Using Food as an Inspiration for Writing

It’s Blogathon 2011 Exchange Day! Today’s post is written by blogger friend Jennifer Walker, who writes a cooking blog called My Morning Chocolate. I always look forward to Jennifer’s posts because we share a passion for both cooking and writing. She writes from the heart, and I can always count on a recipe that I’ll love. After you read Jennifer’s post here, head over to her blogsite to read my post about Blueberry Bran Muffins!

Using Food as an Inspiration for Writing

I’ve been bugging my grandmother and great-aunt, now 86 and 83, to teach me how to make Polish food for years. Last year, after I started my food blog and was looking for story ideas, they finally relented.

Kartoflane Kluski, a Polish potato dumpling dish

Through cooking pierogi and kartoflake kluski – handheld pockets filled with sauerkraut or cheese and potato dumplings respectively – I learned about the Baltimore community where my grandmother and great-aunt grew up, and about my great-grandmother, who I’ve never met.

I did write about these dishes on my blog, but I also found that cooking with my family was an even better springboard for writing about them. So I turned these bits and pieces of information into a reported essay about my family’s history, as well as the history of the Polish community in my hometown.

Here are a few ideas for using food as a way to write about your family and community:

1. Think about what you ate when you were younger. I actually don’t remember eating Polish food when I was younger, maybe because I was a picky eater. But think about what you ate during holiday get-togethers and birthdays. Think about whether you liked the dishes, and what they meant to you when you were younger. If there are any dishes particular to your culture, learn the history behind them and why your relatives continued to make the recipes.

2. Follow the food’s trail. I learned a lot about my great-grandmother because my grandmother and great-aunt told me about her food. For example, she used to make duck’s blood soup, cutting off the head of a duck and draining the blood herself. If I hadn’t starting cooking with my family, I probably never would have heard this story about a dish that only could have been made in a different time. See how far back you can trace your family’s recipes, and what these recipes tell you about the time period and the relatives you’ve never met.

3. Ask your family to cook with you. There’s a reason the kitchen is the center of so many people’s homes. Food just gets people talking. When I made Polish cookies with my family, I learned that my grandmother craved them constantly when she was pregnant. It’s a small detail, but a good one to use in a story. The good news is that you don’t even need to have old family recipes. If you cook hamburgers and French fries, ask your family members if they ate hamburgers and French fries when they were younger. The stories will flow from there.

What food did you eat when you were younger? Have you ever used food as a way to write about family or place?

Jennifer Walker was once deciding whether to go to graduate school for writing or cooking school. Writing won, but she decided to start a blog, My Morning Chocolate, to learn more about cooking. She hopes she writes posts that provide delicious inspiration for people who wake up thinking about food.


  1. Bach says:

    I loved BOTH of your posts, and nothing excites me more than combining my two loves: food and writing. My mom and I wrote a novel, Depression Cookies, based on our family’s favorite snack. Saltine crackers, peanut butter and a marshmallow put under the broiler until slightly brown: life’s perfect combination of salty and sweet.

  2. Julia, thanks so much for having me as a guest poster for the day! It was fun to write about food and writing at the same time. And like I said, Regina’s muffins were delicious!

  3. Julia and Jen … wonderful blog post! Of course I had to keep reading when I saw Jennifer’s blog is called My Morning Chocolate. My kind of thinking! And speaking of chocolate, the family ‘food’ tradition for all holidays in my rural NW Pennsylvania town was “gobs.” Some people call them whoopie pies. They’re two chocolate sandwich cookies filled with sweet buttercream-like icing. Too much for some people, but I don’t have a problems shoveling into my pie hole! 🙂 Great ideas on how to pull stories from the family well by using food as conversation!

  4. Love this post! I’ve already eaten lunch, but now I’m hungry all over again. I have always loved experiencing new food and new cultures. Your picture of kartoflake kluski, Jennifer, had me drooling! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Liz says:

    OMG – Polish girl here and you have my mouth watering! I’d take sauerkraut and pierogi any day!

  6. Bach, So glad you enjoyed both posts! I think my mom and grandmother used to make those Depression cookies, or something like it, too! Thanks so much for the visit and the comment!

    Jen, So glad we exchanged! Let’s do it again soon!

    Melissa, I love the family food stories. And what’s not to love about chocoate and buttercream frosting — as you say, called Whoopie Pies here in New England. I like “gobs” more, sounds exactly what they look like!

    Jolina, Glad you enjoyed the post! Too bad we can’t all have lunch together! 🙂

    Liz, Glad that Jen and I could give you a Polish food fix! 🙂

  7. Ann says:

    Both blogs were lovely this morning – what a delight to share! I love polish food and was first introduced by my husbands family with perogies. Like you – with a cooking blog of my own – food is my writing inspiration. Keep up the GREAT work on the blog-athon….I’m enjoying every entry!

  8. I love this image of the kitchen bringing families (and their stories) together. Sadly, I’m a horrible cook, and actually kind of dread it. But my kids and I laugh over my various culinary catastrophes. That’s what they will remember. 🙂

  9. Alison Law says:

    Jennifer and Julia, such a great blog exchange for the #blog2011 blogathon. Food brings us some strong associations and this is good “food for thought.” Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

  10. babyhellfire says:

    I LOVEd this post ,thank you both

  11. Ann, So glad you enjoyed both blog posts! It was such fun to exchange with a blogging friend! I checked out your blog and it’s great!

    Amanda, See?! Another way cooking brings families together! It’s great to share all those catastrophes together — I love the things my kids remember about me!

    Alison, So glad you dropped by and visited my blog! It’s been really fun exchanging posts with a blogging friend. Yes, it’s is definitely food for thought! 🙂

    babyehllfire, So glad you enjoyed this post! And thanks for the visit to my blog!

  12. Leah says:

    Really great post! As someone who loves both food and writing, I can so relate to the topic. And I’m excited I now have a new food blog to check out. Heading over there now.

  13. Hi Julia and everyone, thanks so much for commenting and sharing your food stories!

    Bach and Meliissa: Your saltine, peanut butter, and marshmallow crackers and whoopie pies sound delicious. I wish I had some to sample right now!

    Jolina: Glad you liked the picture!

    Liz: Sauerkraut pierogi are my favorite. Yum!

    Amanda, my mom doesn’t like to cook, but she made one dish when I was younger that I loved. It was pork with an onion sauce made from a packet. I still remember the taste very well. I’m sure you have meals that are making an impression on your kids too!

  14. Leah, So glad you found Jen’s blog through mine! We foodies stick together 🙂