A Poet’s Year, With Seasonal Recipes

David Young

David Young combines nature writing, food writing, poetry, and autobiography in a remarkable book that celebrates life without denying its losses and mysteries. Organized by the months of the year, Seasoning traces the passing of time and the cycles of loss and renewal, meditating on the human place in the natural world.

Set in northeastern Ohio, where the author has lived and worked for close to forty years, Seasoning demonstrates that an “unremarkable” place—no grand scenery, no special claims to beauty—can be the perfect setting in which to learn about animals, plants, food, geology, history, weather, and time. Coming to terms with place and time, and connecting them, the author suggests, may be our true task in life.

Among the many distinctive features of this lovely book are the recipes, arranged seasonally and revealing Young’s preference for natural foods prepared with care.

Young writes with the assurance of a poet in love with language, but also with a modesty and clarity that makes this an unusually accessible book, one that can be read anew each year.

Penne with Vodka

This is such a family favorite that if I ask “What do you want for dinner?” I’m as likely as not to be answered with “Pasta with vodka.” It’s an extremely easy dish, especially given the pleasure it produces, and it can be featured as the main dish or served as an accompaniment to something else. If you want to be a gourmet about it, use Polish or Russian Vodka. If you’re tempted to reduce the cholesterol factor by substitutes for the cream or the cheese (notice I have Allowed you to substitute for the butter), don’t. Make something else instead. Or point to yourself that it’s meatless, after all, and that pasta is always very good for us. This dish serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a side dish.

1 pound penne or similar pasta
1 stick butter or good margarine
1 cup vodka with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes added
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup canned tomatoes—if you prefer a smoother texture, drain and puree them
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in boiling water to which you have added salt. You can make the sauce while it's cooking.

Melt the butter in a pan big enough to hold all the cooked pasta. Add the vodka with the pepper flakes. Simmer a couple of minutes. Now add the tomatoes and cream and simmer about 5 minutes. Add salt, anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan. On low heat, add the Parmesan. Mix and serve.

David Young has published eight collections of poetry, including Night Thoughts and Henry Vaughan (Ohio State University Press 1994).

Jan 1999 
348 pp. 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 20 line drawings

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