Monday, February 2, 2015

A Simple Breakfast of Herbed Poached Egg and Tea for Cook the Books: 'Sustenance & Desire' by Bascove

Poems, prose and pictures all centered around 'the pleasures of the table'--Sustenance & Desire: A Food Lover's Anthology of Sensuality and Humor is our Cook the Books selection this round, selected by Rachel, The Crispy Cook. This anthology of writing dedicated primarily to food, is edited by the artist Bascove, with her gorgeous paintings sprinkled throughout the book. 

This was an excellent book pick by Rachel for a busy December--and an unusually busy for me January. It was the perfect book to have on the bedside table, ready to delve into before bed, or whenever there was a free moment and absorb an essay or a poem or two. As with many anthologies, it was a grab bag of authors, styles and subjects. Some pieces were provocative, some touching, some humorous, and many brought back my own food memories and experiences. There were some pieces I connected with more than others and some I didn't care much for, but all were interesting in their own way. Sustenance & Desire is such a gorgeous book too--it's the perfect size for holding and reading and Bascove's artwork aptly captured the moods of the different poems and words within. (Take a look at Bascove's website to see some of her incredible work.) It would be a  wonderful gift for a food and literature-loving friend--maybe with a bottle of good wine, or chocolate truffles, or even couple of perfect artichokes. 

There was endless inspiration to create a dish from this book. I felt pulled in several directions--artichokes as described by Scottish poet Robinson and writer/poet Thomas Lynch, a moving essay called "Indian Takeout' from a favorite author of mine Jhumpa Lahiri about ingredients carried from Calcutta back to Rhode Island, a drool-inducing ode to cheese, and simple pleasure like homemade bread, stuffed peppers, and beans. But the poem that kept pulling me back was 'Breakfast' by American poet Diane Wakoski. The poem spoke about the author sitting at the wooden table in the 'morning kingdom' of her living room with a cup of Earl Grey tea and breakfast of an egg poached in water with a few drops of white rice-vinegar, turned out onto a plate with ribbons of four basil leaves, picked from a windowsill herb pot and scattered over the top. 

Alone, at the big table
with my plate, my single
herbed egg, a goblet of 
iced water with a fresh sprig of mint
also from the window garden,
and my china cup of hot tea I sit
in my morning kingdom.
       Excerpt from Breakfast by Diane Wakoski c. 1979

It sounded like the perfect lazy morning breakfast to me so I recreated it with one exception. In my morning kingdom, a poached egg is much more of a pleasure with good bread to soak up the loose yellow yolk so I added a couple of slices of grilled olive bread to the plate.

I confess that I am not much of an egg poacher mainly because I find it far easier to fry one or two in some olive oil to the perfect (for me) consistency of firm whites and runny yolks--plus, my poached eggs just never look that pretty. (All the better to be covered in Hollandaise sauce.) ;-) Looking for a neater egg for pictures, I turned to the expert in all things culinary, Alton Brown and followed his direction for "Perfect Poached Eggs" at Food Network. I would say that while my egg wasn't quite perfect--I would cook it a touch less than his five minutes off the heat the next time--the whites were more solid and less 'feathered' than my usual poached eggs.

I did use white rice-vinegar to poach my egg, and four fresh basil leaves like the poem, and I enjoyed this breakfast immensely with my added grilled olive bread and the iced mint water and Earl Grey, at my wood table in the peaceful Sunday morning hours.

Thanks to Rachel for a fabulous and creative pick. As per usual I am running down to the wire with this post as the deadline for this round of Cook the Books is today. ;-) If you missed out this round, consider joining us for Feb5uary/March when I will be hosting Ruth Reichl's classic foodie memoir Comfort Me With Apples



  1. That is a beautiful breakfast!

  2. Lovely to see Wakoski's poem immortalized here. Another great Cook the Books entry.

  3. Thanks Cathy! I am looking forward to hosting and seeing what everyone comes up with. ;-)

  4. Ah the morning after... nothing like eggs. Looking forward to the next Cook the Books selection. Already read and got my dish picked out :)

  5. So much of the book inspired me Rachel but I was especially drawn to Wakoski's words and the peaceful simplicity they conjured up. Thanks for hosting a great round of CTB. ;-)

  6. Thanks Alicia! ;-)

  7. Perfect choice for Sustenance and Desire. I started on Comfort me with Apples today.....I LOVE it!!!

  8. What a lovely breakfast. That is frequently what I have as well, though as you said, it's easier to just fry in a tad of olive oil to the perfect finish..

  9. Thanks Claudia! Frying is definitely good for this lazy girl for everyday. ;-)

  10. Yay! I am glad you are enjoying it Wendy. I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with. ;-)

  11. Amy CookingAdventuresFebruary 7, 2015 at 1:37 PM

    This looks amazing! I absolutely love eggs (I'm an egg frier too - just easier!)

  12. Absolutely lovely pick...and dish, Deb.

  13. Yep-easy is always good Amy! ;-)

  14. Thanks Camilla--an easy pick but the one that spoke to me the most. ;-)


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