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How to Write a Descriptive Essay on Food

Tantalize your reader with tried-and-true descriptive essay techniques

Descriptive essays are the cornerstone of getting one's point across. There are all kinds of papers out there, but not one of them excels nearly so much at giving readers the impression they've been transported to a picture-perfect representation of your source material. If someone is reading an essay on traveling to the Bahamas, the writer ought to ensure they feel like they're actually there for the duration of the paper. If someone is reading about a dark and dreary day, the writer ought to instill that vibe from the very first sentence.

Food follows the same formula - and it's one of the most fun examples around. After all, who doesn't love food? There's magic in quality culinary writing; it rumbles stomaches and compels people to lick their lips autonomically. What's the secret, you ask? It's capturing the essence of your food item. Your pizza needs to sizzle as it's pulled from the oven. Its cheese needs to bubble up over a crust baked golden brown. It needs to fill the kitchen – if not the entire house – with the aromas of fresh garlic and roma tomatoes. You're not looking to tell your audience there's a pizza in your essay, you're striving to make them think they're in the house with that pizza and they're hungry for it.

The process we've just described is sometimes called "sensory writing." If done well, it triggers in readers the feeling of numerous senses reacting to the cuisine you've described. Popular authors dot their pages with the honey smells of herb roasted duck and the overwhelming scent of pan-seared turnips and onions and they do this because it speaks to people on a highly relatable level. If we know these smells, we're pulled into the story. If you're writing an entire assignment on this sort of thing, do yourself a favor and flip through a few of your favorite books to get a bead on how those authors work their foodstuffs into their tales.

Outline your culinary ambitions

There's plenty else to do in preparation for your paper. After you've conducted your research, create an outline which addresses the various elements comprising your literary chow. Here are some quick tips on what to tackle in the outline stage:

  • How does your food look? Is it an appetizing display? If so, why does it seem so delicious? If characters in your paper happen to notice the dish laying on the table, what do their eyes perceive?

  • How does your food impact the people around it? Kind of a silly sentence, perhaps, but it has merit – the best dishes keep even four-star chefs feeling hungry during prep time.
  • If your paper involves the active consumption of its topical cuisine, you'll want to spend some time on texture and, of course, taste. Is that honey roasted duck as crisp as its cook claims? Does it snap a crunch on its eater's teeth? Is it practically bursting with rosemary and thyme, or is the flavor more delicate and subdued?

Draft yourself up and ask your friends for help

After your outline is complete, type up a rough draft and consult your peers. Friends and family will be glad to check out a couple of pages with so tasty a premise, although if you've done a fine enough job, they may expect you to cook for them. The purpose of this stage is to gather constructive feedback. Ask if they feel you've conveyed a full and rich account of the food in question. Check if they require clarity on the details. The biggest question of all: "do you feel like you were standing right there when you read about my food?" If the answer is a resounding yes, your final paper is going to win hearts and stomaches.