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Delicious Writing: Food Writing Examples from Students

by Michael Lydon


How does writing work? Why is it that if we arrange the graphic symbols we call letters into words, each word containing one, two, three, five or more of these letters, we end up with a group of graphic symbols that may mean something to ourselves or other humans, that communicate an emotion, an idea, a picture, a sound, a smell, a memory, a taste, or a touch? Like so:

The boy threw a ball to his friend.

Those twenty-seven letters, plus the spaces that define where the words begin, and the period that marks where the sentence ends, communicate a picture of human life that we can easily see and understand. Write the same letters divided by the same spaces but in a different order, and you may get a brief bit of meaningless gobbledeegook:

Eht oyb wrhet a blal ot sih efidnr.

What’s the difference between the two? Simply this: the first means something, the second means nothing. What does mean mean? Mean means containing and communicating some small aspect of life—like the two children playing catch. The bare meaning of the first sentence—a boy throwing a ball to another child—is thin and flat—but my imagination has no difficulty enriching it by adding details: sunshine and clouds, green grass and leafy trees, a barking dog, a honking car horn.

This is the goal of nearly all writing: to use words to show us what life is truly like. Words can show how writing can capture any aspect of life, but after reading your scrumptious pieces on the joys of eating, I thought, why not, for this column, focus on food, mm, mm yummy-in-the-tummy good food!

Food Writing Examples

Let’s let Kylieinwonderland from New Zealand get us started on the first course:

…a lasagna oozing with cheese and still warm from the oven, freshly picked plums with juice that runs down our chins as we take the first bite, fish and chips wrapped up in paper…

Note the six specific taste words—lasagna, cheese, plums, juice, fish, chips—and the five words that suggest food—oozing, warm, oven, chins, bite—for a total of eleven food-related words out of thirty four.


Fond food memories awaken Daisy’s childhood:

   A colorful salad, artfully arranged on a plate. The feel of sticky bread dough in your hands. The crunch of a chip, perfectly thin that just snaps when you bite it.  The scent of cinnamon wafting through the air. The taste of warm chocolate, as you dig in to a fresh chocolate chip cookie. This is my childhood.

—memories well supported by Daisy’s visual, sound, taste, texture, and smell words:  colorful, sticky, crunch, scent, cinnamon, chocolate, cookie.

Like Daisy’s cookies, food takes HannahC. deep into memories of childhood, in her case drooling over the grilled cheese sandwiches her Dad used to make every Saturday afternoon—she liked them “the cheesier the better”

When I was little, every Saturday afternoon, my Dad would make grilled cheese sandwiches. But at the time I couldn’t say grilled cheese, so I would say “girled cheese sandwiches” But no matter how wrong I pronounced it, my Dad made the best. It was amazing how he timed the bread on the heated side, so perfectly that both sides were equally golden brown and the cheese was the perfect melted point.

Jeylan wants us to taste the spicy gumbos he loved as a boy on a Louisiana shrimp boat:

It’s warm. Not like a soup, but like a bubble bath. Smooth stock runs down my throat and the fragrance of a fisherman’s blazing afternoon in a shrimp boat on the bayou envelops my nose. If you tried gumbo from a Black grandmother, you would know what I mean. With a kitchen cabinet overflowing with Cajun seasonings and spices growing up, I never knew how good I had it.

Lincoln W, from the US, wants us to see and taste crickets as stalwart soldiers in the green revolution:

People often think of crickets as nasty and inedible altogether. This is factually incorrect. Crickets are nutritious and will provide a great source of protein for future generations. Crickets are also easy to cultivate and farm. The most important factor is that they will help us cut back on emissions.


Seba from New Zealand looks back to baking bread as an ancient tradition:

There is an art to making bread. It’s in the flour and the water. It’s in the yeast and the honey. It’s in the push and pull of how you knead the dough, in the waiting for the bread to rise, in the patience required for such a simple skill. It is an art I learned from my mother, and one that she learned from her mother, learned from her mother. One of my earliest memories is baking.

Red Cat from Singapore loves his grandmother’s rich fish stew.

I stared into the gold liquid steaming before me, a fish head sticking out, mouth agape and eyeball barely attached to the socket. I breathed in deeply and the memories flooded back instantly. Images of my grandmother—my Nenek—bringing in a white bowl full of pindang to the dining table materialized before me and I began to dive in. I sifted through the lemongrass and asam and scooped up a chunk of soft red snapper flesh…

Tiff.any remembers learning on her first day in kindergarten that the stuffed grape leaves she loved, her classmates found icky:

“What is that?” I hear a girl from across the table say. I look over to see that she is asking me.  
“It smells gross.”  
I go to respond when another kid seems to take interest in my lunch too.
“Yeah, what is that?” they ask with disgusted faces.  
I look at them in partial confusion. It is my first day of kindergarten, sitting in my assigned seat at lunch. How do they not know what grape leaves are?

Let’s look back and see how far writing about food has taken us: to tastes, of course, but also to colors and sounds and touches; to memories of childhood, family, and school; to humor and affection; to love. How did all that happen? By you Write-the-Worlders using words enriched by meaning, by using words that conjure up plain, clear, vivid pictures of human life.

And remember, we did all this with taste words about food. We could fill as many pages using sound words, picture words, touch words, smell words, emotion words.

The next time I sit down at my desk to write something, anything, I’ll remind myself to use words as rich and as packed with tasty meanings as the waffles my mother used to make Saturday mornings, me smearing them with butter, drowning them in golden maple syrup, begging for seconds, and washing them down with tall glasses of home-squeezed orange juice.

About Michael Lydon

Michael Lydon is a writer and musician who lives in New York City. Author of many books, among them Rock Folk, Boogie Lightning, Ray Charles: Man and Music, and Writing and Life. A founding editor of Rolling Stone, Lydon has written for many periodicals as well, the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, and Village Voice.

He is also a songwriter and playwright and, with Ellen Mandel, has composed an opera, Passion in Pigskin. A Yale graduate, Lydon is a member of ASCAP, AFofM local 802, and on the faculty of St. John’s University.


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