I found the perfect spot for a pre-Mother's Day dinner through online reviews. One said the place was small and the wait might be long, but we were able to skip a long wait and push two tables together to dine al fresco on the small sidewalk out front in what can be described as perfect weather.
What made me select this particular restaurant? The description of the featured dish. One reviewer called it "haunting," as in, the flavor will haunt you until you go back and eat there again. How could anyone ignore that recommendation? I couldn't, and was not disappointed.
The dish was the perfect mixture of sweetness and spice combined in a range of textures that could only be described as pleasurable. Crunchy noodles and tender chicken were abundant in the creamy sauce that spoke to me in the secret language of my ancestors. While I ate, my entire world consisted of the few inches between a white bowl on a black, metal table, and my face above it. But that space contained everything I needed. More than once I had to ask someone to repeat a comment or a question because I had gone missing in a bowl of soup.
The world is explained through metaphors, comparisons and similes. I love figurative language, and have been paying special attention to the way it's used to describe what we eat, where we eat it, and who is eating it. As the food movement in the U.S. continues to expand, dining out (or in) has become an art form, and foodies have developed their own jargon.
Food can be a metaphor for communion because it nourishes the body and soul as people come together to partake. Food also is a metaphor for sex, by satisfying our desires. There are many idioms related to food, and for a fun list, click the following link for examples.
Food also can play a big role when you write a character. A couple of examples from my book, Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, show how a writer can use food to make someone likable or distasteful (pun intended!).
He devoured life like he devoured a great meal, with zest and gusto.
He had a hearty appetite.
He wolfed down his food like he hadn't eaten in days, dropping globs of mashed potatoes and gravy on his shirt and tie.
I also love a good restaurant description, which helps the reader visualize the room with phrases like: several oversized tables crammed together in a too-small space, faded curtains, and a greasy, laminated menu.
Finally, I'll show you how a hamburger is more than just a hamburger in Glenn Savan's 1987 best-seller, White Palace:
They taste like sin would taste, if you could eat it--don't you think?
That's one of the greatest similes of all time. How are you using food in your writing?
Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges. She received the Writing Certificate from UM-St. Louis, and is suddenly hungry for White Castle hamburgers.