We’re now in that “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” so beautifully described by John Keats; and with pumpkins and Halloween candy highly visible, many a person’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of food (to adapt Tennyson’s spring-time line to autumn).
Food is a great connector, joining people within and across time, regions, countries, and ethnicities. Nothing can generate a spirited classroom or family discussion quicker than mention of a favorite (or detested) food. I’ve done the following prompt with kids and adults alike.
1. Ask students to name their favorite food.
2. Have them close their eyes and call to mind a time when they prepared or ate it. With their eyes closed, have them focus on each of the five senses, one at a time: What do they notice about this particular food, on their plate or in their hand? Are there any particular sounds associated with this food or with the eating or preparing of it? What about smells? Taste? Touch, as in the temperature of the food and the texture in the mouth? Ask whether they are eating alone or with a group and what else they might notice about the setting or occasion.
3. Have them open their eyes and write, using at least three of their five senses, and trying to give a sense of where and when the food was eaten.
4. Share some descriptions with class. For students writing about the same food, have class point out differences and similarities in descriptions. Discuss how each person brings something different and unique to the description because each writer is unique and will notice different things/have different experiences to draw from.
Two helpful websites and their attendant blogs link food, children’s books and writing and education:
http://jamarattigan.com/ -- Jama’s Alphabet Soup, written by children’s author and foodie Jama Kim Rattigan, is self-described as “an eclectic feast of food, fiction and folderol.” It’s a delightful feast, indeed, with recipes, writing reflections and interviews with children’s authors and illustrators.
http://jeanraiford.com/ -- Preschool Parfait, developed by preschool teacher Jean Raiford, provides seasonal activities and recipes that playfully enhance the early learning environment in reading, science, math and social and physical skills.