I recently led a food writing workshop called “Read It, Write It, Eat It” through Nashville Story Studio, which might not seem like that big a deal — read some passages, suggest some writing exercises, and in this case, serve some brunch. But you know how the mind works.
I worried that people wouldn’t like the stories I chose. I worried that I wouldn’t put enough salt in the soup. My plates and bowls don’t even match.
Still, I divided the session by brunch courses. During the biscuits and bourbon course we read Carson McCullers, Edna Lewis and listened to Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Bille Joe, a favorite example of Southern gothic in song.
Over bowls of butternut squash, pear and leek soup, I read Laurie Colwin:
The pasta course (linguine with caramelized onions, fried eggs and bacon) called for an essay from the New York Times Eat, Memory collection with sentences like this one:
“…he served us a slow-cooked Bolognese sauce of such earthy sweetness and meaty depth that it seemed at once ancient and new…”
We read other stories by famous writers, too, but through it all, it’s the seven workshop participants who bowled me over with their writing.
I’m shy about sharing my work. All of it. I just have to pretend no one will see it. Then I hold my breath, grit my teeth, count down from five and hit post.
Yet this group of women shared their beautiful stories easily and freely. Participants I wouldn’t have expected to read opened up about the biscuit-making process bringing up tough issues like the failed memory of a loved one. They wrote about nicknames at Thanksgivings, testy family members and soup as remembered through the haze of sickness.
I can’t speak for what they learned, but I know they left me full of inspiration from their words, courage, creativity and openness in expressing themselves.
As we read in Allen Shawn’s essay, Family Menu, “…how vast and mysterious we all are.”
I’ll be hosting more of these workshops, so please send me a message
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if interested. Here’s the official workshop description:
From Proust’s madeleine to Quentin Tarantino’s Royale with Cheese, food has long served as a writer’s muse. In these workshops, we’ll read and discuss excerpts from fiction, nonfiction, poetry and
even listen to song inspired by food. We’ll explore the ways food can help us make deeper emotional connections in our work. And we’ll eat, of course, as some dishes will be inspired by what we read while others will inspire us to write our own stories.