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  • Writer's pictureMegan Griffin

Quick Hit: Foodie Lit Assignments and Student Samples

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

In Liesl Mayerson’s post “Finding Her Place at the Table,” she provides a glimpse into her senior-level Foodie Literature classroom, a space where students build community, experiment with language, and develop their writer identities. Because many of her students might enter her classroom thinking that they are “not writers,” she crafts assignments and daily journals that slowly, gradually help them to see that indeed they are. As she writes, “Through all this [writing], if one writes enough, she will quietly discover she has a unique place waiting just for her at the writers’ table.”

While students do engage in traditional literary analyses, they also have opportunities for more creative twists. In one such creative assignment, Telling Stories Through Food, students take their cue from Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, developing a short story–from personal experience or from their imagination–that is told through food.

Below, Liesl shares her book list, a few quick Foodie Literature prompts (with sample student writing!), and some additional prompts you can weave into Non-Foodie Literature Classes. Enjoy!

Foodie Book List

Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate

Muriel Barbery's Gourmet Rhapsody

Michelle Zauner's Crying in H Mart

Michael Pollan's The Ominivore's Dilemma

Book Club Choice Reads: Alice Waters' We Are What We Eat, Bill Buford's Dirt, David Chang's Eat a Peach, Mia P. Manansala's Arsenic and Adobo

Foodie Literature Prompts with Student Samples

Prompt: You just tasted the best meal of your life. Write a 2-3 sentence "review" that describes the meal through a nostalgic tone.

Putting my fork into the plate and taking my first bite. It was like sitting under the Christmas tree as a child anxiously awaiting to find the present box with my name on it. The power of memory is what brought this meal together.

Prompt: Describe the sensation of cutting into a steak.

As the steak is set down on a plate in front of me, I can feel my fingers tingling. They steady with the weight of the heavy steak knife in my grip. I pick up the fork and place it firmly into position. As I cut through, my mouth begins to salivate as I see the juices spilling from the pink center.

Prompt: Describe the sensation of eating a food texture that you really do not like. Push yourself to harness language and describe this sensation outside of typical food language.

When eating a food texture I dislike, it is like pushing on a fresh bruise. Super uncomfortable and almost painful experience. It feels as if my body is rejecting the food that has entered my mouth, immediately wanting to spit it out.

Prompt: You just spent $100 on a meal and found it tasted overly salty. Write a 2-3 sentence "review" with a sarcastic tone.

When one chooses to spend an hour dressing up, twenty minutes organizing transportation, and a week ensuring finances are in order for one plate full of food, clearly it is unreasonable for the customer to request that said food be edible. Nevertheless, after guiding the spoonful of "bisque" into my mouth, my tastebuds were violated by an underprepared, over-salted, glorified soup.

Foodie Literature Prompts You Can Weave into Non-Foodie Literature Classes

Prompt of the Day: Finding Meaning/Recognizing Meaning

What is the most recent meaningful meal or food that you have eaten? Questions for consideration:

The Family After the Meal (1891) Edouard Vuillard
The Family After the Meal (1891) Edouard Vuillard

What infused it with meaning?

  • How did you know it was meaningful?

  • Did you know it was meaningful while you were eating? Leading up to the meal? Or did you determine it was meaningful after reflection?

  • Were other people involved with making it meaningful? If so, who and why?

  • Did the type of food impact its meaning? If so, how?

  • Did the setting or other surrounding material factors impact its meaning?

  • Did calendar time or seasonality impact its meaning?

  • Is it something you could create or replicate again? If so or if not, how does that impact the food or meal’s meaning?

Prompt of the Day: The Power of Taste

Think back to the story of your earliest memory of taste or an early memory of taste and consider the following prompts:

Tell the story of this memory from your point of view now.

What do you remember about it?

  • What surrounds this memory? People? Place? Colors? Textures?

  • What emotions are connected to this taste from your memory?

  • Have you tasted this recently? If so, did the memory stay intact or did the taste change?

  • If you were to tell the story of this memory from your point of view as a child, how would it change?

Japan. Osaka. Railway Station. Children Eating Noodles. (1966) Mary Silverstone.
Japan. Osaka. Railway Station. Children Eating Noodles. (1966) Mary Silverstone.

Prompt of the Day: Your Dinner Party

Introduction to Judy Chicago's dinner party: Brooklyn Museum: The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago

If you were to create a symbolic Dinner Party, what would the central theme of your dinner party be? Why?

  • Who would have a place setting at the table? What would each of these guests figuratively "bring to the table"?

  • What table shape or arrangement would you use?

  • What would the setting of this dinner party be?

  • Would the food you served be important? If so, what would you serve?

  • What would the tone of the dinner party be?

  • How would you welcome everyone to the party and let them know it began?

  • How would you let your guests know the dinner party is over?

    • What other details might be important for your dinner party?

The Dinner Party (overview), Judy Chicago (1974-1979), Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art; Collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art
The Dinner Party (overview), Judy Chicago (1974-1979), Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art; Collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art

Prompt of the Day: Spiritual Nourishment

Please reflect on the following questions and respond. There are no wrong or right answers here.

  • What role(s) does food play in formal religion? How do religion and food intersect?

  • What metaphors around food exist in religion?

  • What role does eating play in your personal or your family's spirituality?

  • For you, where is God in relation to food?

  • What provides you with spiritual nourishment? Nourishment? Are these different? If so, how?

The Garden of Eden (1615) Brueghel the Elder, Jan Rubens, Peter Paul.
The Garden of Eden (1615) Brueghel the Elder, Jan Rubens, Peter Paul.

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