LOVE LANGUAGE | Rachel Jeffcoat’s poem recalls the care and comfort of her grandmother’s cooking
by Rachel Jeffcoat
Food was the tongue she spoke with most feeling.
Thursday was stew day, the big glass tureen
bobbing with pink beef, crusty-topped dumplings
slick below, like icebergs. ‘New potatoes,
old potatoes, peas, carrots,’ she sang, and
we dipped them in salt from an open dish.
She learned to cook for soldiers, in rubble,
in ruin, but wanted better manners
from us. Swimming once in a Belgian sea,
a U-boat surfaced beneath her, and she
ran out dripping with oil. We got biscuits
on Mondays: fig rolls, dusty pink wafers,
the kind you might long for in rationing.
We crunched them up, wishing for chocolate.
My potatoes are done. I swirl them in
butter, tip them gleaming into a bowl.
My tureen sails triumphant to the table,
dumplings craggy-topped in the steam.
‘New potatoes, old potatoes, peas, carrots’ –
they look at me like it’s a new language,
which I suppose it is. My hands, open like hers;
my love, in all her wordless, clumsy signs.
Rachel Jeffcoat is a writer and editor based in Berkshire, UK. She has written for Selfish Mother, Fourth Trimester Magazine, Talk Mum and What To Expect.com. When not writing at midnight or reading whenever she has a hand free, she can be found on Instagram and Twitter.