STEP 1: To practice reflection, this activity asks you to write about something very important—food. First, spend five minutes making a list of every food or drink you remember from childhood.
It might look like this:
- Plain cheese quesadillas, made by my mom in the minuscule kitchenette of our one-bedroom apartment
- “Chicken”-flavored ramen noodles, at home alone after school
- Cayenne pepper cherry Jell-O at my grandparents’ house
- Wheat toast slathered in peanut butter before school
- Lime and orange freeze-pops
- My stepdad’s meatloaf—ironically, the only meatloaf I’ve ever liked
- Cookie Crisp cereal (“It’s cookies—for breakfast!”)
- Macintosh apples and creamy Skippy peanut butter
- Tostitos Hint of Lime chips and salsa
- Love Apple Stew that only my grandma can make right
- Caramel brownies, by my grandma who can’t bake anymore
STEP 2: Then, identify one of those foods that holds a special place in your memory. Spend another ten minutes free-writing about the memories you have surrounding that food. What makes it so special? What relationships are represented by that food? What life circumstances? What does it represent about you? This response doesn’t need to be formatted in any particular way—just write about what memories and feelings come to mind. It should be at least 200 words.
Here’s one sample response below. Note that he starts by writing about the first item on the food list, but then goes on to write about his mom and his relationship with his dad. There is no right way to write your about your food item—you too should feel free to let your reflective writing guide you.
My mom became a gourmet chef in my eyes with only the most basic ingredients. We lived bare bones in a one-bedroom apartment in the outskirts of Denver; for whatever selfless reason, she gave the four-year-old the bedroom and she took a futon in the living room. She would cook for me after caring for other mothers’ four-year-olds all day long: usually plain cheese quesadillas (never any sort of add-ons, meats, or veggies—besides my abundant use of store-brand ketchup) or scrambled eggs (again, with puddles of ketchup). We would eat them together on the futon in the living room, sometimes watching the evening news, and on rare occasions, watching re-runs of my favorite shows.
When I was 6, my dad eventually used ketchup as a rationale for my second stepmom: “Shane, look! Judy likes ketchup on her eggs too!” But it was my mom I remembered cooking for me every night—not Judy, and certainly not my father. So I even surprised myself when I said, “I don’t like that anymore. I like barbecue sauce on my eggs.” That’s what Judy served me nearly every weekend until I was ten years old. I never touched the barbecue sauce.
STEP 3: Write a paragraph reflecting on this activity (at least 75 words). Was it easy to write about one of the foods on your list? Were you surprised in any way by your own response? What did you enjoy or dislike about this activity? Why? What lessons can you learn about yourself as a writer from participating in this activity?