I’m giving a food-themed creative writing workshop at the Harvest Food Festival in Waterford in September. I came up with the idea for the workshop not just because of my love affair with food but because I genuinely believe that food is a rich source of inspiration for stories.
Vivid descriptions of food will make your readers salivate and yearn for more. You can explore the powerful link between food, emotions and memory. Writing about food can also help you develop your characters, as you explore what their attitude to food is and what role food plays in their relationships with others (dinner parties that go wrong etc).
Here are three food-themed creative writing exercises you can try to get your taste buds tingling. Some of these will feature in this food-themed workshop.
A Taste of Oranges
I have actually blogged about this exercise before, because it’s one of my favourites. Essentially, it encourages you to tune into all your senses at the same time by eating an orange and describing how it tastes, looks, feels, smells and sounds. You can then expand the exercise by writing about a food themed memory, of eating oranges or of meals that stuck out in your mind, for the right or wrong reasons.
A Recipe for Happiness
This is a bit of fun, but it encourages people to explore the link between food and emotions. You write a recipe in the usual way, with the ingredients and the method, but instead of giving measures of flour and sugar, your ingredients will consist of the things that make you happy (30 minutes of sunshine, 3kg of laughter), and instructions for mixing the ingredients together. You could propose ingredients for a perfect day, or for a happy life in general.
Guest vs Host
As I’ve said, food can shape your characters and how they relate to each other. Being invited to dinner is supposed to be a pleasurable experience, but the dynamics between guest and host can create friction. Write a story in which one of your characters invites another central character for dinner and describe a conflict that occurs during the dinner. Perhaps the host is overbearing or the guest is ungrateful. Use dialogue to capture the tension between them. Use descriptions of the food and how it is eaten to build an atmosphere. Perhaps the host has a perfect dinner table which is gradually destroyed throughout the evening.
Does food feature in your writing? Do you enjoy reading books with a food theme? Have you ever done food themed exercises and if so, what were they?