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Exercise: Can you taste it?

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingwor kshop.org/).

Prepared by: Florence Cardinal
Posted on: May 26, 2002

This is a rerun of an exercise that we did about a year ago. This week, let's concentrate on taste. We'd like you to describe a special meal. This can be a meal you've eaten in a restaurant, in a friend's home, or one you've prepared yourself. Or it can be a meal one of your characters would eat. What sensations go with that meal, and what emotions might be revealed?

Remember, though, that a great many things enter into our enjoyment of food. All the senses come into play. So don't just shove a fork full of the meal down our throats. Let us experience it thoroughly, through all five of the senses. As an example, what if you were describing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's home. You walk in the door, and, right after your host takes your coat (or even before) what greets you? The aromas! Roasting turkey, onions, sage. Perhaps the spicy scent of baking pumpkin pies.

You hear the laughter of children, voices raised in greeting, the clink of silverware and crystal as the table is set. Perhaps soft music plays on the stereo. Take a look in the dining room at a table set with the best china and sparkling glasses. Perhaps a centerpiece of fall flowers, pine cones, autumn leaves. A crisp white tablecloth almost buried beneath the sumptuous feast.

After you're seated, your host opens a bottle of wine. You hear the cork, then the sounds of the wine being poured into a glass. Bubbles sparkle in the golden liquid. You take a sip, it feels cold on your tongue. Someone passes you a dish filled with corn on the cob. You take one ear of corn, and it's hot, almost burning your fingers.

And finally, after all the other senses, there's taste. The tang of onions and sage, corn on the cob, dripping with butter, sweet and salty, succulent squash, smooth mashed potatoes and brown gravy tingling your mouth with peppery herbs. A side dish of celery attracts your attention. Listen to the crisp crunch as you bite into it. As a final touch - hot pumpkin pie garnished with a scoop of cold ice cream. Taste it. Feel it on your tongue.

I've only skimmed the surface of this meal, just to give you an example of what we'd like you to write about.

Now think of other situations - what would the last meal of a man about to be executed taste like, however delicious the food might be? How about the first meal in days of someone hungry, however poor the fare?

So here's the exercise. In 300 words or less, describe a special meal. Through it, without any other indications, give us a clue of the character(s)'s emotions at the time.

When critiquing a submission, pay attention to the sensory detail, and tell us what impression you got of what was happening to the characters.

Florence Cardinal's wrap-up
Posted on: June 1, 2002

The response to this exercise has been, once again, terrific. So many subs, so many tastes - from roast turkey to salmon to salad, and some that were, to say the least, surprising, like chocolate and Scotch, and a very unexpected variety of meat.

Some of you remembered a taste because of the memories and emotions that accompanied it. My only complaint was that some of the tastes appeared only in the last couple of paragraphs after a lengthy build up. True, taste comprises more than just -- well, taste, and some of the background was interesting and needed. But it would have been better if hints of the tastes to savor had been sprinkled among the other sensations and experiences.

But, all in all, a very satisfactory week. Time to move on to the next exercise which Rheal will be posting soon.


Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.