Today’s Tuesday Quick-Write is from guest author Hena Khan. Hena grew up in Maryland, with her nose in a book. She’s the author of the picture books GOLDEN DOMES AND SILVER LANTERNS and CRESCENT MOONS AND POINTED MINARETS as well as novels like AMINA’S VOICE and the new ZAYD SALEEM: CHASING THE DREAM chapter book series.
I spend more time than I like to admit thinking about and sometimes agonizing over what I eat, to improve my health and at times to help me shed a few pounds. A recommended strategy to stay on top of your diet involves keeping a food journal and tracking what you eat all day. But like most other recommended strategies, I find that one to be incredibly tedious and usually abandon it after a couple of days.
In POWER FORWARD, the first book in my new chapter book series, my protagonist Zayd is a 4th grader who’s small for his age but doesn’t let his size get in the way of his dreams. He is underweight and gets frequent stomachaches. Zayd’s mother asks him to keep a food journal to help figure out what might be causing them, and to help him potentially GAIN weight. She even labels the pages for him with DATE, WHAT I ATE, HOW I FEEL. But he finds it no less tedious.
When Zayd does occasionally write in the food journal, he ends up editorializing his meals and the things he eats (e.g. “pretty good with barbeque sauce,” “not as good as beef, but edible”) and how they makes him feel (“like a basketball is dribbling on my insides,” “grateful”). He is very specific about quantities or flavors (“seven goldfish crackers,” “watermelon jolly rancher”) and adds extra details that probably won’t help mom very much but make the journal a lot more fun to read.
Your Assignment: Think back on what you ate yesterday, and create a food journal for the day. But not any regular old, boring food journal! Instead, bring each of the meals to life with descriptions that would make the most over-the-top food critic wannabe Yelp reviewer jealous. That vanilla flavored non-dairy creamer in your coffee? Even it can have a starring role if you desire. Give each of the foods you consumed context and meaning. How did they make you feel about yourself and your purpose in life? Can you find any symbolism between what you ate and your mood? Can you write any amazing metaphors or similes? Your journal entries for the day can be an ode to the food you ate, or hate mail, or a combination of both. You could keep the food descriptions simple and add categories if you choose, like “WHAT I WISH I ATE INSTEAD” or “HOW THIS RATES COMPARED TO THE BEST MEAL I EVERY HAD” Let your imagination run wild.
Don’t forget snacks. And feel free to fictionalize if it’s more fun. The pantry is the limit! I’d love to read your favorite lines or entries in the comments. Happy writing!