In the last six-week session of Writing from the Heart, one of our favorite prompts was this: Write about your favorite childhood junk food, perhaps in the form of an ode. An ode is a lyric poem that praises its subject, one of the classics being Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn." However, there are also odes on more prosaic topics, such as socks (Pablo Neruda), chocolate (Barbara Crooker), and okra (Kevin Young).
As you know if you’ve taken a workshop with me or another Amherst Writers & Artists facilitator, when a prompt is given in a workshop the participants are invited to write whatever they wish in the time allotted, in this case 15 minutes. In response to this prompt participants could have invented a fictional character with a favorite junk food, written a poem or a bit of memoir—or written something else entirely!
We had such a good time with this prompt that I asked the workshop participants if they would like to share their writing on my blog, and three of them took me up on it. These pieces are first-draft writing (or maybe 1.5, as they had to be typed). Without further ado, I present Barbara Farmer, Barb Galvin, and Holly Peterson, who appear to have a bit of a sweet tooth—or used to. Enjoy!
Memory of Childhood Junk Food
Fire red stockings stuffed by Daddy
Snickers, Milky Way and Hershey Milk Chocolate
Oranges’ decoratedskin with cloves
Await Christmas morning
Bulging at the heels
Chocolate aroma emanates
Salivating “smacks” of chew
Various shapes of wrappers on the floor
Easter baskets filled with Brach’s jellybeans
Colored, hardboiled eggs with wax penciled names
Chocolate bunnies with bright eyes, eager to be bitten
Pastel yellow, pink and green marshmallow eggs
Smothered sugar peeps, still soft and ready to be eaten
Carvel sundaes and daily custard flavors
Smothered with warm, drizzly syrup, sprinkled with peanuts
Banana splits, covered with whipped cream and maraschino cherries
Looking regal in their plastic containers, ready to melt in your mouth
Tudor Bakery’s chocolate layer cake, filled with vanilla cream
Dusted with ground pistachios, waiting to be sliced
To be handed to the first chosen
Egg creams at Levy’s
After a hard day at high school
Perched on the stool
Watching the pale green mixer blend the concoction
No eggs, just seltzer and chocolate syrup
Woolworth’s soft ice cream with syrup
Served in tall glasses
Long spoons to scoop and taste
Surrounded by people around the counter, waiting to be served
Eyeing the lucky ones who were before them, licking
Nathan’s hot dogs at Coney Island
Steamed buns, nestling a beef frankfurter
Smothered in yellow mustard and relish
You couldn’t eat just one!
Daddy knew that. Sometimes one or two!
Cotton Candy at the circus
Swirling confection around a white, tapered, paper tube
Pale colors of pink, aqua, green and yellow
A rainbow treat, watching the clowns
Not many cavities, in spite of all these
Smiles galore from all the treats that
Filled our childhood lives with gusto!
Ode to a Childhood Favorite
What a strange combination
of tastes you are,
Noodle soup with peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches.
Hot and cold you graced my lunch table,
Lipton’s out of a box,
Creamy Jif and Welsh’s grape
on Wonder bread white.
Images of the flannel-backed oil cloth
on which you sat
While I meticulously colored in the flowers
on my napkin
With my 64-count sharp pointed Crayolas.
Jo and I played all summer morn,
until we had a spat.
Then it was home to soup,
tiny noodles – no chicken,
floating in a yellow and white bowl,
compliments of green stamps.
Oh, the joy of a sticky tongue
scraping brown ooze off the roof of my mouth,
Jelly slithering down my throat.
How you bring back simple times,
times of love, times of innocence.
Mom in the kitchen over the hot gas burner,
making sure I never left hungry.
I still see you now,
on the grocery shelves,
warning labels on the peanut butter,
multiple flavors of jelly.
But nothing can replace
the memories you conjure,
the comfort you provided,
the childhood long past.
I think I will make you again,
and go back to my happy time,
once more to the yellow kitchen with the oil cloth,
and be a little girl again.
To Good and Plenty—
Does anyone remember you, dear G and P? You would need some rebranding today! Pink, white and gray coated bits of licorice. Surprisingly your color scheme exhibits a mid-century modern vibe that millennials would adore and describe as cute. A bowl of G and P on the supersized white granite kitchen island would be tough stuff. Sprinkle a few on the white placemats from Chip and Joanna’s house goods emporium. Even Drew and Scott could make use of your design potential.
But your name—did it work in 1950? Now, what would we call you—Nasty Nibs, Little Delights, Superhero Crunch? And licorice—how much of the market share is hot because of that flavor? Perhaps a fruit flavored G and P is the fashion forward statement. We remember the black stained tongues. No hiding secret snacking. Licorice breath and bits of candy stuck to teeth. Permanent spots on white shirts and ruffled blouses. Oh, G and P, you remind us of simpler times and gentler places.