artratcafe CAFE continues our celebration of vegetables this week with the sexy, crunchy, fresh and cool Cucumber – (Middle English cucomer, from Old French coucombre, from Latin cucumis, cucumer). Inspiration comes from poets including Canadian, Lorna Crozier (see our Onion post for details), Ogden Nash and Robert Haas; and writers Dr. Johnson and Jonathan Swift. Art works complete the picture of our love of this Freudian plant. .
Cucumbers by Lorna Crozier
From: The Sex Lives of Vegetables.
in a leafy camouflage,
when you least expect
like flashers in the park.
The truth is,
they all have an anal
fixation. Watch it
when you bend to pick them”.
Dr. Johnson mentions the cucumber in his journals:
“A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.”
And Ogden Nash (1902-1971) writes:
“Who coined these words that strike me numb? . . .
The cuke, the glad, the lope, the mum.”
Jonathan Swift, in his book: Gulliver’s Travels, Part 3. A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and Japan. 5, Chapter Five, mentions the grand academy of Lagado wherein he meets a man who is working to extract sunbeams out of cucumbers:
“The first man I saw was of a meager aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin, were all of the same colour. He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor’s gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate: but he complained that his stock was low, and entreated me “to give him something as an encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers.” I made him a small present, for my lord had furnished me with money on purpose, because he knew their practice of begging from all who go to see them”.
And finally: A Poem with a Cucumber in It by Robert Haas:
“Sometimes from this hillside just after sunset
The rim of the sky takes on a tinge
Of the palest green, like the flesh of a cucumber
When you peel it carefully.
In Crete once, in the summer,
When it was still hot at midnight,
We sat in a taverna by the water
Watching the squid boats rocking in the moonlight,
Drinking retsina and eating salads
Of cool, chopped cucumber and yogurt and a little dill.
A hint of salt, something like starch, something
Like an attar of grasses or green leaves
On the tongue is the tongue
And the cucumber
Evolving toward each other.
Since cumbersome is a word,
Cumber must have been a word,
Lost to us now, and even then,
For a person feeling encumbered,
It must have felt orderly and right-minded
To stand at a sink and slice a cucumber.
If you think I am going to make
A sexual joke in this poem,
you are mistaken.
In the old torment of the earth
When the fires were cooling and disposing themselves
Into granite and limestone and serpentine and shale,
It is possible to imagine that, under yellowish chemical clouds,
The molten froth, having burned long enough,
Was already dreaming of release,
And that the dream, dimly
But with increasing distinctness, took the form
Of water, and that it was then, still more dimly, that it imagined
The dark green skin and opal green flesh of cucumbers”.
Apart from cucumber sandwiches, a staple of my Brit childhood, the best use of cukes I have found is for this tequila infusion: Ingredients:
-1 liter of mid-range tequila
-1 medium (5-6 inch) cucumber, quartered longways
-1 small/medium jalapeno, also quartered longways
1. Pour tequila into a half-gallon jar, or split up between two quart jars. (Save the bottle.)
2. Add the cucumber and jalapeno (or split up evenly between whatever jars you’re using)
3. Put in a cool, dark place for 4-6 days. I’d recommend that you taste the tequila as it’s infusing–I like a spicier infusion, so I let it sit for 6 days. If you’d like it more mild, you could probably let it sit for as few as 3 days.
4. Strain the tequila into the original bottle (or just fish out the cucumber and jalapeno pieces) or a vessel of your choice; discard (or compost) the cucumber and pepper.
5. Serve thoroughly chilled, or make margaritas.
Cucumber Margaritas (with cucumber-jalapeno tequila infusion)–serves 2
-2 small/medium cucumbers, peeled and rough-chopped
-4 ounces of tequila (cucumber-jalapeno infused tequila, in this case)
-1 ounce triple sec
-1/2 ounce lime juice (or juice of half a lime, approximately)
-1/2 ounce agave syrup
-pinch of salt
-a few ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender, blend until the cucumbers and ice are fully-incorporated, and serve.
Thanks to: http://foodliteraturephilosophy.blogspot.ca/
Illustration Credits from top to bottom: Girl with Cukes on Eyes: artschoolbudapest.blogspot.com / Cuke Sculptures by Erin Wurm: artnet.com / Girl Picking Cucumbers by Emily Shanks. Google Images. / Cucumber Recipe: theydrawandcook.com / Cooler Than Cucumbers, record cover: ctcrecords.bandcamp.com / Still Life with Cucumbers by Luis Melendez: csmonitor.com / Still Life with Pear, Cabbage, Squash and Cucumber by Juan Sanchez Cotan. Google Images.