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Writing Prompt: Memories of Food

23 June, 2016

Green tomato pie

A couple of weeks ago, at the end of autumn here in the southern hemisphere, a friend collected her unripe tomatoes and gave them to me. Since then, I’ve been making different versions of green tomato pie. (Yes, it’s a dessert, not a savoury dish.)

As I chopped the tomatoes, childhood memories surfaced. My grandmother, knowing it was my favorite pie, always made one in tomato season if I was staying with her. At the time I took it for granted, but now I treasure it for the loving gesture it was.

Years later, in Australia, I worked on the outskirts of Sydney where market gardeners had their fields. I often bought green tomatoes from an elderly Italian farmer who kept a roadside vegetable stall. I could tell that he was puzzled when I searched through his tomatoes for the greenest ones. But he didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Italian.

As a writing prompt, the phrase remembering a food may elicit rich ideas.

  • Do  you have a pleasant memory about a particular food? Or a bad or scary memory?  Is there food that leads to nostalgia?
  • What about a hilarious food episode, real or imagined?
  • A food ritual, from the past or present.
  • A particular food, related to a specific place, such as a restaurant or a neighborhood.

Once you select a food to write about, consider if you want to write as if you’re in the past, or in the present reflecting on the past. Or try fiction, perhaps by exaggerating the real-life food experience you had.

One of the writing-about-food pieces I love is Garrison Keillor’s recitation on his radio program, about sweet corn. He talked so lovingly about this humble food that  I wanted to go out immediately and buy a few ears .

I was amused to find his additional comment about sweet corn:

Sweet corn is our family’s weakness. We were prepared to resist atheistic Communism, immoral Hollywood, hard liquor, gambling, dancing, smoking, fornication, but if Satan had come around with sweet corn, we at least would have listened to what he had to sell.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 23 June, 2016 5:34 pm

    Hi Marsha, I am not a writer as you know, but wow yes this topic certainly brings up some (now) humorous childhood memories for me. My dear Mum used to try to fill out meals with that nasty, tasteless, prickly-skinned, slimy so-called vegetable, the choko, which grew all year round on a vine on our back fence. It was baked on Sunday with the roast, chopped up in apple pies, diced in white sauce to have on toast as a breakfast “treat”, grilled, stir-fried,… UGH I don’t mind if I never eat one again. Much later we used to tease Mum when she would be happy to pay for a choko in a fruit shop. I think “food memories” is a great writing prompt.. my choko memories immediately evoke so many other emotions and recollections.


    • 23 June, 2016 9:04 pm

      Glad it worked for you.
      When I read the word ‘choko’, I felt immediate revulsion. I was introduced to them when I lived in FNQ. Real Depression ‘filler’ food. As for putting them in apple pies, I recently read a recipe called ‘Nothing in the House’ pie. That’s how desperate I would be to ever eat a choko!


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