As captain of industry Ed Skoog said in a recent blog post for the Seattle PI (which used to be a paper, but which now is a website, or something like that, as the song says), “summertime is poetry time.” Well, maybe that’s a paraphrase, but it was close, and when I was drinking with him last week he at least mumbled that exact phrase. Which is why I wanted to put up this poem called “The Menu” for you, dear Spiked Punch reader, to make your summertime complete. And, cause I like the rhyme of “the days” and “mayonnaise.” Thomas Bailey Aldrich, the author, is dead. But he had a rollicking time of it before March 19, 1907, from what little I know, and from reading this poem, which is pretty darn celebratory of the drinking-and-eating-with-pals-makes-life-better theory, a theory I have signed on for myself. With that said, have a pal or two over, make some treats of the liquid and edible variety, and read this out loud. It’s a hoot. Hoot, hoot. Or maybe I’ll just record myself reading it? Unless you send me pictures of writers or pets drinking. That’s a threat.
I beg you come to-night and dine.
A welcome waits you, and sound wine–
The Roederer chilly to a charm,
As Juno’s breath the claret warm,
The sherry of an ancient brand.
No Persian pomp, you understand–
A soup, a fish, two meats, and then
A salad fit for aldermen
(When aldermen, alas, the days!
Were really worth their mayonnaise);
A dish of grapes whose clusters won
Their bronze in Carolinian sun;
Next, cheese–for you the Neufchatel,
A bit of Cheshire likes me well;
Cafe au lait or coffee black,
With Kirsch or Kummel or Cognac
(The German band in Irving Place
By this time purple in the face);
Cigars and pipes. These being through,
Friends shall drop in, a very few–
Shakespeare and Milton, and no more.
When these are guests I bolt the door,
With Not at Home to any one
Excepting Alfred Tennyson.
–Thomas Bailey Aldrich, The Menu