Culinary Arts and Letters

It has been a while, hasn’t it? Thanks to @AnkleBuster (Mitchell Allen) for letting me know that the Creative Copy Challenge had been resurrected!

This week’s words: Act, Tougher, Quality, Contribute, Hockey, Soft, Sandwich, Colour, Hopeful, Nimble

See Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #344 for more details.


Culinary Arts and Letters

A Fictional Reality Show


Easton stepped up to the mic and scanned the hopeful faces of the eight young culinary artists who had survived the first five rounds of the competition. He calculated the odds of any one of them going on to become anything more than a sous chef and sighed. “Today’s challenge is to make a sandwich,” he announced.

Callista had been studying the judges, learning their tastes. Ms. Stanton would, no doubt, prefer watercress, Havarti, and a grainy brown mustard on a flaky croissant. Mr. Chance would shun anything that didn’t involve a generous hunk of meat – with Chance, it was all “Paleo” this and “caveman” that. Darius Brown looked as if he were staring down Death by Boredom and losing – for him, it was all about the olfactory and visual intrigue. “Food should tell a story,” he was fond of saying. Rumor had it that Brown had undergone a procedure and now had to take all his meals by gastric feeding tube, anyway.

In the first four rounds, no one had managed to please all the judges; Callista had survived by being merely adequate, and by failing to contribute to the judges’ collective disgust with some of the entrants’ offerings. The only thing they could all agree on was her nemesis, Lance Callaway’s, dessert. That would be a tougher act to follow.

At the market, Callista selected the freshest cilantro, ripe red tomatoes, piquant purple onions, and juicy pineapples straight off the plane from Lanai. She would bake the bread, herself, so that it would be the perfect balance of soft and crusty, toasted to the colour of warm caramel and dusted lightly with sea salt. In the kitchen, her nimble fingers worked a mixture of mashed black beans, quinoa, cilantro, onions, and pineapple, forming it into patties roughly the shape of a large hockey puck. She pan-fried, then lightly grilled them to produce little charred lines reminiscent of the Kobe steaks she knew Chance preferred. She garnished them with fresh sprigs of cilantro and a dollop of spicy mango-habanero aioli. The top of the warm, fragrant bun she left tilted like a jaunty beret against the patty, and she hoped that that, plus a tiny side salad of perky baby lettuces and herbs would, perhaps, whisper their story – which she hoped wouldn’t be too tragic – to Darius Brown. At least no animals were harmed in the making of this production, and Callista knew that would win her points with Ms. Stanton.

Easton watched the contestants as they worked. He thought back to the sandwiches his mother had made him, as a child – the endless peanut butter and jelly on Wonder Bread; the fried bologna and pickle; the fish sticks on stale rye. Whatever these kids were making, they weren’t “sandwiches.” He felt a twinge of unaccustomed emotion. Easton wasn’t sure if he longed for the familiar foods of his own childhood, or if he had missed out on something amazing. But it was fascinating to watch them transform the ordinary into something… something almost bizarre.

Callista, though, stood out from the others. It wasn’t her culinary prowess that attracted Easton’s notice, but her brilliant, calculated strategy. He was onto her – he wondered if the judges, self-centered as they were, caught up in their own little worlds, would even notice the effort. He hoped the quality was as good as the idea – because, all cleverness aside, they would have to taste good.

As the judges tasted the entries, they made little faces; their wrinkled noses, puckered lips, and raised eyebrows spoke volumes. But when they tasted Callista’s sandwiches, they closed their eyes, tastebuds transported in unison to Nirvana, from the looks of it – well, Chance and Stanton did, anyway. Darius Brown stared intently into the lettuce and nodded, quietly murmuring to himself and nodding, once, as if in accord.


Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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15 thoughts on “Culinary Arts and Letters”

  1. Piquant purple onions? Lovely. I love how you describe food. And your characters are memorable. It’s a pity this is a short one. I’d love to read more. That Darius Brown, for example, is a fascinating character. I love this.

  2. What a clever story using your assigned words. When I first read the intro, it took me back to about the 5th grade and the assigned list of vocabulary, spelling and creative writing, all rolled up into one. Looking at the list of words usually formed a hockey puck in my stomach, and I wish I could have stuffed them into a sandwich, just to get rid of them.

    I am quite sure the quality of my creative ramblings were tough to follow! Especially when I would work on packing as many words into one sentence as possible.

    It was the soft sell, with a hopeful blush of color, sent to the teacher for a hopeful soft touch of a grading pencil to my hopeful by normally low quality contribution.

    You on the other hand have a nimble manner with words and would have been a tough act to follow.

    And I did wonder about how the sandwich would taste as you described it!
    Arla DeField recently posted…Overcoming Obstacles: How a primary caregiver created a successful businessMy Profile

  3. Out with it, Holly – tell me you are a bestselling author! 😉

    Your creativity ASTOUNDS ME!!!! I should try participating in this challenge too, although my entry would force you all to make ‘funny faces of disgust and dissatisfaction’ 😛

    “The QUALITY of your post proves that there is no TOUGHER ACT to follow. Even as I perused this masterpiece, my mind visualized your NIMBLE fingers clacking across the keyboard, while boisterous HOCKEY fans screamed ‘angry nothings’ from the TV – their cheeks flushed red in COLOR!

    Your ability to weave a scintillating tale actually forced me to forget my SOFT, peanut butter SANDWICH, which is huge because nothing usually interferes with my time with the best comfort food in the world. I love me some PB&J! hehe

    I am well-aware that my attempt to use these diverse words cohesively has failed. But I am delusional, and hence remain HOPEFUL that I too can become a reputable writer some day in order to CONTRIBUTE effectively to the literary world”

    😛 hehehehe


    1. Not yet, I’m not! But I do have a few books out:

      I think you should definitely participate in the Creative Copy Challenge – go check it out! It’s a lot of fun, and a good way to limber up the creativity. (Your comment would be a great entry in and of itself – most entrants just post their writing in the comments on the original prompt, and there’s a new prompt weekly.) The other members are very kind and supportive. You’ll have fun, there.

      Thank you so much for your comment – inspiring comments like that is the BEST part of writing this post.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Interview with Artist Todd KruseMy Profile

  4. Hi Holly,
    I can’t remember the last time I read a write-up that made me eminently hungry and sent my appetite to its highest performing level.

    I was watching the replay of the World Cup semifinals game between Argentina and Holland, and after reading your article during the game’s half break, I could not stop thinking about the sandwich you detailed – peanut butter and jelly on wonder bread, the fried bologna and pickle, the fish sticks on stale rye (Easton’s memory) – that I just had to make one (not exactly the way it was described, but close) and eat 2 pieces during the game’s 2nd half (burp !). 🙂

    I love (and adore, and I’m still relishing the imagined tastes and flavors) the way you illustrated (in words) the food and how they were being prepared. Although this is a Fictional Reality Culinary show, this is way better than Gordon Ramsay’s Master Chef reality show. Callista and Darius Brown should all come in the real world …, so should Chance and Stanton, and of course Easton.

    Ron recently posted…Dealing With Negative PeopleMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Ron! When I see comments like this, I’m both inspired to write more, and a little tempted to take a bow and say, “Yay, my work here is done!” Maybe the real problem with reality shows is that no one really wants them to be “reality” shows – we watch TV, read books, listen to music, look at art in order to be transported for a little bit into someone else’s fictional vision of reality or surreality or hyperreality. If we wanted reality, we’d just make our own sandwiches.

      Okay, that’s two votes for continuing with these characters… I am going to have to seriously consider it.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Interview with Artist Todd KruseMy Profile

  5. I don’t much care for reality shows but am forced to watch (or pretend to watch)somet at times owing to the company I keep. On culinary shows, my attention is usually caught by colourful characters rather than the food they are working on which seems mostly pretentious – they waste so kcu time on the “presentation” that I am left wondering if they are making up for the lack of taste. Jokes apart, in your piece, both the characters and the food seemed appetizing.

    1. My husband watches real cooking shows. Neither of us watch the “reality shows,” unless it’s a random episode of The Amazing Race. There’s something similar about reality shows and sports – I think that unless you can at least IMAGINE yourself a competitor on one, they can be hard to feel engaged with. This is the key to books and movies – if you can imagine yourself in the character’s place, it works, and you get sucked in. They have to be relatable as well as interesting. I have no interest in sports, and wouldn’t want to compete like that, so there’s little appeal for me.

      Hmm. Now that I’ve said that, maybe it’s best if we don’t discuss my genre preferences. 😉

      As for the descriptions of the food, I think of presentation as the appetizer – the promise of things to come – that gets your mouth watering. I agree with you that sometimes presentation overshadows the reality and is merely pretentious. Food is food – it’s GOT to taste good, or there’s no point.

      I focused on the psychology of the competition – the strategy in appealing to the judges’ tastes, rather than to one’s own personal vanity. THAT was something I could relate to. 🙂
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Interview with Artist Todd KruseMy Profile

    2. P.S. Deepak, the inability to comment on your blog is sometimes frustrating, and sometimes a relief. But the questions you ask are both local and universal, I think. Those who don’t read (and understand the implications of) history are doomed to watch it repeated; and those who don’t READ, period, have no hope of effecting real and positive change. See also – an interesting article with a US perspective. (I have no business commenting on India’s political woes; I don’t understand its history or its special interests sufficiently.)
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Interview with Artist Todd KruseMy Profile

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