Topic. Write an essay in which you show how food–its production, preparation, and/or consumption–affects everyday life beyond its obvious role as one of the basic necessities; that is, try to explore in your essay the cultural, psychological, and social influences of food on you and those around you. For example, explain how your childhood was defined by the constant struggle between you and your parents to get you to eat healthy foods; or describe the most elaborate meal that you have ever eaten, perhaps at a fancy restaurant, and how it made you feel. Also, you might relate your first experiences with growing a garden and enjoying fresh vegetables or catching and cooking your own fish on a camping trip. If your family still maintains its ethnic origins by preparing food from the old country, you might use your essay to describe such a meal and how it connects you to your roots. This is not a process analysis paper on how to prepare a certain dish; instead, you should use your essay to interpret the meaning of food in your own life and culture.
Audience and Purpose. Food is a necessity for life, but it is so much more than that. It is used in social settings to help members of a group bond and to make parties festive; it is used to pass from generation to generation family and national customs; it is used to make friends and observe special occasions; and it is used to the express artistic values of those who prepare it for consumption. Writing about the role of food in our lives can teach us much about ourselves and our culture. Interpreting the meaning of food in our lives can help readers understand life in general. Development Strategy. To develop this kind of personal essay, use division/classification (like the sample essay), comparison/contrast, or narration/description. Begin by brainstorming some interesting experiences you have had with food, and make a list of potential topics. Try to list eight or ten topics, and then choose the one that seems the most interesting. To test drive this topic, do some free writing for five or ten minutes to see what you have to say. If this results in some interesting material, try some focused free writing in which you use a specific strategy, such as narration or comparison/contrast, to organize your thoughts. If this results in a detailed, creative look at the art of eating okra or why your Cajun grandmother used food as bribery, try writing a thesis (main idea sentence) that will help you shape the first draft into a purposeful, coherent essay. If this works, share your first draft with a preliminary audience before writing a final draft. Develop your topic with specific supporting material from personal experiences and use sensory language to help readers experience the food you describe. Sample Topics
my first experience with haute cuisine at the Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans learning to like liver
watching my little brothers eat dinner: not a pretty sight
dining on exotic foods during a mission trip to the Caribbean how my mother cooks for six very different people without going crazy why breakfast foods are my favorite
on refusing to eat anything slimy
fresh vegetables from my grandparents’ garden: the ultimate in dining pleasure grilling the steaks as a manly act: how to wear an apron and still look macho on learning proper table etiquette during the potluck suppers held at church the cultural significance of ___________ cuisine
in quest of the perfect junk food
on the importance of not letting your foods touch each other on the plate: confessions of an obsessive/compulsive vegetarianism: not a disease
on saying grace before a meal
Aunt Virginia’s secret weapon, the best fried fruit pies you’ve ever eaten a total sensory experience: observing the kitchen on a busy night at Tavern on the Green putting the soul into soul food
why Thanksgiving dinner is more than a meal at the Salvation Army one of God’s most amazing...
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