Cornbread muffinAs I mentioned in this post, I attended a writing workshop with coach Dianne Jacob. While my friend Lisa waxed poetic about my grapefruit-avocado-kumquat salad, I wrote about cornbread.

We had ten minutes to choose food from the potluck offerings and use it as inspiration for sensory writing. Here’s what I came up with:

A bite of cornbread takes me back to the Heartland Cafe on Chicago’s north side in the mid-1980s. It was a groovy, crunchy-granola, hippy hangout, and I loved making the trek up there, especially in the winter. The wind off Lake Michigan would cut through every layer of clothing you had put on, right to the bone. We would trundle in like Michelin men, and the warm air would hit you like stepping into a toasty oven. The windows would be steamy from the heat of the kitchen. You’d take a seat at a table with mismatched chairs, knowing that you would look at the menu but inevitably order the same thing: chili with cornbread.

The cornbread was served by the slab, the size of two or three regular servings, with cold butter pats and honey. The trick was to cut it in half crosswise, still warm from the oven, unwrap the gold foil, nestle the butter inside until it melted, then slather on the honey.

I can’t eat cornbread without thinking about that restaurant, that time in my life, or the warm cozy feeling that inevitably returns.

My takeaways from the day will be helpful to anyone who writes.

  • Believe that you have something worthwhile to say.
  • Use hefty action verbs.
  • Good writing tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Every first draft sucks. Get over it and edit.
  • Use similes, metaphors, and unusual adjectives to spice up your writing. But remember that the story is more important than fancy words.
  • For food writers: You can use food to talk about ANY subject. This was actually a revelation to me, but think about it. You can talk about politics, sex, gardening, the environment, family, travel, religion—all through food.

If you’re in Southern California and would like to take this food writing workshop, Dianne is offering it again on May 19, 2012 in North Tustin. Many thanks to Dianne for coming down to be with us for the day, Liz the Chef for hosting, and the other food bloggers for sharing the day:

Awake At The Whisk: Amber
Confessions of a Foodie: Ani
Love, Veggies, and Yoga: Averie
Meandering Eats: Marie
Rustic Garden Bistro: Kim
The Gonzo Gourmet: Lisa
There’s a Newf in My Soup: Denise
Vintage Sugar Cube: Jenny

Do you have a favorite cornbread memory? Does the thought of taking a writing workshop excite or terrify you?