Taste Tells: Part 2 of Writing with Sensory Details — Sandi Somers

“The Taste Test” was part of my English as a Second Language unit on food. I brought to class samples of celery, potato chips, chocolates, cinnamon hearts, peanut butter on a cracker, pickles, cubes of Jello and popcorn.

Students described each food: its shape, texture, colour, how it sounded while chewing, its hardness or softness, whether it was sweet, sour, bitter, salty or tasteless. Their vocabulary included juicy, sticky, gooey, greasy, hard, chewy, prickly, rough and smooth.

And finally, the students described their reactions. Did they like the foods, some of which were new to them? 

Writing about Taste

Sour tasteAs my students discovered, there’s more to tasting food than the classic sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Taste is not an isolated sense but has many contexts in which writers can add depth and meaning to stories and articles. For the next week or two, our focus on writing about the sense of smell will include some of the following ideas.

  • Tasting foods  can bring up strong emotions. How do you react when you taste chocolate, a lemon, a favourite dessert, medicine? What physical reactions have you experienced: smiles, frowns, puckers, or spitting?
  • Sometimes we acquire a taste. What food did you hate in childhood? How did you acquire a taste for it? What other foods have you acquired a taste for?
  • Write about a special meal you remember. To bring that memory alive, add significant details. Describe the place, time, mood, and the atmosphere. Who cooked the meal? How was the table set? Who was with you? What was your reaction to the food, its aromas, its colour? What meaning does this meal have for you as you reflect on that experience?
  • Food is an integral part of the travel experience. Tacos and beans in Mexico, crepes in France, eels and chicken feet in China. What delicacies did you eat and what were your reactions?
  • “It was her mother’s recipe.” What favorite recipe evokes a special memory?
  • English as many metaphors and idioms for taste. We say someone has a lack of taste. There’s a taste of home, a taste of sorrow, an unspoken hunger.  We can have a bitter experience, a bitter pill, a bitter regret. There are sweet girls, sweet nothings. People may have a sour disposition. Something is sour grapes. But what exactly do these expressions mean? Write a scene to bring one of these expressions alive.
  • 80% of what we taste is actually smell. We well know this; we can’t taste food when we have a head cold. Instead of using smell, try describing with taste—the taste of a cold, the salty ocean spray on your tongue or the aromatic flavor of coffee.

We could write on many other topics: food taboos, allergies, unusual cravings during pregnancy, food dreams in prison camps …The list is endless.

Sit back and savor your thoughts and memories, then write scenes for your current or future writing project.

For further reading:

http://ruthiestickney.blogspot.ca/2012/04/creative-nudge-9-taste.html (prompts for writing)

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/taste.html (quotes and metaphors )

Exec-Sandi-SomersSandi Somers writes devotionals and inspirational articles. She lives in Calgary, Alberta. sksomers@shaw.ca

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