More food memories……….

My last post, Autobiography in food….., sparked much discussion  in other forums. People were keen to write about the foods that evoked powerful memories. It seems right to conclude the year with a continuation of this theme.

Mince Pie
Mince Pie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The holiday season 2013 is coming to an end – this can be a time of joy as people gather with loved ones, or a time of sadness as people remember those they’ve lost. Most cultures celebrate holidays with special foods or meals. Often the food of holiday times consists of dishes passed down from previous generations. For example, mince pies epitomise Christmas for me (I’ve lost the habit of Christmas pudding). Do I make them the same as my mother did? In some ways (though mine are vegetarian), but they are certainly different from my grandmother’s. These things evolve from generation to generation and change as other significant relationships form or as people travel and import things from other cultures into their own.

Journal prompt: What are the dishes that represent holiday celebrations, eg Thanksgiving, Christmas or other celebration  for you? Are they from your childhood or introduced later? How has this changed over time?

Before Christmas I heard a panel of chefs asked the following question: Who is the better cook, you or your mother? They were unanimously complimentary about their mothers in the kitchen extolling how much they learnt from them or inherited their love of food and cooking. But this is not always the case – when I introduced the same question in a writing group, the writing produced a range of responses.

The Kitchen Maid
The Kitchen Maid (Photo credit: Accidental Hedonist)

Journal prompt:  Who is the better cook, you or your mother (or the person who cooked for you in childhood)? What did you learn from them? What do you remember?

Write an unsent letter to express your feelings about this.

After the flood…….

Boulder Creek Flood
Boulder Creek Flood (Photo credit: JGColorado)

The floods in Colorado have devastated lives and landscape. Now we are re-grouping and returning to some kind of normality even though many are still displaced, not sure what the future may hold or when they can return to their homes. It has stolen more than 2 weeks of our lives, and we’ve been lucky – for many people this has been a truly devastating and life changing event. Our sympathies are with those who continue to suffer the effects.

There comes a point where the crisis can become an excuse rather than a reason for not getting back to routine lives. When we’ve done the big clean-up, services are restored and the rest of our life is calling, people can be unsettled, distracted. Somehow it’s hard to settle back into routine.

Journal Prompt: Write about a time when your life was disturbed, upset or disrupted by something (a small thing or a big thing, something external). How did you get back to your routine? What helped you? Did you resist the return to Normal? Was something changed?

Flood is a powerful image.  Poets have written about literal and metaphorical floods throughoutA Flood - Frederick morgan the ages, including John Clare, Seamus Heaney, Robert Frost, James Joyce. Leave a comment and share your favourite flood poem or reference.

Journal Prompt: Explore the idea of flood as metaphor.

February is the shortest month……….

I notice that a year ago I wrote about Wind….and Snow… my February posts.

What is it about February in the northern hemisphere that provokes a concentration on climate conditions? DSC03201The paradox of February is perhaps that the extreme weather we get (2 feet of snow here after a dry winter, for example) is in contrast with the lengthening days, the increased energy and outward focus. The hibernation instinct releases its grip.

The desire to spend more time outside, being more physically active  in daylight is often frustrated by snow and rain………Margaret Atwood’s poem February depicts it as a transitional month.

Many people battle depression or experience a lowering of the spirits & energy in winter. People who suffer from SAD start to feel better as days noticeably lengthen. Up in the Arctic the sun has returned and people are becoming happy again. Next month many countries will put their clocks forward and suddenly the evenings are restored.

Journal prompt: What do you notice in yourself as the days get longer? Think about your physical, mental and emotional energy. 

Do you notice any annual patterns or rhythms?

Is there anything in February which lifts your spirits? A ritual? An annual event? If not, what could you introduce?

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Water, water………..

Last week the temperature dropped and the well froze. This meant that for a few days there was no running water in the house. Like many people, (living in the places I do) potable running water is something we take for granted – when we turn on the tap we expect to receive hot or cold water.

Frozen water
Frozen water

When there isn’t any……life is changed. I was shovelling snow to melt on the woodburner, using it in as many ways as possible. It became a creative endeavour, it became a different way of thinking. It was a reminder, an awareness. And it became possible to do without something that is usually an almost unconscious part of life. It’s an interesting lesson in resilience in fact.

Journal prompt: What happens when you, even temporarily, have to do without someone or something that you consider part of the very fabric of your life?  How do you adapt? How resilient are you?


In terms of the landscapes of people’s lives I think people are either mountain people or water people – which landscape feeds you most? Water has certainly provided inspiration for many writers and poets. Wallace Stevens said  ‘perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake’, but rivers are particularly  celebrated from Wordsworth’s  series of sonnets on the River Duddon to Alice Oswald’s narrative poem Dart.

Unfrozen water
Unfrozen water


Journal prompt: What is your relationship with water? What are your most evocative memories of water (good or bad)? Write from the senses – smell, sight, sound, taste, touch. Write in prose or poetry.

Accidental souvenirs

Preparing for another trip I take down a bag unused since the last one. Emptying it I find:

coins in currencies not useful this time

a ticket for a foreign train

receipts for meals eaten, hotels stayed in

a notebook with too few blank pages remaining

scraps of paper with names of unfamiliar artists

a printed sheet from an exhibition

and an embarassing number of pens………….

These are accidental souvenirs (from the French – to remember) – not chosen or carefully selected, not proudly displayed, shelved or filed – but each one evokes a fleeting memory.

Journal prompt:

What lurks forgotten at the bottom of your bag or suitcase from the last outing? Have you looked at the back of your closet recently?

What did you bring back unwittingly from your last trip?

Which all reminds me of William Stafford‘s poem What’s in my journal? which you can find here. It begins:

Odd things, like a button drawer.

Journal prompt:

What’s in my journal? Write your own prose piece or poem.

Anyone who has ever tried to de-clutter or Organize will know there are places where forgotten treasures congregate – forgotten treasures or clutter?

Caroline Koehnline on her website defines clutter as:

anything that drains your energy, gets in your way, distracts from what’s important, or has no place in your home or life. Stacks of paper, unproductive thinking, stuck feelings, and time-wasting activities can take up space that could be better used for other things.

Does that include foreign train tickets?!