Belly of the Beest

Ogden Nash, food and memories

Special Occasions | 3 February, 2009 | By

There are many reasons why I am posting a poem and a photo tonight. First and foremost, my older sister, Kathleen, left Tuesday morning for a two month book tour. She’s a talented poet and you should buy her books here. Second, last night I photographed a creative writing workshop at Maria Shelter, a safe haven for homeless and abused women… The shelter, which was a school in a former life, smells like stale air and tempra paints. I know that sounds like a complaint, but I love the way old, close spaces smell. They collect all the good and the bad elements of a place and pack them so close together that they eventually create a unique smell that can only be found in old places.

The room we were in was surrounded on three sides by radiators that hissed and steamed so much that we had to open all the windows and the room still felt like it would on a hot summer day. This heat inspired the women in the group to write about their childhood summer days and nights. That is why I picked this image; because as I made my way home, bundled up against the fierce cold, I was thinking of the warmer times.

Here’s the poem that led to the childhood memories and thoughts of food. It’s a fun and silly poem. I find those to be the best kind.


Some singers sing of ladies’ eyes,
And some of ladies’ lips,
Refined ones praise their ladylike ways,
And coarse ones hymn their hips.
The Oxford Book of English Verse
Is lush with lyrics tender;
A poet, I guess, is more or less
Preoccupied with gender.
Yet I, though custom call me crude,
Prefer to sing in praise of food.

Yes, food,
Just any old kind of food.
Pooh for the cook,
And pooh for the price!
Some of it’s nicer but all of it’s
Pheasant is pleasant, of
And terrapin, too, is tasty,
Lobster I freely endorse,
In pâté or patty or pastry.
But there’s nothing the matter
with butter,
And nothing the matter with jam,
And the warmest of greetings I utter
To the ham and the yam and the clam.
For they’re food,
All food,
And I think very highly of
Though I’m broody at times
When bothered by rhymes,
I brood
on Food.

Some painters paint the sapphire sea,
And some the gathering storm.
Others portray young lambs at
But most, the female form.
‘Twas trite in that primeval
When painting got its start,
That a lady with her garments
Is Life, but is she Art?
By undraped nymphs
I am not wooed;
I’d rather painters painted food.

Just food,
Just any old kind of food.
Let it be sour
Or let it be sweet,
As long as you’re sure it is
something to eat.
Go purloin a sirloin, my pet,
If you’d win a devotion
And asparagus tips
Or anything else that is edible.
Bring salad or sausage or
A berry or even a beet.
Bring an oyster, an egg, or an
As long as it’s something to
If it’s food,
It’s food;
Never mind what kind of food.
When I ponder my mind
I consistently find
It is glued
On Food.

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  1. Peter Hoffman
    4 February, 2009

    hey Beth,
    really diggin the blog.
    Especially that it’s not all photography focused. Nice to see some food and something different.

  2. beth rooney
    4 February, 2009

    Thanks, Peter! I’m having a good time posting random thought, recipes and pictures. I’ve gotten more into food photography over the last few months so it’s nice to have another outlet for some of the images. How are you doing these days?

  3. Aarti
    4 February, 2009

    What an excellent poem. I completely agree with its sentiments. Obviously :-)

  4. Kathleen Rooney
    4 February, 2009

    Beth Rooney, this is a very pretty and well-written post. The shout out to me doesn’t hurt either. Love you from San Francisco.

  5. Megan
    5 February, 2009

    I love this poem and photo.

  6. Martin Seay
    5 February, 2009

    You’ve committed some top-notch internet with this post, B-Ro: nice work digging up the Nash poem. (And it’s hilarious how specifically it seems to narrate your respective blogs, given what book K is now touring in support of . . .)

    I agree about old stuffy places: they remind me of secondhand book shops, which tend to be my favorite spots. I’m with you on fun and silly poems, too — particularly those that involve jumping off verandahs and onto pandas.

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