Expository: Sweet, Sour & Resentful

20 Writing a Personal Essay based on Sweet, Sour, and Resentful

In this chapter you will use “Sweet, Sour, and Resentful” as a model for your own writing.

Writing a Personal Essay


You recently read the essay ”Sweet, Sour, and Resentful” by Firoozeh Dumas.  In the essay, the author describes a childhood experience that happened again and again:  Her mother would warmly welcome crowds of Iranian immigrants into their small California home and serve them platters of authentic Persian food that she spent all week preparing.  She showed her guests warmth and hospitality.  Her family, though received only complaints and criticism as they tried to help her prepare the weekly feasts.

Reading Dumas’ essay may have reminded you of a habit or custom from your childhood or maybe one that continues today. Maybe your experience is the same as Dumas’ because it involves a lot of food and a lot people. Or maybe your experience involves food but not a crowd, or perhaps it focuses on something entirely different.

After you read “Sweet, Sour, and Resentful,” you completed an exercise where you identified two writing strategies: (1) varying the length of sentences and (2) using the Power of Three.


The first purpose of this assignment is to write a one-page essay that describes a habit or custom that you remember from your childhood or one that continues today.

The second purpose is to practice using the two strategies listed above (varying sentence length and using the Power of Three).


  1. Think of a habit or custom to write about. If you can’t think of one, ask a family member for help (but write the paper yourself).
  2. Complete the paper planner near the end of this chapter. The planner will help you (1) organize your paper; (2) remember the important information that a person reading your paper needs to know; and (3) create lists of three items so that your paper will use the Power of Three.
  3. Draft paragraphs based on your completed paper planner.
    • Remember to use both long and short sentences in your writing
    • Include at least two examples of the power of three.

Practicing Skills

You will practice the following skills to write this essay:

  • Invention (thinking of an idea)
  • Using your personal experience as a topic of writing
  • Planning an essay
  • Drafting an essay
  • Revising an essay
  • Varying sentence structure


Here are some suggestions to help you write a strong essay:

  • Use at least five of the following expressions:
Nourishing (adj) Well-being Build community Connection (to) Bring (people) together A sense of belonging
Beneficial (adj) Uplifting (adj) Offer an opportunity (for) Increase confidence Improve performance Reduce anxiety
Celebration (of) Meaningful Family-oriented Be invited (to) Be required Benefit (n, v)
Be encouraged Be tied to Be discouraged Be determined Be allowed Cherish (v)
Relieve stress Be exhausted Be supposed to In full swing Bring joy Relief (n)
  • Use the Present Simple tense when making general statements. Use the Past Simple tense to describe past experiences. Use the Past Perfect tense to describe events that happened prior to other events in the past.
  • Use the Power of Three (parallel structure) in lists.
  • Use modal verbs (can, must, should, have to, etc.) to describe your attitude toward actions.
  • Use a variety of sentence structures (simple sentences, prepositional phrases, adjective clauses, adverb clauses, noun clauses, reduced clauses, transitional expressions) to improve the flow of your writing.

Gaining Knowledge

By completing writing this essay, you will learn that:

  • Your personal experiences are valuable and should be written down.
  • Writing is a process that involves multiple steps.
  • Having a model essay (like “Sweet, Salty, and Resentful”) can help you improve your own writing.
  • Sentence length is an important tool that you can use to communicate effectively with your readers.

Paper Planner

Before you begin to write, answer the following questions. Your answers will provide the information you need to produce an organized essay that is focused on your personal experience.

Questions related to the Introduction: Background information

  • What is the habit or custom?
  • Where did it begin? What does it symbolize or celebrate?
  • Is it related to cultural, family, or religious traditions? If so, what are those traditions?

Questions related to Body Paragraph 1: Your family’s experience

  • How  does your family practice the habit or custom?   Be specific here.  Review “Sweet, Sour, and Resentful” to see Dumas’ very detailed descriptions of food.  Even if you’re not writing about food, try to be just as specific about your topic.
  • Can you write a “Power of Three” sentence to help the reader understand how your family practices the habit or custom?

Questions related to Body Paragraph 2: Your role in your story

  • What is your role in this custom or habit?   Be specific here.  Review “Sweet, Sour, and Resentful” to see Dumas’ very detailed descriptions of food.  Even if you’re not writing about food, try to be just as specific about your topic.
  • Do you enjoy your role or would you rather have a different one? If so, which one?
  • Can you write a “Power of Three” sentence to help the reader understand your role?


Do you think you’ll continue to practice the habit or custom in your adult life? Why or why not?


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