Seasoning

By Jennie Turnbull

On an evening borrowed briefly
from the southern slopes
of an Italian hill town,
where the air is warm
and soft
and still,
we gather for music and wine.


The notes of two languages
mingling in and out
of melody; the clink
of glass, rosy liquid swirling
in the last of the light;
home-made bread dipped
in good olive oil
tasting of summer.


The musicians in the courtyard conjure
steep stone terraces, winding
lanes and terracotta tiles.
The voice of the oboe rises, yearning
into the air and catches
in my throat. I wonder:


how could you bear it?


Stepping under the slate skies
of a post-war Scotland
into the absence of light
when everything felt grey
and damp from the stones in the street
outside to the nappies steaming
on the airer by the fire.


How did you learn to think,
to taste in a language not your own,
to tune your tongue to its different
tone, serve up dour and dreich,
canty and canny with the
meat and potatoes, missing
the melanzane, zucchini, pomodori,
discovering olive oil
was something you bought
in a chemist.


How did you do it
and not lose yourself?


You planted a garden –
bushes and shrubs, not
flowers; rosemary, parsley,
grew basil in pots
on a sunny windowsill;
seasoned your Scottish servings
with flavours of the south,
brought up your bonny bairns
and made this place your home.


Keywords: 
Poem, cooking, travel, grow your own, family, food traditions, Europe