Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Dear Robert Frost (1874 – 1963),

I temporarily resent you. You’ll see why in a minute. It’s not actually your fault. But still, for the moment: you suck.

OK, I’m going to put aside my bitterness. Because underneath it, I should be grateful to you. You stepped into the world of American letters at a time when poetry was somewhat high and mighty. Longfellow held sway when you were born, and he was obsessed with big poems, epic poems, poems that make the heart sing aloft to the heights of Mount Olympus, where they might touch the gods and break through the very clouds above! You get my point. 

For those of us who are interested in poetry as a window on the real world of real people, you were part of a very welcome new era. While many of your contemporaries toiled away under the umbrella of Modernism – paring back poetry to its core, intellectualising it, experimenting with it, depersonalising it – you took it to the fields. Mr. Frost, your predecessors wrote for the gods; your contemporaries for the scholars; while you wrote for the people

Your poems take place in quite simple, rustic settings. You usually take us to an orchard or a gentle wood somewhere, and consider life for a few stanzas, before releasing us. In “Blueberries,” for instance, your two gossiping townsfolk tell us about a father who raises a family of berry-eaters:

 “He has brought them all up on wild berries, they say,
Like birds. They store a great many away.
They eat them the year round, and those they don't eat
They sell in the store and buy shoes for their feet."
"Who cares what they say? It's a nice way to live,
Just taking what Nature is willing to give”

Despite what “Sex and the City” would have us believe about 21st Century women, I’d rather eat berries than trade them for shoes. So this poem rather appeals to me. Especially when the berries are described so lushly:

The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves,
Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves.

Hmm... a berry-based recipe... preferably frosty... this led me to consult the fridge.

There’s berries there, I think I know
There’s tofu: could be risky though
I’ve seen it whipped into an air
To make a mousse’s volume grow

But I’m concerned it could be gross.
My paramour would be morose
To eat a berry-coloured slop
To satisfy my grandiose

And strangely vegan lit-ambitions.
It may provide him ammunition
For future fights, or tiffs, or spats,
Or angry claims of malnutrition.

Or it could be lovely, light and sweet
And healthy, as a breakfast treat
And if it ain’t, we shall not bleat,
For we’ll be dozy as we eat.

This, Mr. Frost, was how you inspired a tofu-raspberry mousse. And this is why I now resent you. Because y’know what? The mousse was disgusting. Even to a dozy morning-brain, it tasted like dirt. Tofu is fine if it’s cubed and fried and disguised with vegetables. But as the star ingredient in a sweet dish? NO. There’s a reason why tofu is the road less travelled by. Sigh. 

Tofu-Raspberry Mousse

Serves 2-3, or a very hungry garbage bin


300g soft tofu
250g raspberries (fresh or, if frozen, thawed)
4 tbsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
Yoghurt and muesli, to serve


Combine the tofu, raspberries, honey and lemon juice in a blender. Blend for a really long time. Then blend a bit longer. Let me inform you of the implications of ignoring my instructions here: if you don’t blend forever, you’ll end up eating flakes of pure, raw tofu in the morning. Scared yet? Good. Blend some more. 

Divide the mixture into wine glasses and chill overnight. In the morning, top with yoghurt and muesli. Take one (very small) bite. If you really, really, irrationally love tofu, keep eating. Otherwise, make a face, swear loudly at me for writing this recipe, and prepare some toast.

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