Food-writing for the Break

The other day, my friends and I somehow got into the topic of cantaloupe and honeydew, and which was better. At one point, I chimed in, “The only difference is the color, isn’t it? I mean, they both taste the same, right?” I was met with torrents of dissent, and I slowly backed away, hoping my “never mind, never mind”s could make up for the apparent blasphemy.

My palette — and I’m using a very technical term here — sucks. My ability to taste foods beyond salty, sweet, sour, savory (umami), bitter, and whatever other flavors are out there is limited. I also tend to wolf down my food (Dating Tip #429), and my general attitude while cooking is, “Well, it all ends up in the same place, so whatever.”

The problem with this, as I’m starting to realize, is it doesn’t translate well to writing. Food is a marker of not only personal identity, but familial and cultural traditions. It’s a problem that I can taste the difference between my mother’s beef noodle soup and the local restaurant’s, but I don’t know what exactly is making this difference. I guess my mother’s is lighter, easier on the stomach and taste buds, but that’s not saying anything. How do I describe it further to make the food come to life? How do I use this dish to reveal an quality about my mother that makes her her?

Since it’s NaNoWriMo, and since it’s Thanksgiving (or as my professor calls it, the “National day of amnesia around genocide and displacement of Native peoples”), I think I’ll take this time to work on food-writing. For starters, I might touch base with this essay. If everything goes well, I might actually taste the secret ingredient that my family-friend aunt said she was going to try with the turkey. We’ll see.

Happy Holidays, everyone! Enjoy the break!

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