Autobiography in food…..

'Dejeuner sur l'herbe'  by Manet
‘Dejeuner sur l’herbe’ by Manet (Photo credit: Martin Beek)

In the prologue to Blue Plate Special, an autobiography of my appetites Kate Christensen writes:

“Food is a subterrranean conduit to sensuality, memory, desire…….to taste fully is to live fully. And to live fully is to be awake and responsive to complexities and truths – good and terrible, overwhelming and miniscule.”

For her, thinking about food and meals in the dark hours of the night can banish the obsessive thoughts and memories of failure and embarrassment (what Brene Brown calls ‘a vulnerability hangover’).

Journal Prompt:  Do you turn towards or away from food when you are stressed or depressed? Are there comfort foods you turn to?

Foods from childhood really do seem to carry special qualities of memory (as John S Allen explains). We don’t necessarily want to make them or eat them in adulthood but we enjoy the nostalgia of them. For some people school dinners may signify warmth and safety, for others nursery puddings bring fullness and sleepiness to mind. Perhaps grandmother’s gravy represents childhood or the first taste of something that seemed rich or rare or awoke a lifelong passion. Things change in a lifetime. Foods have reached parts of the globe where they were previously unknown or extremely rare, they may have become commonplace.

In the 1960s in a Yorkshire village a single avocado pear appeared in the greengrocer’s shop.

Avocado (Photo credit: Livin’ Spoonful)

My mother knew what it was (she’d spent a year at the Sorbonne as a student). She watched it soften into ripeness and then persuaded the greengrocer that she’d take it off his hands, as a favour,  now it was past its best. A generation later, my son was weaned on avocados.

Journal Prompt: Food Steppingstones

List the foods from your childhood which you remember with nostalgia: include them all – treats, single tastes, holiday fare, regular meals etc.

List them in any order. 

Read the list aloud. Notice what you feel, what your sensations are.

Choose the food on the list which seems most rich and resonant now. Describe it, write about the taste and smells and textures. Write about a time you remember eating it, capture the associated memories. Who was there with you? Where were you?


4 thoughts on “Autobiography in food…..”

  1. Hi, Kate,

    Catching up on my inbox. Love these prompts! I think you’ve given me the Journalistas November write. Thank you.

    BTW, I don’t think I ever RSVP’d but I am planning to be at your Third Eye a week from today. YAY.

    e-hug, Carolyn


  2. In Lapidus Caroline Hadley said:
    Such a thought-provoking post. Something to chew over in my journal!

    and Mary Lucille Hindmarch said:
    Nice exercise; i’ll give that whirl – soggy ginger biscuits, & being force-fed an almost raw boiled egg sit high in my memory


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