The Literature of Food – yes that’s a real thing!

Eating their words: The Literature of Food

I am part of a group of women, all of a certain age, who meet regularly to discuss, read and learn from each other.  We don’t do this is in isolation, we are part of the WEA network.

Midlife learning, food discussion group, eat to live or live to eat?

What is WEA?

Established in NSW in 1913, and originally working in partnership with the University of Sydney, the WEA was a movement founded to promote the higher education of working men and women. The WEA has since grown to become one of the largest and most prestigious adult and community education organisations in Australia and every year attracts thousands of students from all walks of life.

We are part of the Discussion Group setup

The DGP has been part of WEA Sydney’s wider educational program for over 20 years, providing an exciting alternative to our regular classroom courses…through the distribution of study materials to groups of students based throughout New South Wales, and in some cases beyond.

The WEA Discussion Group Program is based on the formation of small, friendly home-based groups (minimum 6 people, maximum 15) – wishing to meet regularly to discuss and learn, and enjoy the active exchange of ideas and with a wide variety of topics on from history and literature to philosophy and social sciences, and thus dovetails exactly with WEA Sydney’s over-arching Mission, the provision of opportunities for students to study widely and objectively in the arts, humanities and sciences

What do we do?

I have been involved in this group since I retired and most of the members in our group are close personal friends, so it’s a great way for all of us to maintain contact with each other.

We decide on a course that we’d like to do and work out how many meetings we’ll take to do it.  We enrol, pay our fee (approx $60) to our group organiser and receive a set of notes, readings and discussion points.  One member is in charge of producing a report which is sent to the tutor soon after each meeting. We take it in turns to do the report writing. This report sums up our discussion, any relevant points, responses to the questions and anything else worth noting.  The report is emailed to the tutor who responds each time with comments and we discuss this report at the next meeting. We don’t get marked on our assignments!

It sounds quite formal but it’s not at all. In reality it’s a relaxed few hours of fun discussion, similar to a book club meeting. We have notes and activities to read before each meeting and as we discuss these points we eat our pre-packed lunch.  We meet in the home of one of our group and the hostess usually provides refreshments.  We simply eat and talk – but on a set topic.

Eating their words: The Literature of Food

Our latest discussion program is Eating Their Words: The Literature of Food and our tutor is Dr Jeannette Delamoir who sounds very accomplished.

The fundamental question she asks is: What sort of language is being used here to communicate about food?

As an example Dr Delamoir posed the question, what words do you use to communicate the flavour of an orange to someone who has never tasted one?

Try it and let me know what you came up with!!

As Dr Delamoir stated she was a blogger, it was left to me to enlighten the other ladies as to what a blogger actually does. Obviously I am the only blogger in the group!  They questioned me about the topics I blog about and asked if ever talk about food in my posts. The answer was a resounding NO, and I tell you why further on.

Chapter 1: Introduction and Writing about food and science.

So far we have had one discussion meeting and we discussed the reasons why people write about food; we thought about the words used on food labels such as wine or a tin of tomatoes and the science of food, focusing on how things taste and the sound of food.

We had a selection of 5 interesting readings included in chapter 1, plus an online quiz we could take to see what sort of ‘taster’ we are. According to the results I’m in the middle of the bell curve, as a Taster – accepting of a broad range of food, I can learn to like new foods that I hate and I’m quite game. The other results were a tolerant taster and a hypertaster, either side of taster.

I was particularly interested in the reading which discussed the textures of food.  Can you think of any foods that demonstrate the following textures:

  • cohesiveness, density, dryness, fracturability, graininess, gumminess, hardness, heaviness, viscosity…..

We talked about the crispness, crunchiness and crackliness of food and the differences between these types of food. It was quite fun!

Next chapters

You might be interested to know the subjects which will be covered in the rest of the course:

Chapter 2: Comfort food/families/communities

Chapter 3: Literary food: Fiction and Non-Fiction

Chapter 4: Historical food

Chapter 5: Eating – recipes and reviews

Chapter 6: Food in the future

One major question asked was: Do you eat to live or live to eat? I’d love to hear your answer to this question in the comments below.

Now, I have a confession to make – I’m not really that into food!  I like food, I cook food and I eat food but I’ve never been one to get too involved in it.  I don’t take many photos of food and I definitely don’t post recipes or advice on the subject of food on my blog!

The group challenged me to write a post about food, and this course, complete with photos so they can read all about it!  I accepted their challenge and will try to write an update after each of our next 5 discussion groups.

Healthy and nutritious breakfast
Healthy and nutritious breakfast

I took this photo of my breakfast this morning and posted it to Instagram. As I said before it’s not my usual type of post but it’s always good to try something new!

These are delicious and healthy Breakfast Banana Pancakes which I cooked following a recipe from a healthy food challenge I’m currently undertaking.  It is the second time I’ve made them and I must admit they’re particularly tasty, made of oats, banana, eggs, milk and served with strawberries, low fat yoghurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  A great way to start the day!

So do you have any thoughts on the literature of food, textures, tastes, sounds….please share any thoughts below and I’ll add your insights into our next discussion group.

Happy eating – think about what words you’d use to describe what you’re currently eating 🙂

Deb xx

Sources: Please note many of the quotes used in my post came from the WEA Discussion Group Programme  Eating their words: The Literature of Food,  D224 by Dr Jeanette Delamoir.

Are you on Instagram? Check out Deb’s World here: Instagram for photo updates

You can also find Deb’s World here – let’s stay in touch!

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59 Replies to “The Literature of Food – yes that’s a real thing!”

  1. Interesting post Deb. I saw that photo on Insta today and actually thought it seemed a bit out of character for you. Now I know why! As for that orange, mmm, tangy, juicy and sweet. And as for whether we eat to live or live to eat I’d say it’s the first. Being Italian I do love my food but it’s secondary to just enjoying life. Sounds like an interesting group. Have fun! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nicely described Miriam! I love oranges but have never thought about using words to describe eating one. Yes it is a bit different for me but I enjoyed it too. I agree with you food is important but we need to enjoy our lives and not be ruled by what we eat. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great idea Deb and I wonder if they have groups in Brisbane? Any interaction where we can extend our knowledge and connection is so valuable in retirement especially or as I like to call it the Lifestyle Change. Both Mike and I enjoy preparing and eating food that is why I run so much! 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading more about your course.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Sue, I’d suggest you start looking at WEA (I put a link to them in my post) to see if they have anything up your way. We do the discussion group one which means we do it like distance education. It’s a great way to extend our thinking and learn from each other, Just a bit of a different topic for me than my usual 🙂


  3. Hi, Debbie – The DGP sounds fascinating. I would definitely sign up if there was one in our area. The outline for your current course is very interesting to me. I love that your group has challenged you to expand your horizons and blog about food. I look forward to reading that post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a very different topic for me Donna, as you can imagine but it’s good to get out of my comfort zone! Thanks for your supportive comment and I’ll do my best to capture the essence of our discussions and report back via my blog. I’m sure there’d be something similar available where you are, us midlife students are taking the world by storm!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this post – how interesting and a great topic. Maybe i could get together with @sizzlesue15 as I’m also in Brisbane 😊definitely a bit of both – live to eat, eat to live depending on what other commitments there are. Currently drinking ice cold water which I’d say is crisp, clean and replenishing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation! The group discussions are a great way to stretch my brain and think of other things! I think your description of your glass of water is spot on! Joining up with a few friends is a great idea, I linked to WEA in my post and they’re available everywhere by mail and email these days. Enjoy! 😊


    1. Hi Sue, it is a discussion group course offered through WEA, (the link is in my post) which is an Australian based adult learning organisation. It is going to be a fun course to eat our way through 🙂


  5. Food. I just love food. My father was a Chef, my ex-husband worked in his family Diner and my husband is a Chef who trained a the same culinary school as my father. I love food, I just don’t want to cook it. I’m also a texture person when it comes to food. For instance, I love the flavor that mushrooms impart into food but hate their texture. That chewy, rubbery feeling sends shudders down my spine. Sounds like an interesting course.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I understand where you’re coming from Jennifer! With all those chefs in the family I wouldn’t want to cook either.

      The course is very interesting so far and I’m sure we’ll have different views on textures, tastes and cooking of food which is what a discussion group is all about 🙂

      I love your mushroom example – thanks so much for joining in.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Deb, you didn’t mention if your pancakes were cohesive, dense, dry, fractured, grainy, gummy, hard, heavy or viscous. Perhaps they were crisp, crunchy and crackly?

    I’m going to stretch my imagination and try to describe an orange – let me know what you think:

    An orange tastes like jazz, cool and syncopated, and like summer, sweet and sticky. And it tastes like a brisk walk in the fresh autumn air – refreshing and revitalising.

    It doesn’t actually answer the question your tutor posed, but I’ve learnt from my sister that it’s best to use the question as a provocation rather than as a literal question.

    My thinking about food has changed in recent years. I see it now as fuel for my body, rather than as a comfort or as a site of social cohesion and togetherness. I can see that food has an important place in our culture, within families and groups of friends (your group discus as you eat together) … for me, though, it’s safest for me to think of it as fuel.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fabulous response Sharon! I can just taste that orange 🍊 now.

      My pancakes tasted delicious, smooth, slippery and a touch dense. I’ve made them a number of times this week and they’re getting better every time.

      You’re right – it is best to think of food as fuel for our bodies and I rarely run on empty 😊

      It’s certainly been an interesting topic to discuss and quite a different one for me to get my head around.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the look of your breakfast! It looks delicious. I’m definitely in the “live to eat” category. I’m a simple woman that loves food and loves eating. I actually feel a bit depressed if I’ve just eaten a meal that I didn’t enjoy whether it filled me up or not. I’m currently reading a book called “Eat Up” by Ruby Tandoh and thoroughly recommend it. She almost poetically writes about food and her love of it. Her writings about food are closely connected to memories too. She used to suffer from an eating disorder, so she is passionate about people loving and enjoying food. I’m now starting to feel hungry just thinking about food ha!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for joining in Hayley, I appreciate your thoughts and that book sounds very interesting! Food is very important in more ways than one and discussing it this way is really fascinating. It’s funny that I told my husband I don’t really enjoy cooking and he said, incredulously, yes you do, you love it!! I’m obviously a very good actor too 🙂


    1. That’s so lovely to hear. I’m not that adventurous with cooking anymore as my husband has an intolerance and it is easier to stick with tried and true recipes sometimes. Thanks for your input – it’s great to have you here 🙂


  8. Interesting post! I’d love to find such a group where I live! I love to read about food and cooking, but other than sharing a recipe once a week on my blog I don’t write much about food! And your pancakes look delicious!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the comment Nancy, the pancakes are absolutely delicious and good for you too 🙂 It’s a great way of meeting with others and discussing something interesting, we all learn from each other. I’d highly recommend it!


    1. Thanks for visiting Grammy Dee and sharing your chocoholic status! It’s an interesting discussion group topic and I’m sure we’ll all enjoy it as we get further into it. I must admit I like chocolate too 🙂


    1. It seems there’s a lot of similarities Clearissa, many of us have mixed feelings about food and whether we eat to live or live to eat – very natural of course! Thanks for stopping by 🙂


  9. Very interesting group and topics for discussion, Deb! I’m like you in that I like food, I cook food, and I eat food but I don’t usually take food pictures and post them on my blog.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Natalie, it is an interesting topic, but one that is new to me in terms of blogging. It’s always good to have other people’s thoughts and I appreciate you stopping by 🙂


  10. WEA sounds so interesting, and what a great way to focus thoughts and conversation rather than just meeting for a cup of coffee and a chat. I love it! I can’t wait to hear more about your discussion groups and the things you get up to. I’m going to look to see if there’s a WEA near me too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jo, it’s been a great way to learn new things and discover new topics of interest. I hope you can find something similar up your way although we do it correspondence in a way. Lovely to have your thoughts. 😊


  11. What an interesting idea Deb – “food for thought!” and I think I fit into the tolerant taster category – I definitely eat to live and don’t get remotely excited by recipe blogs (note they’re on the “No” list for #MLSTL! I also hate people filling my FB feed with pictures of their meals – I just don’t get it at all. That being said, I think your discussion group sounds really engaging and it must be really good for your brain cells – and if it inspired banana pancakes then it must be a good thing! Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a great way to continue exploring new ideas Leanne and our previous topics have been just as interesting. I’m not into recipe and foodie type blogs much either but this a bit different, so I’ll make an exception!! Happy to share on #mlstl and thanks for social media shared 😊


  12. I found this post very interesting–both learning about the group and thinking about food. You may have noticed from my blog that I love to eat. I’m not a gourmet cook, so I don’t post a lot of recipes, but I do love a good meal–one that’s attractive and tastes good. I wouldn’t say I live to eat, but I’m definitely closer to that end of the spectrum than I am to eating to live. My mother makes this quiet little hum and does what we call the “yummy dance” when she firsts tastes something she really likes. Funny thing–I’ve caught myself and my sisters doing it. Not my brother though. It must be passed down through the female genes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you identified the hum that your mother makes and can see it in yourself too – obviously a female thing!! 😊 thanks for sharing your thoughts on food Christie, it’s been a great start to our course.


  13. Your WEA group sounds like a lot of fun. We don’t really have anything like that here. I do belong to a couple of book clubs. I am not a foodie, but I think I would enjoy learning more about it. The topics in your course sounds interesting. #MLSTL

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I’ve never heard of this group – sounds really interesting. Always good to keep learning and interested.

    As for food, I’m definitely in the live to eat (in balance with a whole lot of other things as well, of course). But I mean that I really appreciate good food and great food, well cooked with love and innovation and with interesting flavour combinations and techniques. Chasing great food forms an important part of our travels too, from coffee and a tart to degustation meals, here and overseas, and I often do a lot of research and planning to find stand outs. Having said that, I’m a lazy cook, but very appreciative of the efforts of others. And yep, I do take photos and occasionally blog about food, in the form of reviews. It’s good stuff!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a great comment!! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on food and can relate to the travel side of things. I am also very appreciative of others who cook for me. I may start taking photos of food a bit more as it’s quite fun! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 😊


  15. I think I would describe an orange as ‘tasting like honeysuckle’ and then leaning in close to allow them to breath in a fragrant bouquet of same.

    This is so interesting to me, in that my spouse and I belong to a wine society, and one of the the aspects of really appreciating all that wine brings, is to take in the essence of the nose, or bouquet, to see how it differs from what we will then taste. The nose is a receptor all on it’s own, and a highly pleasurable one at that!

    Thank’s Deb – much enjoyed this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Tamara, I love your orange description. It’s interesting that wine and wine labels featured quite heavily in chapter one due to the science of it all.

      I’m glad you enjoyed my post 😊


  16. You do know that when they take food shots half the food isn’t really what it is meant to be. For example ice cream melts in the lights so they use something like mashed potato, they use car oil for topping etc. So one good reason to not focus on food for blogs is because is it is really hard to get good photos like we are accustomed to seeing. Louise

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I love that you challenged yourself in this area (taking this course, as well as blogging substantially about it), although you don’t consider yourself a foodie. This sounds like a course I would have loved to be part of.

    Liked by 1 person

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