Poetry Slams have made poetry cool again. Here, Slam New Orleans takes the national title in 2012

“If you want to do something really special on game day,” John Gaines, who was at the helm of The Tradewinds in Cotati for several decades, writes in a message to me, “be the only one on your block to have a poetry slam.”

He is serious.

“This is not as absurd as you may think,” he continues.

He makes the point that The Ravens are actually named after a poem and calls the 49ers “a largely romantic ideal,” adding that New Orleans is the most poetic city in the country. And San Francisco has been home to many great poets, of course.

Here’s how it could work. Turn off the volume at half-time, John says, and have someone read Poe’s “The Conqueror Worm”.

“It’s not too long. It’s straightforward and it rhymes!” he says.

“Oysters” from In the Beginning by Robinson Jeffers should represent San Francisco.

Pressing his point, John explains, “It’s guys sitting around. It is a masculine poem, but I think women fans would get a smug satisfaction from it.”

As I was pondering the possibilities of Superbowl poetry, I stumbled across a most delightful tribute to the Bard of Baltimore. No Superbowl Poetry Slam will be complete–not if you’re rooting for the Niners, anyway–with out it: The End of the Raven by Edgar Allen Poe’s Cat.

John is not only a fabulous bartender and brilliant writer; he is also a great cook and has some excellent suggestions for your Superbowl party table.

John Gaines’s Persian Dip • Serves 4 to 8

John’s first recipe is inspired by a pretty Iranian woman that he met in the produce section of a supermarket.

Sumac is the ground berry of a bush that grows throughout the Middle East and it is becoming increasingly popular here. It has a earthy and lemony flavor. Do not mix it up with one of its local cousins, rhus diversiloba, also known as poison oak

  • 12 ounces plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, freshly toasted
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • Scant pinch of cayenne
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Ground sumac
  • 1 lime
  1. Put the yogurt into a medium bowl and stir it until it is smooth. Fold in the walnuts, pomegranate arils, green onions, cilantro and cayenne.
  2. Transfer to a serving bowl
  3. Sprinkle sumac over the dip and then squeeze lime juice on top.
  4. Serve with pita wedges and homemade hummus
John Gaines’s Hand-Chopped Tapenade with Mayonnaise • Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 can Lindsay Natural Green Olives, drained
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinse
  • 1 canned chipotle, with a little sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 skinny baguette, sliced and toasted
  1. Put the garlic on a clean cutting board, crush it and minced it. Add the anchovies, crush them and mince with the garlic. Add the chipotle and continue to smash and minced until the ingredients are nearly reduced to a paste.
  2. Slice the olives in half and then mince them with the garlic paste.
  3. Put the tapenade into a small b owl and fold in the mayonnaise.
  4. Serve with the toasted baguette.
Variation: Use the tapenade as a spread on a round loaf of French bread, sliced open. Add your favorite sliced deli meats and cheese et Voila!, it’s a muffaletta and we’re back in New Orleans.

Nola in Sonoma County: Parish Cafe in Healdsburg serves an authentic muffaletta. Rustic at Coppola Winery offers one, too.