Fiction in the Kitchen
During my undergrad studies, a student brought in a poem he’d written about he and his father cooking traditional Korean food. The poor kid was terrified. Our professor lacked tact, and could be pretty harsh at times. With worried hands, he confessed his fear to us: “It’s just about cooking.”
To his astonishment, our professor loved it. He proceeded to tell us how rich food is with imagery. If you’re a fan of food network, I don’t need to tell you this. You already know.
Food, and cooking especially, is an art rich in sensory detail, in cultural traditions, in familial traditions. Few things bring people together like food.
When we write, when we focus on imagery, we’re prone to lean on our two primary sense: sight and sound. Still, an entire world exists beyond those two senses. Taste and smell are so deeply rooted in us, several of our memories are rooted on experiences of these senses. Entire emotions are conjured by simple descriptions.
If you’d like to get the most bang for you buck, consider these senses when writing your next scene. Consider the role that food can play in your character’s life. Consider the memories of food, of smells and tastes, wrinkle-deep in his mind.
My challenge: Spend some time in a kitchen. Watch Food Network. Help someone prepare a meal. Learn the language, the technical terms for green onions, for the particular way they chop a potato, a carrot, a stick of celery. Read recipes. List ingredients. Learn this so you can, with simple, accurate descriptions, evoke your readers’ emotions that, at times, are best unlocked through the sense of smell and taste.
Until then, good eating.
Think and Respond: What memories do you have of food/cooking? Do you have family traditions, special recipes handed down from generation to generation? Who do you cook with? Eat with? How does that change who you are as a character?