Jasmine Gray

Open Your Mouth

When I first realised my writing had adopted a new taste, I was visiting my mother in her new home. Her moving away had coincided with the global pandemic so we hadn’t seen each other for some time. It was August and the summer was slowly sighing away.

We went on a walk, passing fields of wheat, corn, sunflowers, and then, an abattoir.

Screeches of pigs pierced the calm of the seaside air and hung like a heavy fog.

It was a sound that was hard to pin down – a dense pleading against unknown violence.

My chest felt suddenly tight, as though a blackout curtain I’d employed, to maintain unfamiliarity with their suffering, had been torn down.

My mum, lifelong vegetarian and animal lover, glanced briefly then looked on. Continuing to chat normally as we passed the scene.

Choosing ignorance.


Though unrelated, it reminded me of an experience I’d had at seventeen. After enjoying a night separately, my mother and I had planned to walk home together. I went to meet her in the pub local to my childhood home, the one she had now moved away from. As I entered, my mum’s then-boss, unknown to me at the time, had spotted and was approaching me.

He was a middle-aged man with a love of hunting.

He didn’t know who I was.

He approached quickly, planting both hands around my waist, blocking my path.

Forcing my body to face him.

I remember distinctly how wet his mouth was, drunk and spitting questions.

Well, what do we have here then?

My mum, again, looked on.

Choosing ignorance.


I’ve always been conscious of the way my body has been observed by men. Like a criminal behind one-way glass, I could feel my limbs bending out of order.

I watched men, watching me, watching myself become strange.

Looked at like a piece of meat.


As Carol J. Adams puts it: ‘If animals are alive they cannot be meat. Thus, a dead body replaces the live animal’.[1]

My limbs, then, adopted the strange haze of something dead.

I became a ghost.


As the pandemic continued to mutate and grow – so did my writing.

It had a focus on physicality. It was verb-heavy, each poem seeming ritualistic, an instruction manual.

I realised – I was mirroring the language of cooking, the lexis of taste.

Spending so long being starved of pleasure, automatically, my body began to revolve around the small glimpses of joy available to it. I grew reaccustomed to cooking from scratch.

Skin hunger salvation was found through the kneading of bread; the salt-sweet tang of conversation through the seasoning of stock.

Taste became resistance.

The corresponding hunger became a pit for anger to prove.


Pleasure negated by need.

A full belly politicised by its very necessity.

There will never be the language available to discuss the horror in debating hunger. How can we forgive those who think we should go unfed?

Eating, and writing, becomes fuel for change

for compassion

                                        for rage.

The more I used food as a vehicle to write through, the more I could not outrun this bitter taste.

The kitchen, a safe space, its history for holding women…

Carol J Adams’ words trailing behind me, like smoke…


How much are we defined by what we put in our body?

What our tongues enjoy and endure?

How much we indulge in our tastes and how much we venture outside of them?


I wish to be delighted by what enters my mouth and what leaves it.


Chewing is a way to weigh the weight of a line.

A recipe, a goldmine for richness.

A poem as a meal – equal parts identity, culture, history.


Writing through food has offered me both softness and sensuality, a place for nourishment and self-pleasure. It has also helped serve my frustration, my anger, my pain. A carrier of history, a place to build something new.

Cooking and poetry are social choices we make – what we choose to share, and with what communities.

Who we uplift.

Who we make stronger.

Who turns away from ignorance, and who prefers to drown in it.


The title of this piece takes its name from the last line of Hannah Gamble’s ‘Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast’.

Some recommendations:

Recipes for tenderness

Bread and Honey – Ollie O’Neill, What We Are Given (Write Bloody UK, 2020)

Two women sit for breakfast – Ella Duffy, in fourteen poems: issue three (2020)

this till is now closed – Erdem Avsar, The Book of Bad Betties (Bad Betty Press, 2021)

Recipes for desire

Sugar Water – Brad Beau Cohen, in fourteen poems: issue three (2020)

Ode to the Honey Pomelo – Nina Mingya Powles, https://amberflora.com/issues/issue-5/nina-mingya-powles-ode-honey-pomelo/

Grapes & Tangerines – Fern Angel Beattie, The Art of Shutting Up (Broken Sleep Books, 2020)

Recipes for the revolution

Evisceration – Kat Payne Ware, The Live Album (Broken Sleep Books, 2021)

Self-Portrait as So Much Potential – Chen Chen, When I Grow Up I want To Be A List of Further Possibilities (Bloodaxe Books, 2019)

Pop-Tarts and Cunts – Jenny Danes, https://www.bathmagg.com/jennydanes/

[1] Adams, C. J. (2015) The Sexual Politics of Meat. New York: Bloomsbury. pg 21

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