Posted 15 October 2003 - 08:21 AM
It has been great having you here and so accessible to our community -- many thanks.
I have watched in amazement as the last two decades have opened up the genre of culinary history including Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s Near A Thousand Tables, Reay Tannahill’s Food in History, and James Trager’s Food Chronology. Then there are the more specific and cultural-centric tomes such as L.A.’s own Charles Perry’s Medieval Middle Eastern translations. It has truly been a wonder how the entire subject matter has expanded beyond restaurant reviews to the literary world that now supports journals such as Gastronomica and organizations like Slow Food.
Robert Wolke’s What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained to me, seems within the same genre as your How to Read a French Fry< and expands the social and historical implications of food into the realm of science.
As a burgeoning food writer I am curious what you think the future of food writing holds. Is there an as-yet untapped trend that would care to predict?
Posted 15 October 2003 - 09:38 AM
I'l go out on a limb here and say that I think a lot of food writing is fundamentally dishonest and that the next big trend should be completely honest reporting. What I mean by that is the tendency to write about other countries as if they were all filled with colorful, honest, earthy peasants. The tendency to write about cooking as a romance rather than being involved in teh physical act. The tendency to regurgitate accepted wisdom without challenging it and trying it for yourself. We need independent, strong-minded thinkers in this field who are not afraid to write what they see rather than what they expect the market wants to read.
A short example (and not to impute dishonesty on the part of the writer, rather a bit of a blinkered view of the field): When I was editing, I had a writer turn in a brilliant piece about visiting shepherds in Sicily who make ricotta out in the field. Wonderfully written. Great description. Old guys in scuffed shoes, old women in black dresses. Just before we publish, he sends me some snapshots from the trip. The family is sitting around the table and along with the accurately described "peasants" are their kids, two gorgeous young women in Prada and a very handsome man in D&G. To me, as good as the story was, I'll always regret not having had that note reflected ... the collision of tradition and modernity that is so much a part of the fabric of life in Italy. But he just thought it wasn't the type of thing that belonged in a "food" story.
Posted 15 October 2003 - 05:43 PM
Posted 15 October 2003 - 05:58 PM
Posted 15 October 2003 - 06:36 PM
But I do think that one of the reasons for falling readership is that folks don't recognize the real world in our writing. There's got to be some grease on your hands, some stink in the air when you're cooking. Painting pretty pictures just doesn't get it because even non-cooks recognize that that's not real.
Perhaps part of Tony Bourdain's success is the fact that he is unafraid to tell it like it truly is ... however, that said, he has this incredible sense of humor which makes the reality palatable and entertaining ... and one can read and reread his books over and over and always find new things that were missed the first time out ... eminently readable, yeah, that's the ticket! (credit to Jon Lovitz here!)