Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
The book remaining longest on my shelves, therefore deserving of Christopher Marlowe’s pastoral, is Waverly Root’s ‘Food’. Why should this be so? The poor old thing is broken-backed, it looks as if someone hit the edge of the bottom pages with red spray-paint lightly at some time, and the cover is the most repulsive olive-green to ever exist in the world.
In this case you can’t tell a book by its cover. Well, maybe you can. Depends on who you talk to.
Many people think Waverly Root was not quite de rigeur. Or rather, he may have been de rigeur but he was not right about a lot of things he wrote. This could be so. But above all, Waverly was entertaining, even in his sickening pea-green overcoat.
Let me show you Waverly. I’m going to flip open the book and see where it lands.
Broccoli. And E.B. White on broccoli. Chives. And He who bears chives on his breath Is safe from being kissed to death and then on to Martial on chives. FO, stands for fogas, a Hungarian fish. Yes, I know the fellow! LY stands for the lycopodium, whose root is no longer eaten as an aphrodisiac.
Parsley warrants a couple of pages, with a final mention of Platus then on to Chaucer in critical mode about a cook named Hogge of Ware who had some problems with parsley and a goose whose freshness might have been questionable
Of many a pilgrim hastow Cristes curs,
For of they persly yet they fare the wors,
That they han eaten with thy stubbelgoos;
For in thy shoppe is many a fly loos.
In the entry on rye we learn of witchcraft and ergotism. SO stands for soump oil, a fat universallly used in the Ivory Coast, Chad, and East Africa, made from the intensely bitter fruit of the zachun-oil tree, which fails to explain why it is also called heglik oil
And Venus, of course, stands for a family of clams, notably the quahog, eaten with gusto in New England and when we get close to the end of the book, Waverly tells us that yellowtail (which in some places is called snapper or flounder) is called a I-don’t-know-what in Japan.
I don’t know what, either. But I do enjoy trying to figure it all out with Waverly.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.