Sunday, March 18, 2012


image borrowed from bing


Sitting and salivating at the Outback,
slicing that savory steak
saturated with pepper,
we little appreciate the three millennium
that pepper has dominated the spice trade,
even more than salt, that today it is
the most valuable trade-spice in the world;

grown only in the tropical climes, like coffee
and cocoa beans--places like
China, Java, Madagascar, Borneo, Sumatra,
names we recognize as paradise have been
home to pepper farms for countless centuries,

where they pick the unripe drupes of the
piper nigrum, a squat flowering vine, dried
to become peppercorns, housing that kick
we crave, spice piperine,

raised with patient loving hands,
for it takes five years for the plant
to bear fruit, and can only do so
for seven more years, so yes
as we sprinkle the ebony sneeze flakes
on our fried eggs we are ignorant as rocks
regarding its colorful history;

that peppercorns were found in the mummified
nostrils of Ramesses II from 1213 B.C.,

that the Romans were first to establish trade routes
to the coast of Malabar, India, where pepper was
warehoused from China, returning across the
shoulders of the Indian Ocean, traveling due north
up to the head of the Red Sea, transferred to barges
on the Nile and taken to Alexandria, placed on
the great guilded Italian ships for its travel
across the Mediterranean, evading those
vicious Cilician pirates-who preferred pepper
to gold as booty,

that during the Age of Discovery, Vasco da Gama
found a sea route to China, and set up a Portuguese
colony there to control the pepper trade,

that Attila the infamous Hun used to demand
one ton of pepper as tribute from from every
besieged city in his wake,

that Marco Polo valued his pepper treasures
every bit as much as the silk ones,

that buried in history, we find pepper was used,
like curry, to disguise the taste of partially spoiled meat,

that pepper spirit is used in Coca Cola;

So hey, when you get a lip-lock on the next
pepper fix, when that spice tantalizes
the myriad of taste buds on your tongue,

pause for a millisecond, be bathed with
piperine respect for what you are
routinely shoveling down the alimentary canal;

pepper, man, pepper,
respect the grind.

Glenn Buttkus

March 2012

Listed as #42 over on The Mag 109

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Brian Miller said...

you know...i now know more about pepper than i ever thought to know...and it def speaks to our taking for granted where things come from i do like my pepper..and i am wanting an outback steak now....

Helen said...

As I finished reading your Mag, I had an overwhelming urge to stand and salute you ... what a write!!!

Anonymous said...

Here are this week's words, Glenn; hope you'll join in:

Tess Kincaid said...

Amazing that you thought of pepper from the photo prompt as well!

Jim Robbins said...

Hola! Good roundup on musty dust.

Ginny Brannan said...

Fascinating. One of my favorite spices, and now I have a whole new respect for it. Quite a bit of research seems to have gone into this history, wrapped up in your own unique story-telling. Excellent piece. (BTW, Ready for my Outback steak now!!)

Anonymous said...

Another vivid historical journey peppering readers with the spice of the world...

Linda said...

I love pepper very much. Thank you for sharing this rich historical look at my favorite seasoning. Delicious, Glenn.