We visited the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh during the Festival. The theme was how art in the 18h and 19th Centuries began to focus on the mundane, epitomised by Pissarro’s praise of the humble cabbage. This poem sprang from that.
PISSARRO FOUND POETRY IN THE CABBAGE
If you listen to the fashionistas of the modern culinary arts,
When they describe perfect roasts or sumptuous lemon tarts,
You’ll hear their words of praise for all those fruits and meat
And how to meld their flavours, comingling savoury with sweet.
And even though they often play an important supporting role,
The humble vegetable is still more courtesan than prole.
The muscular potato or statuesque carrot
Are stables of the table, more often praised than not.
But down amongst the also rans, the forgotten men of food
Whose highest praise is usually ‘Eat up, they’ll do you good’
Besides that distorted vege-beast, the emblem of our drab age
Reviled at school, the pauper’s feast, there rests the simple cabbage.
Let us look beyond this unfairly labelled legume
And restore it to its rightful place where it once more may bloom
Like a cleaned, restored Old Master, a refurbished classic car
As good as oil of castor, the five star brassica.
Some may moan and cry for help
And groan out loud if offered kelp.
While others quail, and kick and shout
And turn quite pale, at the thought of sprouts.
And then there’s those, who duck and cower
And turn up their nose at the cauliflower.
And this same team will not risk the mockery
Of being seen enjoying broccoli.
But there are men, free men prepared to stand
And defend, till death, these fruits of our land.
Monet, Renoir, the bearded Pissarro
They didn’t paint the pea or the marrow.
No, for them, there was no finer joy
Than to fix, on canvas, the sweet green savoy.