Sometimes, when I was a child, my grandpa would make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. Since he lived in LA and we lived in Seattle, he would overnight air them up to us and we would reheat them in the oven.
Cinnamon rolls are honestly a terrible Christmas morning breakfast — talk about a sugar crash — and at my house as an adult our holiday breakfast tends towards luxury meats: prosciutto, fennel salami. But those cinnamon rolls were perfect. The icing, the buttery cinnamon dough. The gratuitous drama of the overnight shipment, the suspense of not knowing if they would arrive in time or at all.
We knew my grandpa mostly through phone calls, which often felt like weekly progress reports (yes, my math is going well and yes, I’ve been practicing my flute). Baking was my grandpa’s joy, and the cinnamon rolls were how we knew that in him. Still, every cinnamon roll I eat is held up to my memory of those overnighted treats.
Food is such a rich and complicated convergence of sustenance, survival, culture, family, emotion, and memory. Writing about food and everything it touches is equally rich. I like to write about food every year with my students, partly as a way to practice evocative sensory detail, and partly because most people have something to say on the topic. If not, it’s still a decent jumping-off place into other things.
A few food-writing ideas:
Write about a food you love. Try to make us taste and smell it.
Write about a food you hate. Really describe how gross it is.
Write about a food that reminds you of someone you love. When and where do you eat that food? What is it like? Can you hear or see the person it reminds you of in your mind?
Write about a food tradition in your family. Is there a food you eat for a certain holiday? How about for birthdays? Who cooks it? What does it smell/taste/look like?
Write about dinner or breakfast in your family. Who do you eat with? Where? What do you eat?
Write about eating alone.
Write about a food you ate once but can still taste.
Write about a food you never want to eat again.
Write about what you like to cook or prepare. How do you make that food? How do you make it good?
Write about family recipes. You might want to ask your family for one.
Ask your relatives to tell you about foods they ate as kids, or foods that remind them of their parents or grandparents.
Write about the most perfect, delicious, amazing meal you can imagine.
Write about your favorite fruit.