Course Syllabus

Honest to Goodness: Introduction to Writing the Food Memoir

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No genre is more powerful at examining what nourishes and sustains us than the food memoir.

In this five-week intensive course, we will take inspiration from work in top-tier publications such as Bon Appétit, the New Yorker, and the New York Times. You will explore ways to incorporate food (both literally and symbolically) into your own writing, brainstorm food-inspired stories you want to tell, *spice* up your prose, and ultimately write and workshop a pair of personal essays in two distinct styles, using food as a vehicle for storytelling. The final week of the course will focus on best practices for submitting food memoir essays for publication.

How it works:

Each week provides:
  • discussions of assigned readings and other general writing topics with peers and the instructor
  • written lectures and a selection of readings
Some weeks also include:
  • writing prompts and/or assignments
  • the opportunity to submit one or more flash essays for instructor and/or peer review
  • an optional video conference that is open to all students (and which will be available afterward as a recording for those who cannot participate)

Aside from the live conference, there is no need to be online at any particular time of day.
To create a better classroom experience for all, you are expected to participate weekly in class discussions to receive instructor feedback.

Week 1: The Food Memoir: What is it?

We’ll begin with an overview of the food memoir genre—personal stories involving food preparation and/or consumption. In the first weeks of the course, we’ll focus on descriptive food writing. You will read a sampling of personal essays that describe everything from a father’s preparation process for his famous Persian rice, to a chef’s attempt to produce almond-flavored carrots. Follow this style and take an inventory of your “ingredients”— possible topics for your own descriptive personal essay.

Week 2: Description and the Food Memoir

Learn various strategies for adding rich descriptions to a food memoir essay. This week, you will do a close reading of essays that use a wide range of literary techniques to create a rich sensory experience on the page. You’ll experiment with various techniques and approaches in your own writing to make your story more vivid and inviting to readers. You will also submit a food memoir essay (1,000-1,500 words) for peer and instructor feedback

Week 3: An Appetite for Metaphor

Sometimes, memoirists use food not to make their readers’ mouths water, but to open a window on important social, moral, or cultural issues such as assimilation, homesickness, or the tension between dining in versus eating out. This week, we’ll focus on the concept of food as a representation of an idea. You will read a selection of food memoir essays that use this technique and brainstorm possible topics for your own symbolic food memoir essay.


This week, you will learn various strategies for composing a highly symbolic food memoir essay. You will do a close reading of essays that use figurative language such as simile and metaphor to explore important themes. You will also submit a new food memoir essay (1,000-1,500 words) for peer and instructor feedback.

Week 5: Revising and Publishing Food Memoirs

During our final week, we’ll explore ways to revise essays and learn where to submit food memoir essays for publication. You will also have the option to submit a third essay for peer-only critique.