My mother gives me her recipe: a poem from my collection

getty image by Lorry Eason

this is a poem i found this summer to add to my growing collection. does getting the recipe sound familiar to any of you?

My mother gives me her recipe

Take some flour. Oh, I don't know,
like two-three cups, and you cut
in the butter. Now some women
they make it with shortening,
but I say butter, even though
that means you had to have fish, see?

You cut up some apples. Not those
stupid sweet ones. Apples for the cake,
they have to have some bite, you know?
A little sour in the sweet, like love.
You slice them into little moons.
No, no! Like half or crescent
moons. You aren't listening.

You mix sugar and cinnamon and cloves,
some women use allspice, till it's dark
and you stir in the apples. You coat
every little moon. Did I say you add
milk? Oh, just till it feels right.
Use your hands. Milk in the cake part!

Then you pat it into a pan, I like
round ones, but who cares?
I forgot to say you add baking powder.
Did I forget a little lemon on the apples?
Then you just bake it. Well, till it's done
of course. Did I remember you place
the apples in rows? You can make
a pattern, like a weave. It's pretty
that way. I like things pretty.

It's just a simple cake.
Any fool can make it
except your aunt. I
gave her the recipe
but she never
got it right.

-Marge Piercy


  1. (laughing) (laughing) A certain daughter-in-law of my mother's earned her lifelong derision because she steadfastly refused to vinegar the water used to boil the salad macaroni. My mom used to take such shots at her--well out of earshot, of course. She would wait for my brother to slurp up her famous mac salad and then jump in with both feet, you can't skip steps when you make this salad! it just won't turn out right! you must boil the macaroni with vinegar in the water! and another thing! ...

    hahahaha! I took a green apple picture last weekend that I like; I'll post it this weekend, just for you. :) Loved this poem.

  2. oh i like this, your mother's voice really comes through there. My mum taught me to bake loads of cakes when i was young and we swap recipes now from time to time.

  3. When I got married I couldnt even boil and egg lol..... my muvver NEVER let me do things in the kitchen...... the thing is, she was an aweful cook LOL.... and at least twice a week I couldnt eat what she dished up.... so I use to have to sit there with the food in front of me, but cos me brothers didnt like what she cooked, she would cook them something different lol...

    As a kid she did place the same dinner infront of me for 3-4 days... cos I said I didnt like it.... (believe me it was gross)... in those days we had no fridge so this 'dinner' was put on the side and when I got up in the morning it was presented to me for my breakfast, which of course I couldnt eat, it was all congilled.... and when I came in from school it was again put in front of me...... 3 days later as it started to mould I had to eat it or starve to death LOL..... funny now when I think of it.... and it was NOT cos I was being fussy, it was a dinner that I knew would make me sick LOL..... even then pork had no use in my system.... after eating the 3-4 day old pork and dinner, boy was I ill LMFAO..... fortnight off school JUST cos she had to have the last say....

    sorry rambling here lol....

    I will say the only thing my mum could actually cook well was apple pie....


  4. I've not read the poem before, but I promise I heard my mother's voice telling me all of that - about a million times. It's remarkable. THANKS FOR SHARING IT!!!

    And hey, I LOVE the photo at the top of your blog and the Tolkein quote. It's fantastic. I'm a huge Tolkein fan. And C.S. Lewis.
    Have you ever read any of George MacDonald? If not, get a book of his. You'll be hooked.

  5. That's how I cook.

    Cook books are jsut for the pictures.

    My girls--and my boys--are all great cooks, though. Wonder how that worked.

  6. Love it! Though I hadn't read this one before, somehow I'm not surprised to find it's Marge Piercy's - I love her poetry. Have you ever read her poem on zucchini? I love a poet who can make me laugh and cry, both.
    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  7. perfect. perfect. I love it.

  8. HaHaHa! That's great. My mom sent me over to read.

    I have a friend who told me her MIL will give her a recipe but always leave one thing out on purpose so that she can't make it the same. (much like the mom from Everybody Loves Raymond).

  9. Pamela sent me over to read this! I love it :)


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