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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 11, Number 4, December 2017

Angelee Deodhar
Chandigarh, India

On her haibun "Ratatouille"

My interest in haibun peaked while researching for the Journeys series of international haibun anthologies. I read dozens of anthologies and articles and found some very fine material, but very few humorous or satirical haibun. Here are some quotes that I found useful in structuring my humour piece, "Ratatouille".

Haruo Sirane offered these viewpoints on Basho's writing:

The art of haikai encompasses a series of related genres: hokku, linked verse, haibun, and haiga. All these genres embodied what Basho called “haikai spirit.” (1)

Basho was a poet of haikai, which, by its very nature, was parodic, oppositional, and immersed in popular culture. (1)

Haikai deliberately employs contemporary language and subject matter, which classical poetry (the thirty-one-syllable waka) was forbidden to use. Haikai is also informed by a sense of the comic, which usually derives from humorous subject matter, verbal play, or parody of traditional poetry and literature. (2)

If we go back in time about why we laugh, passages from Normam Holland (3) are useful:

Aristotle’s theory that we laugh at the contrast between the thing presented and the way it is presented marks a notable sophistication (I think) over cognitive and ethical theories, which limit themselves to the subject matter of the laughable. Aristotle opens up the question of literary form.

Sigmund Freud, created a stir by suggesting that jokes combined playful disappointment with satisfaction. They built on people’s ability “to make the best of a bad thing . . . an act of aggressive resignation.”

Keeping in mind the spirit of haikai, I feel if all this is applied, we should lighten up, be less serious in our writing haibun. This is the reason I wrote "Ratatouille." It is based on true events, my personal nemesis while on a visit to Chicago, and is dedicated to the kind friends who gave me a home away from home.


1. Haruo Shirane (Editor), Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900, Comumbia University Press, 2004.

2. Haruo Shirane (Editor), Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory and the Poetry and Prose of Matsuo Basho, Stanford University Press, 1998.

3. Norman N. Holland, Laughing, A psychology of Humour.

Angelee Deodhar


Having decided to make a delectable egg curry for my Indian hosts, I rummage around their kitchen, fish out a pan to boil eggs in, fill it with water and while carrying it to the stove spill the entire contents all over myself, the countertop, the burners and the floor, as the handle rotates free. After mopping it with my bath towels, (I can’t remember where they keep kitchen towels), I search for a sturdier saucepan, test its handle and repeat the process. The egg carton has eight eggs but by the time I get them out three have cracked and my fingers and the counter and floor are yolky.

I almost slip on a patch of the wet sticky stuff, but save the eggs which are finally in the hot water. Meanwhile I search for another pan for the curry, search for onions, search for tomatoes, search for garlic, search for ginger, search for cooking oil, search for the condiments etc. While dicing the onions I slice my thumb, search for a band aid in the absence of which my thumb is covered with a paper napkin and either blood or tomato puree.

The eggs are bouncing about merrily. The curry starts to simmer on the other burner. So all’s well again with the world. I get myself a lime gin cocktail, and suddenly smell something burning – my apron is on fire. I fling it off and pour the contents of my glass on it . . . the gin makes the fire sizzle. A shrill alarm goes off. I can hear urgent knocking at the door. The neighbours have come to check on what happened. The phone is ringing, and I am too rattled to switch off the stove. I go running like a headless chicken to answer the phone and assure the fire department and my neighbours about it being a "minor culinary accident."

I finally remember the eggs, now only three are in a red-hot pan, I look around for the other two – one has hit and splattered all over the hob and the other is precariously balanced from the window blind. The curry of course has burnt to a black crisp.

After my Rowan Atkinson act, I clean the mess and phone the local Indian eatery to send in their special egg curry and saffron pilaf. I dispose of all the containers the food came in. My unsuspecting hosts are absolutely delighted by my exceptional curry.

Next time, I think I will just make a ratatouille niçoise.

breath work –
the bean bags inhale
exhale my shape

Note: "Ratatouille " was previously published in Failed Haiku, 1:9, Pg. 91.



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