‘The Meaning of Food’ – Poem by Cha Da Cup & Ian Duhig

Touchstone, Pavilion and Ian Duhig are pleased to share their new poem ‘The Meaning of Food’. This poem was co-written by Ian Duhig and Touchstone’s Cha DaCup group, who have now ‘crossed the threshold’ to become published authors, as their poem has been featured in the recently released in ‘The Cookbook Project Sewerby Hall and Gardens’ by Ahilopalapa Rands.

Ian worked with the Sikh Elder’s Cha Da Cup group as part of our Interwoven Histories project. To read more about the project and how the poem was created, please click here.

The Meaning of Food

The meaning of food is the sharing of it, like poetry:
your favourite meal cooked for decades by someone
who loves you but will never taste it because of its meat.

The meaning of food is a feast for all the senses,
not just smell and taste but the sounds, like crispness,
sight of colours subtle and bold, textures of its skin and flesh,

the temperature of the cultured yogurt white as a page
waiting on the pen of the learned, magic finger to know when
then a spell to mature in a flask like a poem in the mind of the poet.

The meaning of food is in that it clarifies like poetry
and butter in a pan so you can see better the little things
that make all the difference on the plate, the page and in the world,

The meaning of food is not as simple as its words,
like poetry, so the meanings of curry are very different
and what sounds like pheeka is the opposite of piquant, bland.

The meaning of food is in the kindness of the woman
who can tell shop-bought garam masala in a hostess’ cooking
but remains silent as the white space around the words of a poem.

The meaning of food can be comfort in a strange land
with no shops to buy ingredients for your own when it can be
ice cream, lard-fried fish and chips eaten from newspapers.

The meaning of food is the bounty of God and nature:
a world with twenty thousand edible plants, galaxies of spices,
seas of oils, enough beans for different dhals every day of the week

and a people with the patience and the genius to harness
the flavours of many so even the clay of their vessels retains
a memory of their cooking and adds to the next meal’s richness.

The meaning of food is its beauty: the cream bouquet
of a cauliflower, the aubergine purple as a Roman emperor,
rainbows of chilies, moons of onion rings, suns of sliced potatoes.

The meaning of food is what it means to know goodness:
garlic for your heart, hing for wind and ginger for everything
then the blessings food receives and gives to you in the gurdwara.

The meaning of food is that it can be so simple,
the chick peas translated by time and water, not from cans,
the chapatti plate in the hand crowned with a bit of this, a bit of that.

The meaning of food is that it can be so rich
your doctor asks you suspiciously how you cook it
when tablets aren’t working according to blood pressure gauges.

The meaning of food is not to be numbered
as money would, so you can smell and taste back home
the smack of nitrates, chemical fertiliser, the presence of poison

forcing more from the land and all in the name
of profit, the mango that won’t ripen after opening the can
but the fruit you can touch and smell on the old village tree.

The meaning of food defies time: childhood is not lost
but always the taste of a biscuit away, a smell in the street
or escaping a kitchen like a snatch of an old song or a new poem.

By the Threshold Sikh Authors: Hardeep Kaur Khalsi, Sewa Singh Khalsi, Satwant Virdi,
Darshan Virdi, Mr. Sohanpal, Surinder Riat, Mrs Suryavansi, Pakash Hare, Surjit
Dhanjal, Surinder Jit Kaur, Mrs S. Nath, Mrs A. Kalsy, Mrs R. Matharu and Zubaida Khan with Ian Duhig

Further Information

It is with thanks to the Heritage Lottery Celebrating Age Fund that we are able to run this project. Interwoven Histories aims to engage elders from BME communities in creative art workshops. In the upcoming months, we will be reaching out to people from different communities. If you know someone or a group of people who may like to get involved in this creative project, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Georgina:

georginab@touchstonesupport.org.uk

0113 219 2727

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