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Friday, May 19, 2006

In praise of potatoes

I've been rearranging my files and have found a folder of all the weird stuff I've found in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century periodicals. This ode to potatoes may rival Pablo Neruda. OK, it doesn't. This is a terrible poem, notable only for the clunkiness of the descriptions of how to prepare potatoes and the abuses of alliteration and exclamation points (I like "benaeth the cope of air-excluding lid" and "from subterranean stores selected"--and yes, the word "multangular" makes an appearance in the poem):

A soliloquy in praise of potatoes
by Dermot O'Murrough
County Magazine, 1791

Hail, rare Potatoes! hot or cold, all hail!
O quickly come, my appetite's delight--
Whether in an oven's fiery concave clos'd,
By Baker's art delicious thou'rt embrown'd
While rills of purple gravy from the pores
Of mighty beef improve the luscious fare;
Whether the Dame of culinary skill,
Hath rudely sclp'd thee o'er and to the rage
Of warring elements confined thee deep
Beneath the cope of air-excluding lid,
In humid durance plung'd; or when with steaks
Of marbled vein, from rump of stall-fed steer
Disparted late, slic'd in the shallow pan,
I view thee kindly stew'd--how joys my heart!
How flash with eager glance my longing eyes!
Or in the tedious eve, when nipping frost
Reigns potent, 'mid the mould'ring embers roast
(From subterranean stores selected) those
Of am lest size rotund, of native coat,
Yet unbereft, And if my homely board
Penurious, add but a few salubrious grains
Of humble salt. I bless the cheap repast
But chiefly come, at noontime hunger's call,
When from th'ebullient pot your mealy tribe,
With happiest art prepar'd, profusely pours;
And be the mass, with butter's plenteous aid
To rich consistence wrought. Nor, oh! with hold
The pepper's pungent power of grateful glow
Beneficient. In Pudding's praise
Let others rant loquacious. I despise
The doughy morsel for my favorite food:
Give me but this, ye Gods! I scornful pass
Each celebrated shop, (Williams or Birch,
Or he of Belgic fame--I do! supreme
Of City Saint! in City Hall ador'd
By mortals! Hoffman, Wight!) where brittle puffs
Multangular, with custards, cakes, and cream
And lucid jellies nodding o'er the brim,
Of crystal vase, in pastry pomp combine
To lure the sense. These, these unmov'd, I pass,
While fond I antedate Potatoes' Charms,
"Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind."

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