Reflections on flavours and words

Posted on March 20, 2023

Legs relaxed, arms unfolded, I lean back comfortably against the upholstery of my Louis XVI chair, my heart full of bliss. I smile at the thought of the joys on which I am about to feast my senses.

Eating and reading have much in common. Reading is to the mind what food is to the body: essential, indispensable, vital. Fullness and fulfillment are cousins. The body craves sustenance, the mind longs for nourishment. Hunger is relieved, curiosity satisfied.

We culinary connoisseurs have a horror of gulping down food, preferring to savour every bite. Those among us who love reading immerse themselves in a book rather than stumbling through it. All insist on the privilege of the moment, the delight of the senses, feast rather than frugality.

Depending on the succulence of the meal, we might be tempted to devour it greedily. But we quickly reconsider, as to give in would be tantamount to sacrilege or the most heinous of crimes. Instead, we indulge slowly, one morsel at a time, in order to prolong our enjoyment. We savour the delicious concoction before us. We relish the choice ingredients so skilfully combined with exquisite seasonings and spices. Their flavour blurs the line between taste and smell. Salty, sugary, tart, sweet-and-sour or umami: there is something for every palate.

Then comes digestion, that moment when, once ingested, the food continues on its way through the body, providing nutrients of all kinds. From it we gain strength, energy and vitality.

As for those of us who are readers, the complexity of characters, the detailed description of places, the author’s skill in conveying the feelings and emotions of protagonists and the overall mood can make us feel involved and even deeply committed. We develop a vested interest in the story. The choice of words and expressions, the beauty and precision of the stylistic devices, the poetry of sentences and the elegance of paragraphs captivate us. Then come the plotline, the intrigues, the suspense, the twists, surprises and revelations, all the pleasurable elements that transport us to the heart of the action. As readers eager to play our part, we pause to reflect at the end of a paragraph, a chapter, a trivial moment, a turn of events. We imagine several possible outcomes, question a character’s insight. We read not with haste but rather with patience, enthusiasm and delight. As if to let our soul absorb the full import of each word in the enthralling tale or exhilarating adventure. Whatever the genre—novel, essay or short story—all the ingredients combine to enchant the scholarly mind.

A good read leads to a moment of thoughtful contemplation. We rise higher on the scale of consciousness. Our mind expands, matures and awakens, and we feel a fullness that stirs and enriches us.

Literary and culinary masterpieces nourish and uplift the body and the mind. Thus enraptured, body and mind transcend the rational, are elevated toward the soul and become one with it. Such fulfillment is a rare experience that leads inevitably to happiness.

Translated by Nicholas Vaughn


The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Annie-Josiane Sessou

Annie-Josiane Sessou

Annie-Josiane Sessou passed away in October 2022. She described herself as an author with a scientific background. She drew pride, strength and hope from the diversity and richness of the French language. As a Francophone, she was deeply passionate about her language and used writing not only as an outlet but as an art form to express beauty.


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