Monday, July 16, 2012


Before our oldest son moved to New York City and married a New York girl, my husband and I were pretty timid when it came to restaurants. We almost always chose the same chain restaurants with American style food.  But entertaining New Yorkers, accustomed to a wide variety of ethnic cuisine, forced us to broaden our palates. We didn't want to be called boring by our adult children.

So the first time I tried Indian food, I was with my son and daughter-in-law at an independent local restaurant I had found in a coupon book and hoped was good. I didn’t really care if I liked the food or not. I just wanted my kids to be impressed that I had suggested something other than Outback or Olive Garden.

The restaurant was decorated in red and black. There was an open beaded curtain draping the entrance to the dining area that jingled softly as we walked through. When we sat down at a polished black wood table, the waiter told us the meal was a buffet.  We went up to the serving line to see an assortment of colorful dishes in steaming metal hot trays. Each one contained vegetables and/or meat in a dark sauce. No plain meat patties or white potatoes in sight. Spices I later learned were cumin and tumeric tickled my nose. A creamed spinach with homemade cheese chunks caught my eye. Everything was labeled clearly, so I knew that the brown lumpy substance in front of me was eggplant and onions, not a mystery meat. I took little portions of several things before going back for seconds. Some of the foods were a little spicy for my previously unadventurous palate, but I found most of them very flavorful and a nice change from more bland American style fare. I especially enjoyed the sweet carrot pudding on the dessert table. I’ve always been a fan of carrot cake and tapioca pudding. The Indian carrot pudding was a soupy mixture of them both.

All in all, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Indian food. From that time on, I’ve eaten at several different Indian restaurants and always enjoyed it. In fact, Indian food was my choice for a birthday and Mother’s Day treat in recent years.

So that’s my story of trying a new type of food for the first time. What’s your story? If you are looking for an easy structured lesson to demonstrate beginning, middle, and end, try asking your students to describe the first time they tried a new food. Ask them to answer the following questions in sequence:

1. Where were you and who was with you?
2. Why did you try the new food?

3. Describe the food and the place where you ate it, with sensory details. How did it taste, smell, look, etc? Can you compare it to other foods or experiences?

4. What did you learn? Would you try the food again?

Conclusions, which are often hard for young writers, are particularly easy to develop when writing about a new food experience. It is natural to discuss one’s decision to eat the food again or not. With luck, this concept will transfer to narratives on other topics, such as vacations or accidents. Would you like to go there again? Did the experience teach you something about yourself?

So try asking your students to write about the first time they tasted a new food. And when you present the idea, describe a new food experience of your own. Students love to learn more about their teachers and when you write the prompt yourself first, you can give them a model to follow.


  1. Thanks for this post! It gave me an idea for my own writing this week and I'll definitely try it out with my fourth graders in the fall. I like the way you broke down the ideas of beginning, middle, and end so clearly.

  2. Jacqueline,
    what a great writing exercise and a show-and-tell all in one.

  3. what a great writing exercise and a show-and-tell all in one.