Horrible food

The extract from E.M.Forster that forms the basis of this text is a fine piece of writing in itself, typical of Forster's lucid phrasing and acute observation, but the text as a whole can be exploited in several different ways for different purposes:

The Theme of 'Experiences' ... Everyone will have some experience of having to eat horrible food, so this should get the students talking. However, it should also encourage them to think about what 'experience' really means. An 'experience' is not just something that has happened to you, it is something which you have thought about. We give form to an experience not just by observing what happens, but by describing it, by reflecting on it, and therefore finally drawing some sort of conclusion about it. This whole process can be seen clearly in what Forster writes about nasty English breakfasts (and about English food in general, and possibly about a certain English puritanism).

Similes and metaphors ... The Forster text is centred around the wonderfully disgusting evocation of the food, and this evocation depends on a string of figurative effects.

Accurate detailed reading ... I have provided exercises to test careful reading of the whole text, involving both referential pronouns (which Forster uses a lot), and interpretation of aspects of meaning which are evidently implied but may not be clear to many students.

The blog text type ... The text as a whole is a blog entry, and is a good example of the sort of entry which is based around a quoted text, with reactions and comments - it can serve as a useful model for this kind of blog. You might point out that the Forster extract apparently comes from an article written for Food and Wine magazine - but it could be seen as a blog entry before blogs existed.

Writing a blog ... Clearly, having read and studied this text, students can be invited to write their own blog entry, exploring the idea of 'horrible food' - most probably based on their own experience, but they could also be asked to find some sort of relevant text to form the basis of their writing, as does the Foster extract in this blog.

Student access

You can get the students to read and reflect on this text outside class by directing them to the page  TASKS Horrible food  , which is open to student access.

Using the handout

The text is presented in three different ways, as described below. Choose whichever of these three approaches suits your class and purpose best.

The whole text, complete and unmodified ... for use with capable students who can be expected to read and discuss all of the subtleties of the writing without much guidance. This whole text version comes with comprehension exercises - you can see the answers to these questions by clicking on the icon below.

1.  That cry

2.  English food

3.  porridge & prunes

4.  (the) haddock

5.  sausages & bacon

6.  (my) most horrid food experience

7.  (her even more) dreadful food

8.   to emphasise by contrast the awfulness of English food (accept any different phrasing)

9.   they eschew pleasure and consider delicacy immoral   (the 'they' is probably optional)

10.  good white wine  (award the mark only if 'wine' is included)

The text, with cloze gaps ... to draw attention to how Forster uses figurative language, focusing on this as one element within the text as a whole.

The key description alone, with cloze gaps ... to focus above all on the imaginative handling of simile and metaphor; perhaps as a lesson on its own, teaching the concept of such figurative imagination. This focus can also be achieved using the 'heads up' version below - projected using Pesentation mode.


Horrible food imagery



out in a lifeboat       pallid grey lumps     steel       hard yellow oilskin 

wrinkled skulls of old men       out all night       salt water      scented jelly 

Everything was grey. The porridge was in    , the prunes swam in grey juice like the    , grey mist pressed against the grey windows. ‘Tea or Coffee, Sir?’ rang out next, and then I had a haddock.   It was covered with a sort of   , as if it had been  , and its insides gushed     when pricked. Sausages and bacon followed this disgusting fish. They, too had been  . Toast like    , marmalade a    . And the bill, which I paid dumbly, wondering again why such things have to be.”



Total Score:

Links & extensions

Food ... A range of pages give specific stimulus material about the pleasures, and otherwise, of eating...

Calçots explored  ... a blog about the difficulties of dealing with calçots, a specific type of Catalan vegetable ... partly humorous, but also deals with the particular tastes of food ... EXTENSION: possible stimulus for descriptive writing, about food, but also about vivid experiences of any sort...  AND:  the whole field of food as an expression of culture...

Roast Beef, reviewed ... this page is principally intended to provide models for the writing of reviews, but it includes descriptive writing about the nature of the dish mentioned ... EXTENSION: a starting point for restaurant reviews in particular, and then review writing in general...

RoadKill Cafe ... based on the menu of this bizarrely-named cafe - allegedly, amusing ways to cook animals found dead on the road (!) ...  EXTENSION: ...raises the whole idea of menu-writing, and thus the use of evocative phrasing...


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