Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Defining Pink Sauce

When you’re writing your life, you’re likely doing so for one of two reasons: catharsis (to get it off your mind) or commiseration (to get it off your chest and into others’ minds). Either way, you’re inviting your readers to share experiences. 

Consider that your readers may have already achieved some level of sophistication through personal experiences or reading. It’s up to you to be judicious with your word choices when describing your experiences. You want readers to keep pace with your stories. Yet, with global interactions, it’s easy to lose them because of the multiple meanings of words. I’ve found that the greater the sophistication of the reader, the greater the number of choices of meaning (or options for the most appropriate word). 

Take for instance my recent trip to Spain. One of my unspoken travel rules is to sample some of the local delicacies, which I look for while reading the menus. In this case, my findings included oxtail, tinto de verdana (red wine spritzer) and Iberian jamon (ham).

At times, my husband and I would rely on my dilapidated Spanish when ordering food. Keep in mind, I learned Spanish decades ago from Mexican and Ecuadorian professors, who had warned me about the differences in their languages vs. the "real" Spanish. After having been to Spain, I now know that Catalan is different than Castillian (where most words have a “th” sound), and that because of the Moor influence, there are thousands of words in southern Spain, especially, that have an Arabic heritage. So much for my "Donde es el bano?" attempt at finding a restroom. What I needed to say was "Los aseos, por favor." Who knew? 

But back to the menus and the topic of this blog post – pink sauce. There are subtle differences between every geography, but there was one consistency: whether I was in Madrid or Andalucía, in a tapas bar or in a fine dining room, there was always a translation that included “pink sauce.”

Like the words, the sauce had different interpretations: shrimp puree, strawberry cream, a mysterious mayonnaise-like drizzle on avocados, a hardening waxy shell on gelato, or my favorite, Gazpacho Andaluz. So fresh. Unfortuntely I’m not doing the experience justice with this measly paragraph. 

In trying to relay those dinner happenings, I was reminded how important being specific is when writing. It’s your role as a writer to guide your readers through your experiences so vividly that your experiences become their own through you. So let me try again.

In Seville, sitting outdoors in the moonlight, I was served the best pink sauce in my Spanish travels: a tomato-cream soup, not a sauce, with chopped onions, boiled eggs and cucumbers decorating the surface like a mosaic. The color of the soup itself was near the inside of not-quite-ripe-tomato pulp. But, the pink soup had all the fragrance and flavor of fully-ripe tomatoes enhanced with local herbs – slightly acidic, slightly spicy yet thirst-quenching. Served cold in a plate-sized bowl, it was a refreshing late-night dinner to complement the warm Spring day.
Can you almost taste it? If not, I recommend a trip to Spain to try it. In the meantime, be sure you take the time to define what you want your readers to experience. Watch for your generic descriptions and remember that every reader has a frame of reference from which to pull interpretations. Know your audience and know how to talk to them. It’s up to you to guide them as best you can. Adios (‘til later).


As CEO of Write Advisors, Bonnie Bajorek Daneker helps clients express themselves digitally and in print. Author of The Compassionate Caregiver Series®, Bonnie released her seventh book, CLIMB, in November 2010, with Sandy Hofmann, President of Women in Technology (WIT). Her most recent book, Publishing as a Marketing Strategy, is co-written with five other contributors and was released November 2011. She holds a BA in Journalism from The Ohio State University and an MBA in Strategic Planning and Entrepreneurship from The Goizueta School of Business at Emory University.  

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