Welcome to where I am, where my kitchen's always messy, a pot's (or a poet) always about to boil over, a dog is always begging to be fed. Drafts of poems on the counter. Windows filled with leaves. Wind. Clouds moving over the mountains. If you like poetry, books, and music--especially dog howls when a siren unwinds down the hill-- you'll like it here.


MY NEW AUTHOR'S SITE, KATHRYNSTRIPLINGBYER.COM, THAT I MYSELF SET UP THROUGH WEEBLY.COM, IS NOW UP. I HAD FUN CREATING THIS SITE AND WOULD RECOMMEND WEEBLY.COM TO ANYONE INTERESTED IN SETTING UP A WEBSITE. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT MY NEW SITE TO KEEP UP WITH EVENTS RELATED TO MY NEW BOOK.


MY NC POET LAUREATE BLOG, MY LAUREATE'S LASSO, WILL REMAIN UP AS AN ARCHIVE OF NC POETS, GRADES K-INFINITY! I INVITE YOU TO VISIT WHEN YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ SOME GOOD POEMS.

VISIT MY NEW BLOG, MOUNTAIN WOMAN, WHERE YOU WILL FIND UPDATES ON WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MY KITCHEN, IN THE ENVIRONMENT, IN MY IMAGINATION, IN MY GARDEN, AND AMONG MY MOUNTAIN WOMEN FRIENDS.




Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kitchen Meditations: MAKING STOCK, TAKING STOCK


When the days are cold, better yet snowy, I enjoy making stock. I watched my grandmother make it when I was a child, the chicken bones, or pork or beef, dropped into a large cast iron poet and set to boiling on her gas stove. She would add an onion sometimes, or some other leftover uncooked vegetable, and soon the house would be filled with the odor of broth, animal, vegetable, and goodness knows, maybe a little mineral thrown in for good measure. Good stock, as she called it. And that's what I had sprung from, too, she reminded me.

Stock is a word I grew up with, then, and it meant many things. My father called his cattle stock, sometimes all the growing things on his farm, and he was always "taking stock," making endless calculations and lists in his notebooks about crops, finances, and who knows what else.
His handwriting was always indecipherable to the rest of us.


I make stock from every bone and vegetable I can. I lift the gnawed bones from my husband's plate of ribs at Chili's, hiding them in my handbag as my grandmother used to do.

I wrap chicken bones from my brother's plate at O'Malley's Pub. And I never let any portion of a turkey or spiral ham go to waste. Thanksgiving begins my heavy-duty stock-making time. And stock-taking time. My birthday falls around Thanksgiving, and hitting Medicare age this past year set me to thinking hard about my mortality.

It's this time of year, though, that prods me to stir the stock-pot of my life, "the work of winter," as Adrienne Rich has called it. Everything goes into the pot, all the moods, the fears, the meanness, the dibs and dabs of joy, hope, love. This year I've been stirring the emotions swirling about aging parents, how to keep stability and strength throughout their inevitable decline.

And that insistent voice that taunts me, now that I am moving into my Post-Laureate phase, as I call it, asking What about MY work, will I be able to let it grow, will I be able to keep my poetry vital through my own inevitable decline? Why isn't my work more widely noticed? Why did such and such magazine reject my poems? Isn't my work any good anymore? Or am I just another little old lady poet, stirring her stockpot, going gray, more and more addled, hardly worthy of notice?

Well, that's all part of taking stock, I suppose. And meantime I'm sorting through old letters, old drafts, old clothes, and millions, no kidding, of old recipes. Not to mention old dreams that keep coming back about where to find what and how to get where and what to wear! What to keep, what to let go.

So I like the image of the stockpot. I can put just about anything into it and know that something worth tasting will eventually settle, even if it has a taste of heat or a taste of salty grief or sour disappointment. (Just call me the "stock-poet." I like that better than any of the other designations attached to me as a writer.)

What to keep, what to let go. Maybe that's the work of winter that Adrienne Rich means.
In the kitchen, I know what to keep. The stock pot waits. And I've a new pile of bones from the turkey breast I roasted over the coals in my wood stove two days ago when the power went out yet again. Let me tell you, this is the best-tasting turkey I've ever had, and I know the stock will live up to its origins. Good stock. Where I come from.



10 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

What a beautiful meditation, Kay!

I love the images --and it's true -- moving into the 'Golden Years' does rather force one to take stock.

Of course we'd all like more recognition for what we do ( though you WERE Poet Laureate -- a pretty big plume in your bonnet.)

Another little old lady poet? Like, say, Emily Dickinson? In my opinion your work is beautiful, true, and timeless.
I haven't a clue about the world of poetry. In my corner of the writing world, there are bestselling mysteries that I personally find unreadable, whose titles make me gag on their cuteness. But these are the books that sell in the millions while mine are appreciated by the select few. ;-)

But I can only write what I write -- and dig in my garden and take joy in my life.

Your blog gives me joy.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Thank you, Vicki. Your blog does the same for me, as does all your other writing, no matter how much it plumbs the dark side of us all.
I try to take a look at your blog every day, even if I don't leave a comment.
I'm serious about trying to put together a set of Kitchen Meditations. My grandmother smiling down from my kitchen wall thinks it's a good idea. She doesn't care that my kitchen's a mess.
Abrazos, K

suzanneleitner said...

Kay, this lovely post really speaks to me. Thinking about "recognition" is something we all do, but, in my recent effort to "name the enemies" that prevent me from writing, I probably should have identified that same kind of taunting voice that you so aptly describe here.

This morning in church, for the children's sermon, because I sit up with the praise band and am a convenient "target," my pastor actually asked me to tell the children what I do for a living! I literally guffawed, because I certainly don't feed my family through my writing ... at least, not bread on the table kind of feeding, anyway (and isn't how we define "a living" so odd, when you think about it?). But the answer he was looking for was "writing," which I gave him and then he explained to the children that I had been called to write.

Have I been called to write, but not to be read? I often wonder (and am often discouraged because of it) ... and how could he be so certain about my "calling" when I am sometimes so uncertain?

Yes, this post of yours is a most serendipitous find for me today. And let me echo the sentiment that Vicki expressed about your work being "beautiful, true and timeless." I guess it is good to know that even someone as accomplished and gifted as you are has these moments too. Thank you.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Dreams - lately mine have been so vivid and I feel as if they are trying to tell me something more than ever before....sometimes it makes me nervous - and others I wake up a bit awed....

I wish I could know more of my family - I'd love to "take stock" and go through old letters, photos, etc....I do have one batch of old photos of people I do not know who they are - one day I need to write them a history -it seems they call for it

Vicki Lane said...

I'm all for your doing a book of Kitchen Meditations! In poetry and prose, perhaps.

(My word verification is crema -- as in cream of the crop. An omen?

Charlotte said...

This makes me wonder, Kay, how the term "stocks" came into being--when naughty folks were put into the stocks as punishment. Probably a different root (pun) as the other stocks are all nourishing--stock as broth, stock at livestock, stock as summary, stock at the root of the matter. The work of winter is very fine work indeed, a reminder that we need to live in sync with the season and not fret about what we'd rather be doing. Very wise words.

Glenda Council Beall said...

Oh, Kay, you say so beautifully what I am thinking. Now what? Your work is known far and wide and highly respected, but like all of us, you seem to have your own misgivings.
In a culture where youth is reverred more than wisdom of elders,we have a fear that our work will no longer matter, but your work will endure, your poetry will be here for generations to come. Those children who had the good fortune to have you, the Poet Laureate, come to their schools and write poetry with them, will always remember you.
I'll remember this post. I'll print it and read it again and again, because you speak my thoughts and fears.

jessie carty said...

such a terrific post :) and for those of us somewhat younger poets, it does give me solace to know that we are always ones to have questioning minds. To wonder.

My favorite use of the word stock is to "put up in stocks" like the medieval punishment.

James Hogan said...

Kay, no matter what, you'll outlive us all.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Hello to all you dear ones! I'm just back from crowning Cathy Smith Bowers as our new NC Poet Laureate and so have been away from my blog for several days. Thank you all so very much. These are moving and beautiful comments. I think I may make portions of them a post in itself. You have raised my winter spirits immensely.
More snow on its way. More work of winter to do--clearing the driveway at the top of the list.
My love and hugs to all of you1
And James, so great to see you again in the comments and to receive news about Confluence! More later, Kay