How do you conceptualize your Thanksgiving practice? Do you loll in the warm gravy-filled bathtub of tradition, splashing between the green bean casserole and the marshmallow-topped yams? Do you light out for the territories with Thai-spiced vegan pumpkin soup? Do you skip the whole thing, go out for dim sum, then roast a turkey on Friday just for the joy of standing in front of the fridge, making sandwiches, picking at leftovers or frying up hash? Why Brussels sprouts? And how?
At times like these, a cookbook, an app, the Food Network, even Mark Bittman is not enough. For inspiration, for solace, for getting you through your kitchen's long dark night of the soul, only poetry will do. (Philosophy, the big gun typically aimed at life's meatier questions, is distressingly silent on crucial issues like do I brine or do I fry?) For all the koan-like beauty of his work, poet Wallace Stevens never made the most obvious suggestion to readers of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, one known to every kid since their days of playground double-Dutch: get yourself eleven more birds, mister, and you got yourself a pie.
Not that all poets should bake pies, but, as Grace Paley has pointed out, it's a valid occasional alternative, even for a poet. As Paley writes,
I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead
everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it many friends
will say why in the world did you
make only one
this doesn't happen with poems
So, pace Mr. Stevens, we offer 13 Ways of Looking at a Brussels Sprout, our poem of recipes for you and your pre-holiday kitchen.
Among twenty winter squashes
The only moving thing
Was the cleaver heading towards your fingers.