Food Writing for Betty Fussell

On Wednesday, June 14th I participated in the Writing Workshop “Migrating Media: Byting Words” led by Betty Fussell. This was part of the annual food studies conference of ASFS andAFHVS. This year’s meeting is taking place at Occidental College in Pasadena. The conference hashtag is #oxyfood17

I thought I’d post my work for the workshop on the blog as yet another example of literary food studies. My goal is to document what I did in the 3 hour class. Prompts are highlighted in bold and my writing is featured below each. I’ve decided not to edit further, in order to preserve the spontaneity of the in-class writing that resulted from such wonderful engagement with a scholar whose work I admire.

Prompt 1: How do you know the Rocher is real? Write 5 sentences, one per sense, describing the experience.

The first indication I have that the candy is chocolate is its brown color. Then, I bring it up to my nose where I detect sweet, chocolatey aroma combined with hazelnuts. As I hold the candy, the warmth of my fingers makes it begin to melt. I bring it to my mouth and as I bite the candy, the warmth of my fingers makes it begin to melt. I bring it to my mouth and as I bite the candy my teeth crunch down to the smooth and creamy center, which my tongue holds on to until it dissolves into the memory of chocolate. I hear the different crunching noises produced as my teeth cut through the hazelnut bits and notice the silence as my tongue takes over and flutters across the creamy center.

Prompt 2: Turn the description into a blog post

How better to indulge a midsummer nostalgia for Christmas than to bite into a crunchy, nutty Ferrero Rocher candy? When others are licking their fingers sticky with fried chicken grease or melted ice cream, it’s easy to invoke chillier days just by crunching on something most of us only eat in December. Peppermint has become much too commonplace; and no one will ever admit to chowing on fruit cake. But, just one bite of this upgraded Nutella is sure to make us dream of White Christmases to come. Better get started on my list!

Prompt 3: Turn the blog post into a tweet

ASFS Tweet

Prompt 4 Email your mother and tell her not to eat chocolate:

Hola, Mami  (in real life, mom, don’t read this!)

I know you are trying to eat more carefully now that you’ve been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I worry, too, not just because I know how big a sweet tooth you have, but also because your dad’s hypoglycemia and our Latino heritage puts our family at a higher risk of developing the disease and its many complications.

So, what if you just eliminate chocolate? The kind made in the US is mostly sugar, anyway. There’s no real reason to have this one indulgence.

Save up the calories and have Swiss chocolate just once a year. Make up our own special holiday, and eat good chocolate then. Afterwards, abstain the rest of the year. I promise you won’t even miss the Hershey’s.



Prompt 5: Magazine essay piece: California’s migrating cultures / food

California Eatin’ on the Run

Though the traffic routinely alternates between a crawl and a mad dash til the next stop light, food in California is always on the go. You can find drive-throughs everywhere, but how nice is it to sit at a park watching your kids play and have the ice cream hand-truck walk by and sell you a paleta or a shaved ice to slake your thirst? On every corner, you’ll see Los Angelenos carrying their smoothies, or green juices, or lattes as they text and talk to their peers. Food moves in California–both around you and across the globe.

Just like celebrities, respected cuisines with staid reputations get facelifts and seem imbued with new youthfulness and relevance. Just see what Alice Waters did for Provencal cuisine, or how Wolfgang Puck made a new name for his accented takes on regional cuisines by boxing them up and installing vending machine type outlets at the airports–talk about food that goes places!

California’s the home of the Korean taco truck, something which could only have come about after the riots, once Korean Americans felt themselves at home enough again to put their stamp on local delicacies. And, what about the new prominence that kimchi’s gained in breakfast food plates alongside omelettes, where once such pairings would have been verboten?

The donut shop is yet another seemingly stationary business model that’s been up-ended by Angeleno ingenuity. Lucky Peach did a feature on the Lucha-Donut Man of East Los Angeles. And, while we’re speaking of pastries, did you know that Japanese American bakers made the confections we’ve come to call “Chinese fortune cookies” in their bakeries in California until Executive Order 9066 forced them to sell their business in a hurry to their Chinese neighbors when the United States let fear rule its policy making and rounded up those newly minted “foreign agents” or “enemy combatants” to an internal exile.  Yes, Jennifer 8. Lee’s compelling genealogy of this kitschy take-out dessert unearths its forced transmission across cultures. Fortune cookies are their own kind of culinary refugees.

Everything old is new again in the Golden State, even if only because new people are always arriving with stars in their eyes and a rumble in their tummies. Yes, the food moves, and we catch up to it, if only during rush hour.


This was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about how to write spontaneously, while not listening to my internalized critic. I can’t help but edit while I go, but it’s also nice to have clearly defined tasks to perform within a time-limit. The whole thing felt like a very fun game.


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