Eating Together Poem by Li-Young Lee Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “Eating Together” is written by Li-Young Lee. He is an Asian-American poet. In the poem, the poet discusses his family tradition and death. The poem is about the poet reminiscing about one of his lunches with his family. The scene reminds of the happy times he spent with his family around him. Thinking about this memory reminds him of his father’s death. This makes him sad. The poem describes the image of the poet sitting with his father and the rest of his family and all of them enjoying the meal heartily.

About the poet

Li-Young Lee was born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia. He moved to America and abolished himself as an Asian-American poet. He has received multiple awards for his works including the American Book Award, the Whiting Award for Poetry and James Laughlin Award. He is best known for his collection “The City in Which I Love You” and “From Blossoms”.


The poem is written in free-verse. It is written in a single stanza. The stanza consists of 12 lines.

Lines 1-6

In the steamer is the trout   

seasoned with slivers of ginger,

two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.   

We shall eat it with rice for lunch,   

brothers, sister, my mother who will   

taste the sweetest meat of the head,


The speaker is getting ready to cook trout with ginger, green onion, and sesame oil. He plans to share this meal with his brothers, sister, and his mother, who will savor the sweetest part – the head. The plan to share this meal with his family, highlighting the importance of coming together over food. The mention of the mother enjoying the fish’s head signifies a special connection within the family. Through this simple act of eating together the speaker celebrates the shared experience of a meal as a way to strengthen family bonds and create cherished memories.


In these lines, the poet talks about preparing trout in a steamer with aromatic ingredients like ginger, green onion, and sesame oil. He wants to share this meal with family members, including the speaker’s mother who enjoys the delicacy of the fish’s head. This highlights the themes of familial bonds and shared traditions. This simple act becomes a symbolic ritual, a way to connect with family through a shared meal. The mention of the mother tasting “the sweetest meat of the head” can be interpreted not only literally but also metaphorically, suggesting a deeper familial connection and the sharing of the most cherished experiences.

Lines 7-12 

holding it between her fingers   

deftly, the way my father did   

weeks ago. Then he lay down   

to sleep like a snow-covered road   

winding through pines older than him,   

without any travelers, and lonely for no one.


The speaker describes his mother skillfully holding the trout, a task that reminds him of how his father did the same thing just a week ago. This tells the readers that the speaker’s father has recently passed away. The image then shifts to his father peacefully sleeping after he dies. This sleep is compared to a quiet snow-covered road surrounded by ancient pine trees. This Plath has no travelers and no one around which creates a sense of solitude and loneliness.


The poet in these lines reflects on a poignant moment involving his mother and memories of his father. The act of his mother holding the trout becomes a symbolic link between generations. The mother carries on the culinary tradition previously performed by the father. This highlights the passing down of family customs and the continuity of shared experiences. The imagery then shifts to the father’s recent passing. The poet describes this image metaphorically as a “snow-covered road” winding through ancient pine trees. However, the mention of the road being “lonely for no one” introduces an element of solitude, emphasizing the absence of companions on this journey.