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11 July 2020

Posted by Charlotte Waugh

Food writing and memoirs

Group one- 23 in attendance 

Group two -14 in attendance 


What is one food that you can always eat?… This week’s session focused on food writing and poignant memoirs, proving how our favourite dishes can run far deeper than just the tastebuds! 


The Young Writers were initially shown a poem by Mark Strand titled ‘Eating Poetry’ which shows how writing can have the same impact as the variety of flavours in our food. 


To get the Writers inspired and thinking about the more memorable meals they have had, the following prompts were offered. 


Be inspired -  What is your favourite food?/ What do you like to eat?

Homemade or shop bought? 

What would be the worst meal/ What do you hate to eat? 

What do you never want to see on your plate? 


With this in mind, we explored Synaesthesia, understanding how we can use this in our writing as a focus on the senses is always so crucial.

The word  Synaesthesia can be defined as ‘The tangling and blending of the five senses’ and comes from two Ancient Greek words : syn - meaning together, and aisthesis -meaning feeling or sensing. 


Although rare, this sensation is a fact of life for some people - they sense sounds as colours and can even taste letters!  Most synaesthetes have just two senses mixed, coloured hearing is the most common. 


To see how this can be applied to poetry, the writers were shown Anita Marie Sackett’s poem- Sun Slice. The metaphorical language and vibrant imagery understands exactly what the sun may taste like, blending the senses. 


The Young Writers were then asked to select just one season of their choice and think about the associated feelings, paying particular attention to the five basic senses. Below are some amazing examples that really encapsulate the atmosphere of each time of year! 


Spring Taste


Spring tastes like a saccharine juice.

With the smell of rain,

While the sun rests shadows on sheets of white paper.

Tickles from grass on bare feet.

Green mangoes and blue butterflies.

Drunk on slices of daydreams and hope.

Spring taste. 


By Shubhashukla /Ninia 



Autumn 


Autumn is,

The crunching of leaves,

The smoky, sweetness of marshmallows on a fire,

Conkers on the ground.

The tingle of pumpkin spice,

The warmth and pure deliciousness of a hot chocolate,

The sight of monsters and the undead eating sweets.

Autumn is underrated.


By Grace Burgess


Following on from the previous food writing warmup, we took inspiration from Michael Rosen’s ‘Hot Food’, thinking about food as an experience. The challenge was to create a poem based around school dinners and the associated reactions. The pieces were read aloud and feedback was given, we listened to so many innovative and funny poems but we will share a few below.


Winner winner, school dinner!


It may be controversial,

But I love school dinners.

You see, the chef at our school is Michelin star winner!

Steak tartare, moules frite, and crème anglais, Scallops with pea puree, fancy dishes that never fail to amaze!

I love to have school dinners whenever I am able.

The problem is, it’s so popular, I can never book a table!

 

By Grace Burgess


The school Christmas dinner

 

The lovely taste of the stuffing and the crunch of the potatoes

It is all so nice – But what do others think?

Some sit there looking with disgust thinking of a way to get rid of it.

Others gobble it up as soon as they get it

I savour it each individual taste,

I smell the desert wondering what it could be - this year ginger bread I’m sure!

 

By Alina


The second group took a very similar approach, however focused on food memoir writing. We predominantly took inspiration from the poignant essay At the Maacher Bazaar, Fish for Life by Madhushree Ghosh ( can be found : https://longreads.com/2019/04/10/at-the-maacher-bazaar-fish-for-life/)


The following tips were given as things to look out for to make our memoirs the best they can be! 


  • The dialogue of your character/s rings true 
  • You tell the truth
  • You are careful of the nostalgia trap
  • Use plot devices from fiction: conflict, suspense and tension by creating desire
  • Essay/ book has a narrative arc
  • The ending reflects the story 

As always the memoirs were shared amongst the group and feedback was given. The pieces were all incredibly personal and filled with emotion. Hannah’s heartfelt memoir resonated with many members of the group and so had to be shared with you all. 


The Baker’s Apprentice – A food memoir


I used to wear the apron in the house. I was the baker’s apprentice, tottering at three feet, round, eager eyes peering in awe over the counter, barely capturing the process. The baker enthralled me: arms and hands that carried the strength and precision necessary to make the tastiest treats. I found my balance on a footstool and I was a force, aiding the baker in her whisking, her combining, her distributing – the tasting too. I was sharing in an art that had been passed down through all generations on my mother’s side. But our speciality – the baker and me? Cupcakes.

Baked until golden-brown, fluffy as clouds, the baker and I would spend hours combining the powdery flour (that seemed to always find its way to the tips of our noses and the pages of the open cookbook), then eggs, butter and always a little too much sugar into bowls. Then we would beat it together until it was smooth. The frustrating part would come with the distribution of the batter into the cupcake cases: more seemed to be left on my spoon than in the case, but it was a welcome treat after the hard work that made it. We were never precious about quantities. The baker carried a faith that somehow our ardour would be rewarded. It always was.

Unless, of course, I had confused the flour, and the baker would giggle at the poor morsels of batter in the oven, trying desperately to reach toward the top of their cases.

“Hannah,” she would laugh, “What is the flour that is supposed to go into cupcakes?”

“Self-raising?” I would reply, sheepishly, in my two-year-old bumble of words, “Sorry mummy.”

But there was always another day to regain my reputation. For years, it was eggs, flour, butter, sugar, mother and me.

 

By Hannah Devenish


Next week’s session is unfortunately our last, however we will be reflecting on and showcasing all the amazing pieces we have created over the course of the year. We hope many of you can join us over zoom for a slightly different showcase than planned, but exciting nonetheless! 


Until then, stay safe and keep writing...

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