Food metaphors to describe skin color

After publishing my post, yesterday, I left a comment on Mitali’s blog: 

“Hello Mitali, chiming in from India, where the Diwali celebrations are deafening. I greatly enjoyed this discussion, even though I did wonder about your point number 10, and the apparent ban on food metaphors to describe skin color (which I personally see as loving and positive). But then, I remembered that the whole discussion is meant in the context of the third person narrators’s point of view in a novel. Thanks for sharing this with us.”

Here is Mitali’s response:
“Hi Katia, number 10 is mainly because food has been so overdone in ethnic description that it almost sounds cliche. The point being that we’re writers, so it’s time for some creative new linguistic play.”

OK, so I had it right, regarding the need for writers to stretch their writing skills and imagination, but (and maybe this is me, being my usual non-compliant self) I still like the food metaphors, for the reasons mentioned before. Maybe I can keep some of them, and try and introduce them in more creative ways. 
Have I ever mentioned how I tend to resist and balk when told that I shouldn’t do something? Tell me to do something while giving me a good reason why I should, and I’m right there with you most of the time. But tell me : you should not do this, either because it’s not done, or because it no longer is, and this cocky contrary little Katia springs up with a hand on her hip and goes : “Oh yeah, says who, and why?” 
That alter ego is sometimes right (if only in the sense that it pushes me to think more, to question, to challenge), sometimes dreadfully wrong (as in simply being a manifestation of a rather stubborn streak.) And it usually takes me a while to figure that out. So, I will continue thinking about this… which is all good, anyway.

5 thoughts on “Food metaphors to describe skin color

  1. I had to write about this on my own post because, as I said, as a writer and reader, I feel the need to tell how a character really is. And I don’t really agree with Mitali’s list.Regarding food metaphors, I like comparisons with peach skin or honey colour… I just don’t understand the “olive” one… 😐

  2. Hi Katia, actually I do also love food metaphors if they are original and “new”, wasn’t Joseph Conrad who said that a writer should let the reader, “to see, smell, touch, hear and taste”? So I think that a part from writing on ethnicity Conrad’s words are to be highly considered when tekking about a place or a character! Actually when I write I don’t really try to imagine if my readers will “feel excluded” or “confused” by my characters who live and moove in a different background, mainly African. My characters will represent their world, otherwise they will be untrue, without identity. They convey an universal message, but they have their own vision and point of view which is related to their being African belonging to a specific tribe(either from Kenya or South Africa for example). I know that language is the first place where sterotypes are common but in fiction everthing passes through senses and it’s up to the writer to invent a new way of saying or showing something on a different perspective breaking wrong clichés. :)Valentina

  3. Hello Jo Ann,Yes, the olive skin is also one that kinds of puzzles me. But I actually didn’t think about that one as a loving food metaphor. I don’t believe it’s negative, but I don’t see it as loving and beautiful as honey, peach, or this type of metaphors.I agree of course with the need to be creative. For me, this discussion has been really good because it has forced me to look deeper into the issue, into how I will approach it next time. I don’t have an answer to that, as I remain my recalcitrant self and tend to refuse, as a principal, to bend to any kind of rules, BUT it certainly has made me think, and that’s good.

  4. Yes, Valentina, as mentioned before, writers need to be creative. I think that the more we write about mixed characters, the easier and the most obvious it will be to come up with different metaphors, or new ways of using the existing ones… It’s certainly a great challenge 🙂

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