In celebration of thanksgiving, my latest writing challenge (check it out here), asked that you submit writing samples to me that all focused centrally around food. I have to say, I got incredible submissions this time--each submission was unexpected, and subverted the expectation of "coziness" or homeliness usually attached to descriptions of meal-time.
All of the submissions deserved to be winners, but I've picked only two below out of the pot...because, well, because otherwise I would go broke trying to buy prizes for everyone! I'll be sending Elizabeth and Zoe copies of Like Water for Chocolate, the seminal book of magical realism in which food and story are seamlessly intertwined.
Incidentally, both writing samples below could also be used to teach an MFA course in the importance of cliff-hangers/great first pages. I mean, for real!
Eating for Two, by Elizabeth Parker (check out her blog here.)
She let her eyes wander lustfully over the Thanksgiving dinner. The table was stocked with all sorts of goodies: pecan pie, turkey with all the trimmings, mashed potatoes with gravy, and some sort of Jello-covered substance that Tom’s infamous
Aunt Myrtle had brought. She was so, so hungry, and the food all looked delicious.
Tom took her hand as he and his family bowed their heads to say the prayer over the meal. They had been dating for a little over six months now, and although she trusted him with her life, she still hadn’t told him all of her secrets.
The prayer finished, and the family was finally able to eat. With a tremulous glance down at her pants which were already too tight, she took heaping portions of each of the plates stacked on the table, and started to cram food into her mouth. Slow down, she told herself, but her brain didn’t listen. Soon enough, she was completely stuffed; yet, when another pie, this time apple, was offered, she was the first to accept a piece.
When everyone was done eating, she excused herself to go to the bathroom.
She was a pro at this by now: she turned the water on first to mask the sound of her retching. After she finished, she sat on the toilet, ashamed of herself; she had been trying to stop for the past few months, but it hadn’t been working. She loved food too much.
Before she even noticed, the door was opening. It was Tom. He slowly looked at her, sitting on the floor covering her knees, and then at the vomit-encrusted toilet.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Her mind raced. She couldn’t tell him the truth. Not now.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.
Apple Pie, by Zoe MacDonald
There are few things in this world that I remember. Laundry, homework, lyrics or where I left my license are just examples. The one thing I’ll never forget is my mom’s apple pie.
My mom’s apple pie was just the way it should be – not like the stuff people think they can just get from the grocery store and still pass it off as ‘wonderful’.
It was always the first indication that maybe, just maybe, things were going to get better, the smell of cinnamon throughout the entire house. Even before the pie was started, the house smelt like warm pie-ish cinnamon.
Then would come the peeling of apples. My mom worked hard to make sure that the peels stayed attached – in one piece. Snakes, she called them and if I was home, I would get to eat them as she sliced the apples up into tiny slivers.
She was so particular with this that by the time she was done, I would run away, my attention needed for something far more important.
When it was done, usually by the time I got home school when I was older, the pie would be sitting on the pie rack, cooling down. It was practically picture perfect, a little cut out in the center, steam rising up, the whole house smelling like a scented candle.
My mom would serve it when it was ready in her eyes -not before then - and it would just be exactly how an apple pie should be soft apples and sweet, flaky crust – perfect.
The pie always meant something good, that she was getting better, getting what was making her happy.
I guess it makes sense then that the day she killed herself, the pie was sitting on the pie rack, waiting to be served.
Okay, so neither submission actually makes you want to eat, but...sheesh! They sure make you want to read on. I should also say, as someone who has gotten a lot of flak from parents about the "content" of my books (Before I Fall references drinking, sex, suicide, and bulimia, among other issues), it is actually somewhat nice to know that I am not the only one interested in honestly exploring some of the darker and more problematic issues out there! Take that, censorship!