One of my favorite restaurants in Ann Arbor has about three long community tables. When Jesse and I walk in, we are handed a crisp cream menu with five to six dishes that are being served that night. This is a farm-to-table restaurant, and you don’t come back hoping for the same dish because each day the chef makes something different. Each day he must look at what he’s been given and see what he can create with those ingredients.
Our excitement grows as Jesse and I get closer to ordering. Many times we’ll request something, and the waiter will shake his head, and say, “We ran out.” We have to be ready to try something else — something strange, something new — and we are happy to do so because we not only trust that whatever we eat will be great, but we also want to stay and sit and talk for a while in this place.
This concept is similar to the way I write. I take a look at what I have — my memories, the events of my days, my thoughts — and I see what kind of story I can make with these “ingredients.” And when something doesn’t go as I planned, when something new comes up, I have to decide if I want to stay in the story and see where it will go.
For one meal, Jesse and I sat at the bar of this restaurant and talked to the guy who took the orders as we sipped wine he’d recommended. We admired the exposed shelves with stacks of white dishes, mugs, and glasses. It was a simple and cozy set-up, and we agreed it’d be nice to do this same thing in our kitchen. We shared a cheese and meat tray with pickled vegetables, their color popped from soaking in vinegar. It reminded me of my Grandma Ayanoglou, who used to pickle cauliflower. She always kept a jar in her fridge, and to this day I think it’s the only way cauliflower should be eaten.
At the end of the night, Jesse pushed the last of the pickled vegetables towards me, and I picked up a purple carrot. “I had no idea there was such a thing as a purple carrot,” I said, snapping it in half and giving him a piece.
“Who knew?” Jesse said, popping it into his mouth. “And who knew it would be so delicious?”
This week’s prompt comes straight from Tania Runyan’s How To Write A Poem. Chapter nine is titled “Get Your Exercise,” and in it are several poetry prompts to try. This one is about food: “Choose a food to highlight in a poem, but don’t just stop at taste. Write about how the food looks, sounds, smells, and feels. ‘Feels’ should include not only the sense of touch, but emotion.”
If you’re in the mood for different writing fare besides poems, try the same prompt, but use it to open a story or a nonfiction recollection.
Featured Poem Excerpt
Thanks to everyone who participated in our recent poetry prompt. Here’s part of a poem from Trish that we enjoyed.
…a prayer pose of harvest.
Constant creeping forward motion,
head bowed and hands grasping,
Time is measured by shrinking shadows…
Callie Feyen’s students are blessed, as are the teachers who will read her book (and their own students, who will in turn benefit from it). But more than that, there’s the special excitement of reading the first memoir of a young writer with a compelling voice. Brava!
—John Wilson, Editor, Books & Culture, 1995-2016