Primarily a writing exercise, this dream journal-inspired blog is a quiet introspective sojourn into the process that we traverse in going from private dream to public art. I see our dreaming as an internalized mythmaking. As I philosophize and expressively exhibit dreams, both private and public, I encourage and delight in creative language as a way to practice experiential metaphors through a “public dreaming." Writing Theory: Creative Dream Fiction

Monday, 11 February 2013

Food for the Imagination: Contributor Article Completes Sketches of Style

Dream Cuisine by RK
I am happy to present the first contributor article to SoJourn(al): Private Dreams to Public Art. I am especially proud to present this article because it speaks to many themes in the life of the Dream Author. I have been a vegetarian for over seven years, many of which were spent in the Middle East and Latin America, which posed interesting challenges. 

Nonetheless, I stayed true to a time in my life when I was thoroughly exposed to interpretive experience. My mental development was spurred on by alternative living practices, founded on a diet of psychoactive compounds and creative literature. Maintaining an alternative diet has been an essential ingredient in living a life based on principles of subtle recollection and acute awareness. 

Blurring the separation between external causes and their internal effects has been a lifelong inquiry. The experience of how foods have an impact on the subtle realms of dreaming is an invaluable source of critical thinking. As Terence McKenna put it, to "dissolve boundaries" is a natural step towards creative thinking, and becoming a seer of "true hallucinations" of which dreaming is an integral example.  

Food for the Body Equals Food for the Imagination

When Scrooge was visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, he believed that he was dreaming and put the apparition that stood before him down to ‘an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.’ ‘There’s more of gravy than of grave about you,’ he joked. The idea that foods can influence our dreams has featured heavily in literature throughout the years. There is a commonly held belief that what is going on in a person’s digestive system can have an affect upon his or her subconscious mind during sleep. To what extent is this true though? Can eating the wrong thing really plunge somebody into a world of nightmares?

Does Cheese Give you Bad Dreams?

There is significant evidence to suggest that eating healthily can help to keep a person’s mind to remain healthy. According to the Dieticians of Canada, maintaining a healthy diet can reduce irritability and mood swings and increase an individual’s ability to concentrate. Does this only apply to when people are awake though or does it also make a difference when they are dreaming? The food that has the strongest association with nightmares is undoubtedly cheese. However a study carried out by British researchers in 2005 suggests that there is actually no correlation between cheese consumption and bad dreams. The results of the study actually indicate that different varieties of cheese are capable of inducing specific types of pleasant dream, for example cheddar cheese is thought to lead to dreams about celebrities. The good dreams that cheese can bring about are believed to be due to the fact that it contains the amino acid tryptothan, which is commonly linked to a reduction in stress.

A report published in the Folklore sociology and anthropology journal questions whether the idea that cheese causes nightmares is linked in some way to its association to witches in literature. In ancient Roman writing, women who were viewed as potential sexual partners were referred to as ‘cheese’. In eleventh century English literature, several stories about ‘night witches’ came into being that included references to cheese. Folklore suggests that this was used to imply that the witches had a sexual element to them and wished to corrupt their victims by exposing them to sin. The report puts this forward as a possible reason that cheese might have ended up being blamed for bad dreams.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods are also thought to lead to nightmares, which is backed up by the results of a study that was published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology in which a group of healthy men were given spicy foods to eat before they went to sleep. They were observed to have a more restless night’s sleep than they did when they had not consumed any spicy foods before they went to bed. The author of the study speculated that this could have been due to the fact that the spicy foods had elevated the internal body temperature, causing the discomfort to work its way into the participants’ subconscious and leading to bad dreams.

Unhealthy Foods

Research cited by Justine Sterling of food magazine Meatpaper indicates that consuming foods that are high in sugar or fat immediately before going to bed can lead to nightmares. The study also indicates that going to bed on a full stomach can bring about bad dreams and low blood sugar caused by going for a prolonged period without eating can lead to vivid nightmares. This is because the body releases adrenaline when it is desperately hungry, which translates into the subconscious.


Mustard was another foodstuff that Scrooge blamed for Marley’s appearance – and with good reason as well, as a study carried out by researchers at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia, indicates that consuming it can result in nightmares. The researchers concluded that this is probably because it contains capsaicin, which can change the body’s temperature and lead to discomfort. It appears that what we eat really can affect the way that our minds work once we have passed over into the land of sleep. Perhaps cheese was not the main culprit in the case of Scrooge though; maybe Marley was merely a result of too much mustard before bed.

Evelyn Donaldson is a mother of two and full-time writer. She grew up in Idaho, but now lives in Kansas. She recently became vegetarian and has long been interested in dreams and their interpretations.
My blanket drifts up into sky, its multicolored fabric bleeds scarlet and lime into the nearing front of storm clouds gathering. The wind-whipped fabrics touch and scatter the bedroom floor, above without ceiling, empty unto the grandiose firmament. I wake to the numbing air, as on a mountain summit, where the thunder resonates in delicate cyclones. As I rise, the storm pierces the earth with overgrown fingernails of Zeus. A crepuscular storm, breathing in an unwelcome morning, filled with signs of a new god. 

Jupiter and Semele by Sebastiano Ricci
And the machines of war rape our Earth. Nazi terror sweeps as the witch’s broom throughout the countless, destroyed Jewish homes of Europe. My family is strangled and sucked clean through the medical tubes of an astral fire as hot as the blunt knives of torture. I escape. To Russia, I follow the blank news pages with a heart kept earnest. Directions swarm as the buzzing of toxic insects, and my rivals are blended as fruit sap in the teeth of metallic pincers. 

Nude II by Willy Fick
In the heart of Russia, I am free; yet full with a dark heart. The Earth trembles and fades each day with a transparent rush of nostalgia. I wish and writhe for the beating hearts of my beloved mother and father, sisters and brother. The wedding feasts and blind bliss, how we gorged on the salt of the seven seas with triumphant abandon. Every day, there was a moment of repose.

Cigarette Seller (Wandering Jewish Man) by Dome Skuteczky
We knew the day might come, when all would be rent, cleansed by the impotent flood of mad war. Should I wander further astray, eastward to the cold forest sands of Siberia, or westward, to the commercial forge of America, and sleep by the pill of forgetfulness? Lost again, if found anew, will I be recognized? 

As per SoJourn(al) tradition, I have prepared a free PDF for the entire Sketches of Style collection which has been excerpted in the past few months in complement to my dream writings. 


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