Hierarchy of Food

In a jar beside the stove, we strain
drippings from a skillet, wash them clean
of old names, and christen them lard—
as if rendering is a form of appellation
rather than just salvation. We fold the word hog
over our tongues with others that have gone out of use
The kitchen is never the place for deer or snail
or fish eggs pilfered before they were laid.
We bend sounds like origami, make
something voluptuous out of something flat…escargot,
venison and caviar. Served centuries ago, nobles
who were removed from work,
wanted vulgarity removed from their food.
Perhaps scullery maids held a contest
to bestow elevated names to the foods rich people ate.
Maybe a farmer with good humor, who hid the reality
of calves kept for food, re(veal)ed his secret
to the cook and the name became an inside joke.
Regardless, we are all still living the aristocrat’s delusions.
Whoever says we’re part of a postmodern world
hasn’t gone to their local diner. Menus talk about johnny
cakes, instead of flour—syrup rather than sap.
We say eggs over embryo and grease
in place of liquid swine. Precious names for precious fare
& common names for the food of
commoners. No one has ever heard of
chicken, rice or potatoes using pseudonyms
as they feed the masses. And a basic green bean
won’t cut it in a fancy restaurant unless its working
under its Christian name: Haricot Vert. I’m reminded again
how baptism is a close rhyme to classist system.

Lorrie Ness is a poet writing in a rural corner of Virginia. When she’s not writing, she can be found stomping through the woods, watching birds and playing in the dirt. Her work can be found in numerous journals, including Palette Poetry and Sky Island Journal. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2021 and her chapbook Anatomy of a Wound was published by Flowstone Press in July of 2021.

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