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Recipe for Bouillabaisse

(by Joseph Mery)

Before your epic starts, turn to and cook
A savant stock, the Preface to your book.
And what a stock! To baby fish and "fry"
Of scores of kinds...that morning's catch...apply
The slow, distilling heat of embers clear
And precious, spicy gravy will appear.
Steep in this sauce, with fine discrimination,
The this-and-that designed for titillation,
Manilla pepper, saffron, and bouquet!
Of fennel, with a crackling leaf of bay,
Salt, friend of man, and urchins from their bed
In warm Arenc, well-flavored and well fed.
When this great brew blows bubbles, sheds its skins,
And all is nicely done, your ode begins.

One thing is sure...this fine Phocaean dish
Is not the same without one master fish,
The vulgar hogfish, scorpion of the seas,
Which lonely on ts grill, could never please
The crudest tastes. Yet in a bouillabaisse
It has no peer, and nothing can replace
Its subtle odors. If, indeed, they fail,
No other art of cunning will prevail;
Hogfish alone, from chinks in shifting sand
Where bays and myrtles fringe the tenuous land
Or from some shadowed shelf of thymy cliff,
Provide such wafts for avid guests to sniff.

Next come such fish as choose a deeper stream
And hug the reefs: fine mullet, gilthead, bream,
Saint Peter's fish. embalmers of the stew
(Such game, in fact, as greedy perch pursue).
And last, the gurnard, with Booptic eyes,
And some the ichthyologists despise,
Grand fish which Neptune, under flaming sky,
Chooses with table-forks, lays trident by.

You heedless trippers, do not judge the case
From any one-and-tuppenny bouillabaisse.
Go to the Chateau-Vert. Say: "Something nice.
I'm not a haggler...never mind the price.
Dispatch your diver, let him burrow well
Around those rocks of heady ocean smell,
From Greece and Rome "thys" and "parangry" borrow,
And skip the cost. We'll talk of that tomorrow."