The sense of taste isn’t a sense you will include a lot of in your writing. But if your ancestors have a chance to eat then make sure you are using taste when the opportunity arises. Of course, we don’t always have to wait for a dinner table scene to use the sense of taste, consider applying chapstick or lipstick, the sea spray on your lips or the metal taste of blood when you bite your cheek. What about the grit of dust on your tongue from that dusty road, or the film on your teeth in the morning, and the envelope you licked closed before mailing that letter, all are opportunities outside of the dinner table experience. If you pay attention, there are plenty of possibilities to incorporate the sense of taste.
Emotion and Memory
Like smells, tastes are also strongly connected to experiences, feelings and memories and using them in your story can help to strengthen the emotion in your story. Those memories can be both good as well as bad. Don’t limit yourself to just the good memories. When I was pregnant, I couldn’t keep anything down. I remember eating a lot of jello. Even that came back up. I remember the burn of the green jello, and to this day I rarely eat jello and never green.
Some tastes are potent and familiar, and all we need to do is name them for the reader to get it. Ice cream, chocolate, toothpaste, salt, they are part of our shared experiences, we all know what they taste like. Describing them doesn’t enhance your story. Try to reserve using the sense of taste for those unique moments of something unusual and unexpected.
When someone tells you not to use too much description what they mean is to pick and choose your description carefully. Too much description can slow your story down and make it dull. It’s not a matter of too much description as it is of choosing the right description. If it doesn’t enhance the story, then don’t describe it. A foreign taste, however, is the perfect opportunity to use description.
If your character is thinking about or craving a particular food, it would be natural for them to think about the flavours. In describing the taste, the trick is coming across natural and not as a writer intrusion.
4 Taste Sensations
There are four primary taste sensations, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. We do tend to default to them when we write.
Included in taste is temperature. Our tongue does detect the heat level of food.
When we taste something, we can also consider the texture of the food. Think about orange juice with pulp, or popcorn or chunky peanut butter. Is the texture of the food smooth or crunchy? Is it chewy, slimy or gritty in your mouth?
Sometimes the best way to describe the sense of taste is through comparisons. Metaphors work well to help your reader by comparing the taste to something they would recognize. Sometimes you don’t need to describe a taste literally to convey its essence.
Taste is also an opportunity to reveal something about your ancestor as their reaction to a taste may tell us something about their personality or history.
During the month of the Challenge every time you experience a taste describe it in your writer’s journal. It might come in handy in your family history story the next time you need to describe a taste.