Turtle Soup Poem Analysis Essay

With all due respect to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, we know -- thanks to ESPN, the New York Yankees and our fathers -- exactly what happened to Joe DiMaggio. The baseball hero hung up his cleats after the 1951 season and retired from the sport. A few years later, he eloped with Marilyn Monroe.

For over a decade, DiMaggio was a star of the baseball field. For over a century, turtle soup was a star of the dinner table. Yet most Americans don't have a clue what happened to turtle soup. In fact, the vast majority of them have never even tasted this concoction. I have only eaten "mock turtle soup," which is usually made with calf's head or oxtail.

The real McCoy is nearly impossible to find on restaurant menus today, and only a handful of eateries serve the mock variety. That's amazing considering this soup was once a favorite American dish. John Adams ate it several times during the Continental Congress. In 1815, the Philadelphia Gazette advertised a nine-hour banquet featuring turtle soup.

British novelist Frederick Marryat visited the U.S. and declared in 1839 that one of the two "great delicacies in America" was terrapin -- a species of turtle found in brackish swamps. On July 4, 1841, a White House dinner featured a main course prepared from a 300-pound turtle.

Just as there are regional versions of chowder, there were dueling versions of turtle soup. One recipe originated in Philadelphia, and the other hailed from Baltimore. Mark Twain preferred the creamier version from Philly, and he wasn't the only author who adored turtle soup.

Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, rhapsodized about turtle soup with a poem, whose opening lines proclaimed:

Beautiful soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!

Once the Gilded Age arrived, turtle had firmly established itself as power food. In 1880, a Washington Post reporter called terrapin vital to any dinner party "laying claim to being a pretentious affair." For more than a century, members of the Hoboken Turtle Club gathered to enjoy this fishy soup. Being a member, wrote the New York Times in 1893, established each man "as a citizen of worth." John Jay and Alexander Hamilton were among the Club's famous members.

Turtle soup remained popular in the early 20th century. It was on the menu for state dinners during William Howard Taft's presidency. Mrs. Taft hired a special cook to prepare the dish, and the president preferred to drink champagne with his soup.

By the middle of the century, however, it was tougher to find turtle soup on menus or in recipe books. A 1947 article in Life magazine helped to explain why. The ingredients, including sea turtles and bottles of well-aged sherry, "are not all easy to obtain." Indeed, terrapins in U.S. coastal areas had been overhunted to the point that cooks were forced to seek turtles from more distant waters.

Chefs faced other obstacles. As Life explained, the reptile was not always cooperative. Terrapins are "alert, surly and shifty," the magazine noted. "Sometimes they snap at their handlers and they often escape and hide under radiators when the cooks come to get them."

Turtle soup might have disappeared completely in the U.S. had it not been for the Internet age. The web has allowed those selling exotic goods to find willing consumers, and farm-raised turtle meat can be ordered online.

The growing interest in historic or retro-cuisine is also helping to keep turtle soup from vanishing. Genuine turtle soup shows up in surprising places, including a bedroom community of Chicago where Moe Joe's serves the real deal. On her blog, Four Pounds Flour, Sarah Lohman posted this recipe for an authentic turtle soup.

Is there any chance the dish could go mainstream again? The Travel Channel doesn't seem to think so. Last month, TC's show Bizarre Foods featured turtle soup. Even in Georgia's Low Country, tastes have changed -- perhaps irreversibly. As the co-authors of The Savannah Cookbook observe, "the soup is little more than a memory. Turtle meat is a strong flavor that most locals are no longer accustomed to."

 You go home one evening tired from work, 

and your mother boils you turtle soup.
Twelve hours hunched over the hearth
(who knows what else is in that cauldron).

You say, "Ma, you've poached the symbol of long life;
that turtle lived four thousand years, swam
the Wet, up the Yellow, over the Yangtze.
Witnessed the Bronze Age, the High Tang,
grazed on splendid sericulture."
(So, she boils the life out of him.)

"All our ancestors have been fools.
Remember Uncle Wu who rode ten thousand miles
to kill a famous Manchu and ended up
with his head on a pole? Eat, child,
its liver will make you strong."

"Sometimes you're the life, sometimes the sacrifice."
Her sobbing is inconsolable.
So, you spread that gentle napkin
over your lap in decorous Pasadena.

Baby, some high priestess has got it wrong.
The golden decal on the green underbelly
says "Made in Hong Kong."

Is there nothing left but the shell
and humanity's strange inscriptions,
the songs, the rites, the oracles?

Explorations of the Text

1.     1.Notice the author’s choice of the word “cauldron” in line 4. What images or connections does this word evoke? Why might the author have chosen “cauldron” rather than “pot”?

 Cauldron is large round metal pot usually used by witch and in this poem,  the mother boils turtle soup using cauldron and it is considered as unethical , even the speaker feels disgusted to eat it.

2.   2.   Chin refers to “the Wei “, “the Yellow,” and “the Yangtze”. Why does she reference these  rivers in China? Why not include the Nile, the Amazon, or the Mississippi?

The author wants to emphasize that he/she is closed to his/her origin. 

3.    3.  What is the tone of this poem?

I think it's reflective on ancient Chinese tradition. 

Ideas for Writing

 1.      “Sometimes you’re the life, sometimes the sacrifice.” Write about this quote within the context of an immigrant family. What might a family gain or lose by moving to a new land?

When leaving the country for a new land. We left many things like families, friends and some also might left their love ones. To get to the new land which is a new world and a new place to be conquered. We need to face many things like a new culture, tradition, their religion, their way of life and also the most important thing is their dialectal. If we don’t like to learn their dialectal, we will left behind and can’t follow their societies. The detriment that need to be done is that we need to master and mend our language efficiency in order to triumph in the new place but to someone it might be seen a little bit insignificant but it will affect our daily life as we need to communicate in order to tell what we actually want. If we don’t speak their language, we’re both don’t understand and this might get things that being described are misjudged.

 Being in a new place, we can see a new culture. The culture are really different from places to places. We need to adapt to those changing culture so that we can fully understand and equip it in our daily life. A culture means everything to certain people. So, as we in new place, we need to follow it accordingly as the people are doing it. For the people, if we do some mistakes, we might end up quarrel with them. In order to keep a peaceful life style, a regulation to follow the culture is a must and we must respect it even though some of them might be contradict with our very own culture. We must never forget our culture wherever we go, we could introduce it to the new people as it might be interesting and can keep our relationship tightened and knows each other’s culture better.

Other than that, the food that we usually eat also need to be change, for example in the old country, they eat rice meanwhile in the new land, they only grow wheat, and they need to adjust their taste buds accordingly to the new diet. This food ingestion is really important as it will keep us alive and strong to live and work. A strong motivation also really needed in the new place as for some random people, being far apart far apart from the family can make their motivation going down. The support from the family is quite needed in this situation, if not they can get tired of their life and might end up killing themselves as their morale getting lower.

As we move to a new place, a new path is opened up for us to live there. We have the second chance to change and gain back what we can’t have back in the old place for example triumph, wealth and a better life. A new way of life can totally change a person from a very poor to a very rich person if they utilize everything in the new place. It’s look simple, but need some effort in doing the things so that we can gain the sweet success later. Besides that, when we live in the new place, we can’t forget who we are, what we are, and where we are before going to the new land as this can keep us awake that we had made some sacrifice in order to live a blissful life in the new land.

Group leader: Veronica 

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