Poems for the End of the World: How to Make Love

How to Make Love


If you want someone to know that you love them, go to the local butcher. Buy the best whole chicken they have, organs and all. Go to the market with the best produce and buy a few onions, yellow enough to make you hungry, a few shallots maybe two hands full. A heavy box of kosher salt. A pound of carrots so orange they sing, a stalk of celery crisp as winter. A quart of heavy cream thick as a cow’s shoulder. A bottle of brandy or cognac, depending on what you like. A bundle of bay leaves, fresh if you can find them. A pound of butter. You should already have several cloves of garlic on hand at home, we are talking about love after all, but it might be wise to add a few more to your basket if you feel like it’s time.


Now we all have our own methods, but I feel like it’s best to sing on your way home, and while you’re preparing the ingredients. I prefer Anita Baker and Donny Hathaway for this part, and, of course, Stevie Wonder, but do you. Chop the yellow onions while you sing. Crying may also occur. Best to leave the onions in irregular pieces, let your love know that you chopped them yourself. Cut the carrots into fat coins, then again in half if you feel like it. Wash the celery down to its base, all between the ribs where the dirt likes to hide. I hope I didn’t have to tell you to wash everything else: your onions, your carrots, your hands.


I like a heavy knife for all this chopping, but work with what you got. You don’t need good knives to love somebody, but it helps. What you do need is a stockpot big enough to hold a whole chicken and all these vegetables, plus some water. You should have a cast iron skillet too, but it’s alright if you ain’t that grown yet. Best to rinse the pot, it probably has some dust or grease on it from sitting on top of the fridge or under the sink, or where ever you pull it out from. Now, on low heat, pour a little olive oil and let it warm. After about half a song, add your chopped vegetables to the pot and let them spend some time together under a lid. When they start to feel a little soft, stir them with a wooden spoon. I hope you have a wooden spoon.


As for the chicken, if you haven’t worked with a whole chicken before, the organs are probably inside it. You’ll need to reach in between its legs and pull them out. This might sound nasty, and it might even be nasty, but it’s got to be done and if you can’t handle a little nasty, you might not be ready to fall in this type of love yet. Set the organs aside, we’ll do something with them in a little while. Don’t let the juices spill onto the counter, put them on a plate or in some type of container. Cover them and put them in the fridge, I’ll tell you another time how to make pâté.


Now that your chicken is ready for cooking – you washed it, didn’t you? We talked about this. Wash everything. Pray however you pray. I give thanks for all my food (especially if something had to die). I thank my food, the land it grew on, the people who raised it, who slaughtered or harvested it. You ever think about how many hands and lives are involved on your plate? That’s a lot of thank-yous. Thank the chicken while you wash its body, while you go all between its legs and pull its organs out, thank it when you put it in the pot on top of the semi-soft vegetables, stirred by a wooden spoon. Let the chicken sit on top of the onions, the carrots, the celery on low heat and under a lid. Let the steam help them get together and fall in proper love for the length of two or three Nina Simone songs, checking in between.


Now, of course, we need to add water. Nothing good can grow without water. Some folks will tell you to use filtered water, which is good if you got it, but if we come to the kitchen with clean hands and a pure heart, we can make the best out of what we have and tap water will do just fine. Add enough water for the chicken to be cooked entirely, enough to let it rise to the top. Now you’ll want to add a couple of bay leaves, or more if you like (here is where we must listen to our own blood), a half palm of kosher salt, depending on the size of your hands.

Let all of this roll into a soft boil, then bring the heat back down to low and walk away for an hour or so. This is a good time to do laundry, but probably not to read because it is too easy to get lost inside a book and forget to take the chicken out. When the chicken is cooked (and I mean falling-off-the-bone cooked, not a shade of pink nowhere), bring it onto a plate and let it cool. It might fall apart in this process, don’t panic. We’re about to take it apart anyway, so go ahead and bring it out in pieces if you got to.


Keep the broth on low low very low heat. When the chicken is cool enough for you to touch without cussing, pull the skin off the meat and the meat off the bones. Put the meat aside (in a container, then into the fridge) and add the skin and bones back into the pot. We’re gonna let these bones cook slow for a long time, all night, so you can go ahead and read now if you want to and come back to this tomorrow.


When you wake up, your whole house should smell like somebody loves you. There might be a layer of gel and fat on the top of your broth. You’re welcome. Now you’ll strain the broth into another pot. With the bones and skin and bay leaves and vegetables boiled lifeless all looking at each other in the strainer, you have compost that wants to spend time in your soil. We don’t believe in wasting anything in this kitchen. Add this mixture to your compost bucket if you got one, or go ahead and start one in an old coffee can. Keep your broth on the stove, bring it back to a low boil and add some rice. You washed it, right? I know I didn’t tell you to buy rice but you should already have some – if you don’t even have rice, I don’t know if you should be trying to cook love dishes just yet. Let the rice cook itself soft as you like it, and add the chicken from yesterday back into the pot and let it get warm.


Now I know this sounds easy, chicken and rice soup. But if you do all this for your intended and they don’t fall in love? You deserve better. And at least now you know how to cook.

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