What Does Childhood Taste Like? #writingexercise

Hey, gang! Mae here with a fun, short and creative writing exercise. Let me set the stage…

Original book cover for What Does Childhood Taste Like? by Jack Maguire

My original book purchased in the early 1980s

Way back in the days of yesteryear when big hair bands ruled the rock scene, and stirrup pants, legwarmers, and neon jelly bracelets were a popular part of women’s fashion, I was browsing in my local Newscenter and happened upon a creativity workbook called What Does Childhood Taste Like?  The title intrigued me, and when the author, Jack Maguire, promised “mental workouts that will stretch, bend, and energize the way you think, respond, dream and create,” I knew I couldn’t leave without purchasing it. Three decades later, I still pull out that book on occasion and engage in an exercise or two. (That’s my copy on the right with the original cover).

Many writers (including myself) have tricks and rituals they employ for stimulating their muse. As silly as it sounds, I keep a dozen polished stones strewn under my computer screen that I fiddle with when I’m stuck on a scene. Remember rock tumblers? There’s something about a rainbow of smooth, colorful stones that resonates with my creative side. Other times, I play instrumental music in the background (usually lilting flutes, strings or piano) and, still other times, my muse requires complete silence.  When we’re in sync, good things happen. When we don’t connect, I degenerate into a hissy fit because a scene isn’t flowing. During those times, I picture my muse as a disinterested recluse who needs to be coaxed. Thankfully, those moments are fairly rare.

Like me, my muse has a fondness for the past–old photos, cherished memories and long-ago dreams conjured from summer afternoons when childhood tasted like bubblegum, smelled of sweet clover, and felt like cool pool water on sun-warmed skin.

Looking back, I realize much about my writing life has remained the same. I’m still crafting stories, characters and worlds. I still poke around in that old workbook, and I still love recalling the tastes, sights, scents and feel of childhood. My muse has matured with me, my partner through the journey, but there’s a part of me (undoubtedly, of all writers) that never grew up. It thrives on make-believe and what-if possibilities. The only way to appease that part is to create worlds and characters who populate them. The same as I did in childhood.  🙂

So, I ask you . . . what DOES childhood taste like?  Even if you’re not a writer, take a moment to associate an idea and share your comment.  If you prefer, you can choose to answer what does childhood sound like? Smell like? Feel like? Or maybe you’d like to try all of the senses. The idea is to close your eyes, forget the present, and recall the magic you felt as a child. What made you happy?  What made you smile or gave you the shivers?

Original book cover for What Does Childhood Taste Like? by Jack Maguire

The current Kindle version

Or maybe you’d like to try another path more in line with the month of December…what does Christmas taste like? Give it a try. Even non-writers can benefit from mental stimulation, creative thinking and, heck—some out-of-the-box fun! And should you like to pick up a copy of the book What Does Childhood Taste Like, Amazon has a Kindle version for $1.99 (cover at left) or used print copies starting at .27 cents. Not too shabby for a creative and mental workout.

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51 thoughts on “What Does Childhood Taste Like? #writingexercise

  1. Growing up I knew insecurity, shyness, trips to the beach, smell of the sea, taste of fresh mackerel, perrywinkle picking, my father’s jokes and silly sayings, and my mother’s soft hands on a feverish brow. Thanks for making me think about my childhood that way. I am still a little insecure and shy after all these years! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! 🎁🎉🎊🍾🌲

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Debbie. It’s great to have you drop by Story Empire. I love the scents childhood memories conjure for you. How I would love to ramble around in that old Victorian converted to a library. What a place for books! Many thanks for visiting!

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  2. A long, long time ago. I’d like to indulge in lyricism, to eulogise the sights and scents that newness made special: I suppose I would especially recall the warm smell of bracken on the village common and, as the young farm worker I imagined myself to be, the gentle curiosity of the dairy herd I helped to drive and to milk.
    Riding the hay wain, later the baler sled: joys no-one would allow me to imdulge in these safety-conscious days. Those were special memories.Yet they were dark days, too – of extreme poverty, and at times intense loneliness. By and large, I wouldn’t seek to return there. L.P Hartley’s line from ‘The Go-Between’ – ‘the past is another country. they do things differently there’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, I never heard that line of Hartley’s before. Pretty amazing, and one I should like to remember.
      Those are vivid memories, Frederick. Even reading them brought the settings immediately to life in my mind. I’m sorry there was darkness and poverty mixed in, but some of the other memories sound special. I’m delighted you dropped by Story Empire and shared it the post. A true pleasure to see you here. You have such an incredible way with words!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a great idea, Mae. I really enjoyed reading the other comments as well. Roasting marshmallows comes to mind instantly! My family spent many weekends camping during the summer and sitting around the campfire and roasting marshmallows is a fond memory for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a great memory, Natalie! I loved the taste of roasted marshmallows, and always enjoyed the fun in toasting them over an open fire. I love that your family went camping together. Those must have been fun summer weekends. And now you have me craving a gooey roasted marshmallow, LOL. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I love both of those, Teri! We had a field not far from where I lived where we picked wild strawberries when I was a kid. They were small, but I’ve never tasted one to equal how special those where.

      And sleigh riding! I forgot how much fun that was. Even in the cold of winter, it was something you just didn’t mind as a child!
      Thanks for sharing the memories and for conjuring up a few of my own!

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re absolutely right – I’ve never found better tasting strawberries and I never minded the cold – can remember my mom telling us we had to wait until it was 25 degrees outside before we could go out. Way too cold for me now!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great exercise! I remember spaghetti sauce, a spicy scent that came from the Schilling spice packet my mom always used. Since the company disappeared, I haven’t been able to find the same smell anywhere. My mom would simmer the pot for a couple hours, a rich potion of home-canned tomatoes, onions, and that Schilling spice blend. Yum! My other favorite smell was the peppery, oniony smell of dressing at my grandmother’s house (actually, both my grandmothers made the same dressing). It wasn’t bread stuffing like most people have. I’m talking the German meat-based dressing, the one made of hamburger, eggs, bread, and usually onions and celery, baked in a casserole dish until it had a nice crust on it. So. Good. My grandmothers haven’t cooked for the family for years (they’re both in their nineties), but oh, man, that was my favorite part of holiday meals.

    This is also a good reminder to not forget the other senses in our writing. I just saw a PBS special about how integral smell is to memory. To have a character associate a smell with a memory, good or bad, is an effective way to round the character out.

    Off to find the book! Mae, my TBR list is getting unmanageable! 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    • You know how I like contributing to your TBR, Julie 😀

      I’ve always heard that smell is our strongest memory trigger too, and I do believe that. There are certain smells that will immediately place me in a setting from the past.

      That German meat-based dressing (stuffing, in neck of the woods) sounds delicious, especially with the nice crust to it. And I think spaghetti sauce is one of the best smells there is. You have me salivating with these memories. I do hope someone got those wonderful recipes from your grandmothers and mother.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I did get the recipes. Of course, when I asked my grandmother what was in the dressing, she gave me the ingredients … wait for it … no measurements. And when I asked for even approximate amounts, yeah, not so much. She’s been making it so long she never measures. 😀

        Sigh. I did give what I had to one of my brothers, who tried to make it. Never did ask how it turned out.

        And there was nothing like coming home from college to that aroma of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove. I miss it! That Schilling seasoning had a particular aroma I haven’t smelled since. Though, my hubby makes great homemade spaghetti sauce, so I’ve got a substitute! 😀

        Liked by 2 people

  5. What a challenging post! Urging us to walk the memory lane. I love it.
    My childhood tastes like the buns with slices of Prague ham my mother’s sister, so my aunt, used to feed me when she took me to the Opera House in Bucharest. It was a delicatessen for those times. And though I couldn’t understand so well the music, at first, little by little I came to love Verdi’s operas. So you see, the bun and ham were the temptations but the goal was achieved. And that always happened while I was on school winter vacation.

    It also feels like the warmth of the stove fire and the crackling sound of the wood in it. And feels like the excitement of waiting for Santa Claus( we called him like that only in secret0. Officially he was called Russian style – Father Frost!
    I must confess I believed in Santa late in life, and was devastated to finally understand it was just a myth.

    Liked by 3 people

    • How clever of your aunt to introduce you to opera through a treat from the delicatessen, Carmen. I imagine the Opera House in Bucharest must be spectacular!

      And oh, I like the idea of the crackling wood and the excitement of waiting for Santa Claus. Even though Santa has always been Santa to me as an American, I always loved the “old world” folklore of Father Frost. How wonderful it would be if Santa was more than myth. But I do love the magic behind the folktale even today!.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. My childhood tasted like fried chicken–piles of it–with mashed potatoes and gravy and fresh green beans. My parents raised chickens, and it was my job to collect the eggs every morning. We had a huge garden full of vegetables, too. But in the evenings, we all gathered in the living room around the TV set, and my dad took out his big, dented cooking pot to make popcorn with lots of butter, and we each got a cold bottle of Pepsi to drink.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What great memories, Judy. I’m already imagining the cluck of chickens as you went about collecting eggs. And fresh green beans? Yum! One of my favorite associations for summer.

      I love the thought of the whole family gathered around the TV with popcorn. I remember my parents making big pots of popcorn too. I remember when Jiffy Pop first came out it was such a novelty, and was fun to do a few times, but it never came close in taste to those big pots with lots of butter. Maybe because of the built-in memories that went along with them. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. My childhood smelled like tripe. I haven’t yet come across anything else that smells quite like it. My friends and I would disembark the school bus about 200 yards down the road, and it would be like a Mexican wave, only wrinkling our noses instead. Ew, disgusting became the once a week mantra. How mortifying! Lols. Mum used to cook up a great big pot of the stuff for the dogs, usually on a Monday. So gross. Happily, I do have other memories: Bonjella, mmm, delicious! And sandwiches made of sugar and margarine (now, as an adult, I’m like, yuuukkk!) but back then, I loved them 🙂 Thanks for taking me back down memory lane, Mae, and what a wonderful post. I shall definitely check out the book you mention 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tripe? Oh wow, That is definitely one odor association I think I would want to bury, LOL. But I bet the dogs loved it.
      I have to admit I’m not sure what Bonjella is.
      I remember I used to like marshmallow sandwiches (sugar and bread), and now, as an adult, I have the same reaction—yukk! Of course, back then I didn’t like lobster which is also mind-boggling to me, LOL!
      Thanks for sharing the memories, Harmony!

      Liked by 2 people

      • There are a few tripe recipes in the Italian repertoire that I have to admit, I rather enjoyed. Of course, we came from a poorer part of Italy and made use of all parts of the animal. Anyone remember pickled pigs feet from childhood?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m so freaky about meat in general. No way could I do organs, LOL.
        I do remember seeing pickled pigs feet in the grocery store as a kid. Yuck!
        Another Italian thing I remember from childhood on Christmas Eve was smeltz….I think that’s what they were called. Some kind of weird little fish. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! 😀

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  8. My childhood tasted like a comforting plate of pasta (homemade sauce and homemade sausage), an unwanted vegetable dish I had to eat, and the Dilly Bar (always cherry or butterscotch; never chocolate, because I was allergic) that was the reward for the vegetable. It tasted like bread fresh from the oven with melted butter after helping punch down the silken, yeasty dough earlier that morning. Like my grandmother’s cookies and cakes and pies, and like a cup of sugar-sweetened “coffee” that was mostly milk, with biscotti or day-old bread to dip in it. It tasted like pizza roll and poor man’s bread and frizzelines. Mostly, it tasted sweet and savory and hearty—safe and warm and wonderful, mostly amazing with a little work thrown in (which honestly, made it that much better).

    This was a great exercise, Mae. I’m so glad you suggested it. I may have to get that book…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, yum! The wonderful smell of pasta sauce wafting throughout the house. I remember Sundays when my mom would cook it on the stove all day long. We never did homemade sausage, but I can just imagine those savory spices.
      I was odd when it came to vegetable dishes. I loved veggies from the time I was a kid, but was freaky about meat (I’m still that way).
      I hope you’re still not allergic to chocolate. I can’t imagine! 🙂
      And I googled “frizzelines” but didn’t get anything. That’s a word I’m not familiar with.
      These are great memories, Staci. “Safe and warm and wonderful” is a great way to describe childhood!

      Liked by 1 person

      • We made sausage and sopressata every winter. The meats would cure in my grandparents’ fruit cellar. I used to love eating the little nuggets they’d pan fry to taste and see if the seasonings were right. Fun times!

        Frizzelines are small versions of the traditional frizelle (http://www.scordo.com/uncategorized/friselle-bread.html). My grandmother made them shaped like fingers. In fact, before the second bake, they were soft, pillowy bread sticks that she called “fingers” and served with lunchmeat wrapped around them. (My favorite was sopressata or mortadella.) When they’re split in half and baked again, they become crispy. Best served with butter.

        I never disliked vegetables, but given the choice of pasta or green beans, I’d take the pasta. But we always had to eat a helping of veggies before we could have something sweet. I didn’t mind, but my brother hated it. My son is the same way now. At least my daughter likes vegetables!

        And yes, I’m still allergic to chocolate. But I’m allergic to so many things, I don’t avoid anything anymore. Except strawberries. I only eat them once or twice a year, but I always pay for it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • So sorry to hear about the chocolate allergy (although I would honestly give up chocolate before bread if it came down to it). And speaking of bread, the Frizzelines sound delicious. I wasn’t even familiar with frizelle, but the picture looks great. And the way you described the ones your grandmother made, I would have easily devoured a bunch of them, LOL!

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    • The snowflake catch 🙂 I still do that sometimes, Sherry. That was definitely a fun part of childhood. These days, I’m sometimes too focused on the cold to appreciate the magic in those beautiful flakes. There are times I wished I lived in Florida, LOL!

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  9. Easy-peasy on Christmas. At my house today, AND in my childhood, Christmas tastes/tasted like roast turkey, pumpkin pie, with more whipped cream than pie, cream cheese stuffed pears with pecans, sausage and cranberry dressing, and my grandmother’s homemade fruit cake. NOT your typical boat anchor kind, believe me. And to this day, the taste of RedHots will take me back to childhood summers, and me with my tongue stained cherry-red, and cinnamon on my breath for hours. Jujubes at the movie theater. Cinnamon toast my mother would make when I was sick in bed. Watermelon slices, eaten in big, slurpy bites, just before the seed-spitting contest. Oh, yeah. Lots and lots of childhood flavors still roaming around in my mind. 😀 Fun exercise, and I’m making note of this book. Thanks, Mae.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love these associations, Marcia. Those Christmas tastes sound wonderful. And I’d completely forgotten about Jujubes. I used to like “Dots” at the movie theater as well, along with some Good ‘N Plenty.

      RedHots were a wonderful part of my summer too. Friends and I used to walk to a pharmacy with a soda fountain and fill small brown paper bags with penny candy. I remember Swiss fish, licorice whips and wax lips and wax soda bottles.So many others too…those candy dots on the sheets that looked like adding machine tape. Haven’t thought of those in a long time. Isn’t it great the memories association exercises inspire?
      Thanks for playing! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was thinking about those candy dots when I commented, but I was afraid nobody but me would remember them. They were utterly tasteless. No flavor at all. But for some weird reason, it was such fun to bite them off of that strip! And those silly little wax bottles, with three drops of some flavored water in them. Why on earth did we love them? Yep, wax lips, too. Wearing them around never got old. I don’t care for licorice, so I skipped those whips and Good ‘N’ Plenties. But, we used to have . . . wait for it! . . . candy CIGARETTES!! (Can you IMAGINE?) We’d strut around with those like we were big stuff. The thought is rather appalling, now, but then, it was fun. I must say, I’m glad those disappeared.

        Another taste from my childhood is dill pickles. Our movie theaters had them ice cold, and you could buy one wrapped in wax paper, and nibble on it all the way through the matinee. I can’t imagine why it seemed like a good idea, but I got them many times. And THEN got the Jujubes for after. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad you remember all those old candies too, Marcia. I forgot about the candy cigarettes. We used to have fun with them, but now the thought is appalling, LOL.
        I loved a good dill pickle. We used to get the big fat ones from a barrel at the grocery store. You’d pick it out with a pair of long tongs and then put it in a bag made of wax paper. That would have been an awesome snack at a movie theater. Ours just had the usual popcorn and candies. Memories are so wonderful!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. My childhood tasted like salt water taffy, wads of strawberry Bazooka gum, freshly baked cookies, the milk chocolate oozing down my chin, and our family game where my brother and I sat blindfolded to test the difference between white and dark meat. We didn’t realize it at the time, but my parents slipped rabbit in there a few times. Sneaky, sneaky.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Rabbit? Ewww….are you going to tell me it tasted like chicken, LOL? 🙂

      I loved salt water taffy at the beach. The stuff today just doesn’t taste the same as the kind they had when I was a kid. I still haven’t figured out the difference.
      Oh, and Bazooka bubble gum! Loved that stuff. Hard as a rock but it always came with that wonderful comic strip tucked inside and the smell was heavenly.

      Fun game with your parents, you and your brother. Could you tell the difference?

      Liked by 2 people

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