Food for Thought

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.

Crème brûlée

The hard caramelized sugar crust of crème brûlée. photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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?


10 comments on “Food for Thought

  1. Dear Andy,

    Please write about food more often. Yes, please.

    My wife and I are foodies as well. We saved up a handsom sum last year and went to Thomas Keller’s Per Se in NYC.

    Worth. Every. Ridiculous. Penny.

    For real. If you ever get up to NYC and want the meal of a lifetime…

  2. My father chose the creme brulee, dessert to go, at the Irish Inn last night. Our server said, “That’s the one dessert that cannot be carried out. It requires a special dish.” A chorus of groans followed, and my father was uninspired to make a substitute. The stash of Hershey Kisses at home would have to satisfy his sweet tooth. We didn’t get the creme brulee, but I now have a picture of it. Thanks!

    • It’s not too hard to make at home. My mom gave us one of those Little torches one year and we tote it out once in a while but you can caramelize the topping under the broiler too. Give it a try. It’s worth the effort.

  3. Food!! Yes it speaks to me as well.

    Trouble is… food has made me fat. Food has made me acquire other troubles. Food has been so deceptive to me. I must forgive my mind, my tastebuds, and avoid certain foods and turn good stuff into energy so that my life is long and vibrant. This will help me carry out my mission of helping others visioneer a life that matter.

    I liked your post and found it funny.

  4. Spencer, I’m glad you liked my post. I am on a see food diet. If I see it I eat it. I know the struggles that food (especially good food) can create within us. There is a blog guest-posted today by Rebecca Berto (aka Novel Girl) Just follow the links from her blog at: http://rebeccaberto.wordpress.com/ It’s all about eating healthy, something she knows a bit about as she is diabetic.

  5. The yin and yang of creme brulee. Perfect. I can almost feel that crunchy sweetness melt into the vanilla creme. Oh my!

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