When we met nearly two weeks ago, I was astonished by how complete stories were formed based on the Seven Character Questions from before. Everyone had beautifully different characters and stories, and I would love to actually read them written down.
As a topic for conversation, I’m proposing Taste. Pretty well everyone knows that writing is made better when the senses are included, but one that’s easily and often overlooked is the power of taste.
There is the straightforward matter of conjuring up the taste of tea, but food and drink comes with a whole other set of superpowers: memories and associations.
For me, being raised in the States meant that turkey, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes with gravy brings to mind one particular meal: Thanksgiving. It also reminds me that my family usually hosted the meals while growing up, so I was in the kitchen cooking.
The potatoes remind me of boiling pots of water, discarding potato peelings, and knowing the right cloudy color that the water turns when enough starches are released for fluffy potatoes. The gravy was usually made out of bullion and cornstarch mixed with cold water. Cranberry sauce included a can opener.
The turkey was originally baked in an oven, but one of my uncles started to deep fry the bird in peanut oil so that became the Man’s Job which they would do outside a big tent with plenty of beers. This freed up the oven for us to bake pumpkin pies and apple pie.
I remember how full the fridge would get, and having to fight to find room for the cherry cheesecake pie in its graham cracker crust. Then there was the worry that it wouldn’t set up enough for dinner, and then the annual debate about how to set the table.
Before I came to the UK, tea was something that was made with a cup full of microwaved water while people looked at you a little funny because nobody drank tea. Here, it’s an electric kettle and anytime you walk into someone else’s house, you’re offered a cuppa with one sugar or two, milk or no? When you walk into our house, you’re offered coffee that the husband forgets to dilute for local tastes.
Here, it’s also acceptable to order a beer or two without any food. When I lived in Utah, it was illegal to serve any alcohol without there being a food order to accompany it. Appetizers were commonly used alongside any alcoholic beverages, and it was also against state law to serve any beer over 4% which means that there were literally watered-down versions of Guinness available. I’m trying to remember if wine and beer was sold at grocery stores, but I’m thinking the answer is no because I recall going to the State Liquor Store to buy table wine.
It wasn’t illegal to have caffeine, but it was heavily frowned upon. The LDS church really had a strong standing in my university town (80% of the campus was LDS) and they actively discourage all ‘drugs’ including alcohol and caffeine.
So to go to one of the four or so coffee shops in Logan was to brand yourself as not-LDS or not-very-LDS. Unless you knew your science partner was an outsider, too, you didn’t call attention to your religious differences by inviting them to coffee. Such a move almost guaranteed that every interaction from that point forward would be an awkward, forced exchange. However, if you knew that they were not-very-LDS and you wanted them to know you were in the same boat, a simple “Do you want to get coffee?” made you a new friend.
So if I were to ask you to tell me your associations with:
- A special meal
- A special drink
What would you say?
And by extension, what would your character have to say? What stories does food bring?
Anywho, I’ll see you guys tomorrow at the Library!