toast washed down with rich coffee. Her tastes are eccentric, exotic, eclectic. Her carrot cake consists of whole carrots whose green, leafy tops sprout from brown, earthen icing and whose orange roots taper to the cake's floor. She bakes apple tree leaves, blossoms, seeds, and bark into her apple pies. Cora is the concrete poet of food.
This afternoon, she thawed a pound of cod filets, white flesh raw but succulent on the plate, and diced it into one-inch squares. Then she sautéed a half cup of sliced onions in rich, yellow butter and poured the sizzling aroma into a broth made from celery soup, a cup of water, and a cup of milk. Next, she stirred the mix and added the fish, Jarvis scallops, and Church Point clams, nursing the chowder to a boil. Cora simmered it for seven minutes, then sprinkled the smiling sea with chopped parsley. Voila! Perfection under gravity . . .
Cora's dandelion wine is a great agony of sunflowers. No, dandelions. It must be drunk to be believed. (One believes it when drunk.) It tastes like Russian literature, sunlight shining through birch leaves. It curls into a glass, snarls along the sides and bottom, doubling, tripling, quadrupling upon itself. (Watch the white curl of cream churn into clear, brown tea, touch bottom, then billow along the sides and up, muddying the water.)
- George Elliott Clarke, Whylah Falls, pg. 35-36