Teacher’s Lounge: The Search for Delicious

In 1969, Natalie Babbitt published The Search for Delicious, in which a king’s quest to discover what food should be the definition of “delicious” in the royal dictionary almost touches off a war between kingdoms.  (Babbitt is best known for Tuck Everlasting–now 40 years old–but Delicious deserves to be reread to a classroom of, say, fourth-graders.)  The title presented itself to me when I was putting together a series of workbooks on creative writing.  Rather it (the title) slipped in through the back door as I was writing a lesson on adjectives.  How many words do we have to describe food?  They say Inuit languages have umpteen words for ice, because ice is so important to them.  That might just be arctic legend, but I know for sure that Americans can lay tongue to dozens of adjectives that can be applied to food, because we have lots, and eat lots.   Food, in its voluminous variety and abundance, makes an excellent motif for teaching about adjectives.


And I don’t mean qualitative adjectives, like scrumptious, yummy, or toothsome.  We throw these around all day–well, except for toothsome–but they don’t actually describe anything except our feelings.  You might have a great day at the beach while your cousin has a great day at the library.  You would get bored at the library; she would get sunburned at the beach, so you would have conflicting definitions of what makes for a great day.  Same with food: what’s delicious in a potato chip is is not so much in a chocolate chip.

Stretch your students’ descriptive vocabulary by teasing their palates.  Bring in 6-8 foods with varying tastes and textures and serve small amounts of each for snack time.  These could be pretzels, grapes, apple slices, tortilla chips, marshmallows, raisins.  Ask the students to think about what makes each one “delicious” and write two or three descriptive adjectives for each.  Some interesting distinctions to make: what’s the difference between tangy and sour?  Crunchy and crispy?  Gummy and chewy?  Spicy and fiery?  And what about words that mean roughly the same thing, but one is positive while the other is negative–like moist/stale, firm/hard, crunchy/dry, tart/sour?

Make a list of “delicious” adjectives ahead of time and write them on the board.  Your students will be amazed!  And so will you.



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