Last night I caught up on the latest episode of Top Chef, in which this season’s contestants are based out of the DC area. In the Quickfire Challenge (Jesus, I can’t believe I now know the stinkin’ terminology on this show), the chefs needed to come up with a dish based on one of the region’s greatest eats (and one of my favorite foods in the world), Blue Crabs. I won’t tell you the outcome so as to avoid writing “Spoiler Alert,” but let’s just say I wouldn’t have gone with the winning dish. Anyway, this challenge reminded me of a poem I’d written that came out of an all-day gorging on Blue Crabs years ago at my buddy’s house. This had to have been a good 10 years ago by now, and I still distinctly remember being drunk, full and filthy.
The title of this week’s poem comes from Susan Bordo’s essay “Hunger as Ideology,” in which she describes body issues and gender roles in terms of food and advertising. It’s a pretty great read, actually, and forever timely, in that it speaks to the way food-related companies intentionally and subconsciously appeal to their consumers.
On an unrelated note, I wanted to publicly respond to a comment by one of my favorite readers and an all-around nice guy, Craig Dodge, who wrote the following after last week’s edition of “Versus”:
I love your poetry, but why do you call the series Versus? I don’t get it…but then, I’m probably not as smart as you…and you can scratch the probably.
As you know, Craig Dodge, I’m an angry man. I am full of hostility and contempt for the world. (If you need further proof, give “The Angry Alphabet” a read.) With that, “Versus” is a play on words, as it depicts not only my me-against-the-world stance, but also the content of a poem itself: the “verses.” Make sense now, sir? Fantastic. Happy eating, folks.
Men Eat, Women Prepare
after a line by Susan Bordo
We crack a whole bushel of Blue Crabs
open while our women bunch together
beneath what little shade Chuck’s awning
can muster. It’s Saturday, noon, and we
slobs refuse to leave the picnic table
till every last backfin and claw
are picked clean. I’m thinking, Eat faster,
and all the while take long pulls off my
longneck of Yuengling Lager in a grip
that’s all Old Bay, crab innards, and shell.
I’m shattering their fragile, redpink claws
with the backside of a butter knife,
gobbling up what shreds of meat escape
from their muscles and heads in brittle
clumps until the women ride us men
so hard about our guts and sloth we couldn’t
think to cram even one more God-awful
bite into our mouths. Having gorged
themselves with crab the ladies watch us
how rubberneckers watch bodies of cars
corralled by cops, that obsession that’s
equal parts uncertainty and shock.
Then finally it’s over. When I push
myself from the picnic bench, belly-sick
and wasted, I can’t begin to realize
how I got here to begin with, squirming
like a brown trout yanked on a mayfly lure,
and flapping on the bank left to rot.
I can’t begin to understand our frail,
clean women who have jimmied themselves
from what the rest of the guys already call
our greatest triumph while slugging a beer.
The women shift their sickened gaze and scram
into the kitchen where the frigid air-
conditioned air curbs the torrid heat.
Us men have clearly given up on what it means
to pride ourselves on charm — we lack
the good sense to love our women. So when
me and the boys retire to the den, the ladies
continue to give us flack and swear they won’t
remember how to love us when we’re passed out
and too drunk to move.