Writing Contest: Similes Make Food Writing Fun

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It’s been a while since I’ve held a food writing contest on this blog, so I thought I’d blast out another one, just for fun. This time, let’s have a simile writing contest.

Similes are comparisons that starts with “like” or “as,” for comparing two unlike things. Why would you want to use them? You need as many tools as possible in your writing toolbox. Similes are a welcome alternative to adjectives. They’re playful, making your writing fun to read. Restaurant reviewers are particularly good employers of similes because they spend a lot of time describing food.

Here’s an example from New York Times critic Sam Sifton. He compares two unlike things: a slice of slathered toast and kissing:

“The very first item on the menu at Marea is ricci, a piece of warm toast slathered with sea urchin roe, blanketed in a thin sheet of lardo, and dotted with sea salt. It offers exactly the sensation as kissing an extremely attractive person for the first time — a bolt of surprise and pleasure combined. The salt and fat give way to primal sweetness and combine in deeply agreeable ways. The feeling lingers on the tongue and vibrates through the body.

Here’s another one from Pulitzer-prize winning critic Jonathan Gold, comparing a restaurant’s hot dog dish to the contents of a spilled ice chest:

“The dogs, which are high-quality franks from Chicago’s Vienna Sausage, are good, but the emphasis is clearly neither in their formulation nor on unusual sourcing — it is on what is done with them, whether wrapping them with jalapeño bacon in a Parmesan crisp as with the Holy Roller, tucking it under the pastrami in a classic Reuben sandwich, or burying it in barbecue sauce and potato salad, like a hot dog you’d find in an ice chest that accidentally tipped over in the back of the SUV.”

I hope these smile examples got you in the mood to write one of your own. Please enter your simile, on any topic related to food, within one week, by 6/24 at midnight PST.

To continue the theme of restaurant criticism, I’ll send the winner a copy of Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater, by Frank Bruni, former restaurant critic of the New York Times.

Update: And the winner is…Katy at Thought for Food, for her entire blog post on comparing lemon vinaigrette-dressed salad to a summer wardrobe.

Flickr photo used by permission.


  1. says

    Here is one from my post on Jewish deli sociology (complete with chopped liver recipe) — I don’t know if it meets your criteria since I’m using the simile of the food to describe the mood of the crowd as opposed to describing taste or other food attribute. (http://clickblogappetit.blogspot.com/2009/09/jewish-deli-it-wasnt-just-for-food-and.html)

    The professor had come to talk about the history of the American Jewish delicatessen as a cultural gathering place for second and third generation Jews. The crowd had come to talk corned beef, pastrami and maybe a little smoked whitefish. It was an uneasy mix, kind of like pastrami with mayo.

  2. says

    A dough day: we make Danish yeast doughs — sweet, with eggs and cardamom, and croissant dough, without eggs. The dough is interspersed with layers of butter, and the steam in the melting fat causes the dough to rise as it bakes. We mix the two basic doughs and chill them each for thirty minutes. Then the butter is “locked in”: you roll butter with a rolling pin into a thin sheet and encase it in the rolled-out dough. Every thirty minutes or so, you roll out the dough and fold it again, creating exponentially more layers. Chef Joyce tosses around the flat mass of dough as if it were a heavy blanket, flipping and folding. We’ll refrigerate the blocks of dough overnight, then we’ll form them into a plethora of products. Chef Joyce promises that we will be delighted and amazed. [From Chapter Four: Intro to Baking & Pastry from TASTE EVERYTHING (http://www.tasteeverythinganovel.com)

  3. says

    This is from a post I wrote about the French Macaron:
    … if we could package the kiss? What form would it take? … the perfect French macaron may just be the embodiment, the sugary and almond translation of the French Kiss.
    Delicate, tender and sweet, the size of a kiss, hold one in the palm of your hand like lips touching your skin, any flavor you like, sweet as a kiss, salty as tears. Bring it up to your mouth, to your lips, hesitate, but only briefly, knowing that ecstasy is not far behind. Bite down into the gently domed cookie, formed of the perfect union of a feminine froth of white, white meringue, gently, tenderly, lovingly folded into fine almond meal, fine like sand on a beach, like arms wrapped around your body, barely scented with whatever you choose, whatever your mood, your desire, your urge. Piped out into beautiful shiny mounds, creamy smooth, to puff up in the warmth of the oven – bite down * crack * into the crispy barely-there outside and find yourself pulled into a tender chewy center, a burst of flavor and you are utterly swept off your feet. One bite of this macaron is like the perfect stolen kiss.

  4. says

    From a post I’m working on for Frommers.com:

    One of the lasting legacies of the Brown Hotel is the Hot Brown. It’s a classic fork-and-knife sandwich I dare you to try and finish in one sitting! Slices of toast are topped with sliced toast turkey breast, Mornay cheese sauce, and a couple of tomatoes, broiled to perfection and topped with bacon, paprika and parsley.Go for the original. It is heavy and comforting, like a warm blanket on a cold night.

  5. says

    This chocolate caught me by surprise. Tearing open its vacuum-sealed cocoon released a cloud as heady and obnoxious as the shiny side of foil under fluorescent light when you’ve got a migraine. The scent unfurled from the bag like an angry genie, assaulting my nose with a smell between gasoline and grappa.

  6. says

    If you want to flood the top of your sugar cookie with icing, outline the edge of the cookie first, then fill it in with icing. Unlike the lips of Pamela Anderson, a bingo lady, or a sad hooker, you will want to match your outline with the icing colour.

  7. says

    The nurse handed her a cup of coffee and sat down to wait. Grateful for something to do, Michelle took it and sipped. She wanted it to be comforting but the instant coffee was bitter and lukewarm. It tasted like their last encounter, of regret and unnecessary sharpness. She put the cup aside, unfinished, like the conversation in her head.

  8. says

    I took my fiancé to CRUSH 29 Restaurant in Roseville, Ca. The inland was profoundly beautiful and warm with a dome shaped scone that radiated a dim light to the center of the bar. Smaller scones were neighbored in conspicuous corners for perfect lighting which cultivated a romantic dining experience. The menus were astonishing with an aluminum placard with the restaurant’s name engraved, outlined with impermeable buoyant material that is the exact of a cork in a wine bottle. I had the Pistachio Pesto Chicken, which was a crusted tender chicken, with lightly crisped asparagus and smashed potatoes with a green pesto sauce; the five senses would enjoy this concord experience. Cured Italian bacon, roasted red peppers, and Italian cheeses were perfectly entrenched in crunchy crusted chicken. An underside thin sphere of chocolate ganache outlined a pond of smooth pistachio pesto sauce. One bite after the other―you just can’t stop.

  9. says

    Here is mine, an excerpt from a post about my experience with an orange and honey marinated rotisserie chicken:

    This roast chicken was also an experiment. My toaster oven supposedly came with a rotisserie setup, and I wanted to see if it actually worked. Well, I must have the world’s most awesome toaster oven because we got the chicken onto the spit successfully, and it actually rotated in the oven! I say “we” because my husband helped – he was convinced the just-marinated chicken might slip out of my hands and slide across the floor of the kitchen like it was practicing ice skating for the next Olympics – no one wants that kind of champion title for their dinner!

  10. says

    From a blog post in my mind on eggs:

    Dietary cholesterol has a very small impact on your blood cholesterol levels. Before we figured that out, experts advised eggs, being high in cholesterol, should be eliminated from the diet, or reduced. There are just so many good things about eggs though, that eliminating them from your diet because they are high in cholesterol is like being a fan of Michael Jackson. It might have been okay in the eighties, but there just hasn’t been any evidence since then to support that idea.

  11. says

    One improvised from a post I did about a fabulous DC restaurant…

    “My favorite mezze (small plates of food) was called Zebra Salad (diced fava beans, watermelon, feta, zebra tomatoes, and a lemony vinegar dressing). It was, hands down, the best salad I have ever had. The watermelon added this subtle yet familiar sweetness, like someone kept tapping my on the shoulder and every time I turned around to see who it was they were gone (but there was something lingering like a perfume I recognized…hmm…mysterious). “

  12. Joyce Pinson says

    This isn’t how I will be writing for my upcoming blog. But enjoy a challenge…so here it goes.

    Seductively perched on a toasty slice of French baguette, vine ripened tomatoes embraced balsamic vinegar marinate like a frantic lover driven blind by passion. Wildly acidic, wontonly addictive…the pleasures of summer’s love apples are best savored slow and easy.

  13. says

    On Arugula:

    Arugula, you slap me with your pithy assault on my recoiled tongue. I am a shaman walking on shards of glass. Midway, my trance is shattered and you pierce me like a million pixels of instant, splintered pain.

  14. says

    I’ve LOVED reading everyone’s similes!

    This was one I pulled from my review of a Meals on Wheels fundraising event that I attended last month. I was recently reading your book Will Write for Food and it inspired me to actually use a simile in my review!

    “Beth’s Babies Cookies was also serving pecan pie, but it wasn’t the fancy ‘contemporary twist’ Humpry Slocombe style pie. Instead it was the old fashioned, chewy, caramel filled pecan pie, so sweet your teeth ached, packed to the gills with pecans, served straight up with a dollop of fresh whipped cream to cut the caramelize goodness. Eating a slice was like sitting on a wrap-around porch in Savannah, with the humid summer breeze cooling your sweat stained cut-off jeans, as you swatted the mosquitos away from you and the fireflies buzzed around the lawn. That is, if I had ever lived in Savannah or actually worn cut-off jeans.

    AJ [my partner], by the way, says maybe, just maybe, that would be the ONLY acceptable circumstance to wear cut-off jeans. I’d probably agree with him. “