People can be divided into two camps when it comes to food; those who live to eat and those who eat to live. I am firmly entrenched in the first, and I pity those who merely view food as a means to stay alive. I don’t want to just digest food, I want to relish it. Oooo! Did someone say relish?
A while back I posted a piece about the sense of smell. Taste and smell are closely related and I do find myself including food descriptions in my stories. I have heard the advice to write about what you know. I know food. In most of my written work I have included descriptions of the preparation of meals and the ingredients of a dish, but I don’t think I have thoroughly explored the actual experience of eating. Aroma, temperature, texture, flavor, appearance, the sounds, the praise all coming together in one action. Eating seems to command the use of all the senses, literally a sensual experience.
Take crème brûlée, one of my favorite desserts, that classic creamy custard topped with a hard crust of caramelized sugar. It is not unheard of to have the dessert flambéed at the table with a whoosh of yellow-orange flame, a showy way of caramelizing the sugar topping. There is the light crack of the sugar as the spoon breaks through the hardened top layer and the click of the spoon on the bottom of the ramekin after slicing through the tender, yielding custard underneath. The delicate eggy bouquet hits the nose and once the first bite is delivered to the mouth, the tongue is treated to a crunchy, creamy yin and yang of textures while a flood of rich yet sweet vanilla flavors are released. And even before the first swallow, the throat produces a grunt of approval. What a wonderful combination of four simple ingredients—egg yokes, sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract—to delight all five senses.
My mouth is watering just writing this. I don’t know if I could elicit the same response by writing, “A spoonful of the classic French dessert disappeared into her mouth and she groaned in appreciation.” That is a perfectly acceptable description of a woman taking a bite, but it doesn’t let us “taste” it. Neither is wrong and it ultimately depends on what a scene calls for, but I am always looking for ways to bring my writing to life, to make it a richer experience, so I will be placing this idea of the experience of eating on my writer’s pantry shelf.
I’m suddenly a bit peckish, anyone for a midnight snack?