Food in Fact, Food in Fiction

This weekend at least three ritual high days coincide. Christians celebrate Easter, Jews are celebrating Pesach, and Moslems are in the middle of observing Ramadan. Even for the non-religious, living in the parts of the world where one or other of these three faiths hold sway, the traditions and especially the foods that mark these days will be very familiar.

Hot cross buns in close-up on a baking sheet
My hot cross buns

This weekend I find myself baking hot cross buns. They are a taste of my childhood and a bit of a nostalgia trip for me. They are also my contribution to my wife and her family’s traditional Swedish Easter table – along with the bowls of variously pickled herrings, the hard boiled eggs, boiled potatoes and rounds of rye crispbread. (I hasten to add that we’ll eat the buns as dessert, not piled with pickled herring. Though that might make for an interesting combination.)

Food is one of few things that engage all the senses, and can trigger and create memories like little else. Whether we are writing fiction or memoir, poetry or prose, food can be a portal. Famously Marcel Proust’s monumental novel Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu) begins with the taste of a madeleine cake and a sip of tea.

Your writing prompt

So here is your writing prompt for this fortnight.

Write a scene, or the fragment of a scene, or write a poem, and write about a meal, or a dish, or a single item of food. Write about it as yourself or as your fictional character.

How does it look? How does it smell? How does it taste? What is its texture? What sounds does it make as it’s prepared, as it waits on the table, as it’s eaten?

What memories are associated with this food? What company or individuals? What time or place?

What rituals are associated with its preparation, with its plating up, with its consumption?

Does it have happy or sad associations? Does it inspire joy or anger? Does it give rise to sensual thoughts or to disgust?

Or, if you prefer, what literary memories do you have where food is involved? Did you ever sit down with Karen Blixen to Babette’s Feast? Did you dine on a single tomato as the priest in Gene Wolfe’s Nightside the Long Sun? Did you eat Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup with Rice?

I want to know!

If you enjoyed this and want to try another word prompt that draws on all the senses, why not take a look at Kimberly’s Pensive: Prompts to Stretch Your Senses.

Illustration credits

Swedish Easter food, Polish Easter food, Passover Seder and Common Iftar Dish all come from Wikimedia Commons. Easter chocolate comes from and Decorated Easter eggs comes from


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