O for a beaker full of the warm South
Surely sashimi is a haiku on a plate;
the dark translucent red of tuna, soft in the mouth,
and edged with green wasabi.
It’s tempting to believe that cultures
tell themselves in food; to dip a spoon
into a gumbo thick with sassafras
and claim to taste the swamp,
lynchings and jazz.
In austere Iran, land of sun, cement and ayatollahs,
black-veiled women make
coffee fragrant with cardamom,
tea of rose petals or aniseed,
lamb with cinnamon and apricots,
saffron rice, sweet and jewelled with fruit,
and, with everything, green herbs – coriander, fenugreek,
tarragon, parsley, mint and dill, in pilafs, omelettes, yoghurt
and, on the table, bunched to chew with bread.