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cookingwithamy

Why is food writing in America so bad?

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Sorry to disappoint you, but I have no intention of posting examples of what I consider bad food writing. This was not intended as a discussion of what is and isn't bad, simply a question as to why there isn't better food writing out there.

If we haven't yet established what is and isn't bad, how are we going to agree on why there's "so much" bad food writing out there? Please, humor us with at least a few examples.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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You forgot to mention that all violinists should play like Heifetz, Russ. After all, what's so difficult about bowing back and forth on four strings and putting down one finger after another?  :raz:

What indeed - at any rate, that's exactly how he felt about it. Was always a bit puzzled by all the fuss, always more interested in working at things like carpentry or ping-pong which actually held a challenge for him.

That sounds like a story he told a reporter as a way of getting him off his back. Heifetz was well-known for doing a great deal of practicing and being a perfectionist to the nth degree.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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That sounds like a story he told a reporter as a way of getting him off his back. Heifetz was well-known for doing a great deal of practicing and being a perfectionist to the nth degree.

I know - I vas dere, Cholly. But though he practiced diligently and put enormous thought and energy into musical interpretation, there was still an element of the idiot-savant there, in the sense that the physical intricacies of the instrument came so naturally to him that he couldn't quite connect with the idea that other people didn't, *couldn't*, have the same facility. He didn't have to *worry* about being able to play the fiddle; but he could lose sleep over a ping-pong match.

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I understand. Just like J.S. Bach said that anyone who worked as hard as he did would have been just as good. I'm sure there are virtuoso chefs like that, too. Hmmm....Maybe that would be a good thread!


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I understand. Just like J.S. Bach said that anyone who worked as hard as he did would have been just as good. I'm sure there are virtuoso chefs like that, too. Hmmm....Maybe that would be a good thread!

And this from Bach, who was himself the music of the spheres! (Don't argue, just read Douglas Adams: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Explains it all.)

Chefs, I dunno, though I assume so. Certainly there are *cooks* of whom it is true. And cooks of whom it ain't. With cooking as with music (uh-oh, she's getting on her hobby-horse): there are those who have a fabulous ear, there are those who have perfect pitch, there are those who are reasonably competent but not scintillating; there are those who are tone-deaf. Oh gosh, we *are* getting a bit OT here... sorry. But it's like what we were saying over on the Jar Opening thread - at one end of the spectrum there are those to whom it comes naturally and from whom it flows felicitously; at the other, those who will *never* feel at home with it no matter how hard they work at it. (I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be somewhere in the first category.)

And then there's everyone in-between.


Edited by balmagowry (log)

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To bring this back on topic, what about virtuoso food writers?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Who do you write for?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I do hope that FG is right about the public demanding better writing though.

And to that description of good food writing, I'd add:

Alice Waters

Madeline Kamman

Marian Burros

El Gordo (aka Steven Shaw :biggrin: )

James Beard

Julia Child

Amanda Hesser

Diana Kennedy

David Leite

Steven Shaw's ok. But he don't know tractors from truffles. :wink:


JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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I just want to jump in with one of my favorite writers, restauranteurs, cooks, etc., Zarella Martinez. She knows her venue and brings a personal intensity to her writing that I love. Her recipes aren't any slouch either.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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While all the good stuff has been said by others, I thought I would give some realities from my own writing life that may answer some of your question, cookingwithamy.

1. Advertising. I was an advertising copywriter for 15 years, and I know the power a client CAN wield over publications. This isn't an absolute, so Russ and Kathy don't come running after me with knives in hand! But while advertising has never driven the content of my work, it has determined the length and timing of a few of my pieces. For example, I had a piece of mine cut nearly in half. Any kind of craft that went into the article went out the window when it got butchered. I would have loved to have had a crack at it, but I wasn't allowed "because there was no time." Which always made me laugh because I was the guy holding all the cards, if you will: I had the research, I knew the information that would have made that shortened piece--if not sing--perhaps warble a bit better.

2. Poor editing. Now everything that flows from a writer's pen is not gold, we all know that. But yesterday for the fun of it, a friend and I were comparing the original piece I wrote for a publication with the published version. Granted there were a few changes that truly improved the piece, and I was grateful for them. But on the whole, the changes didn't add ANYTHING--clarity, dimension, heft, or knowledge--to the piece. In fact, my friend commented that several phrase that were changed made the piece less precise, less specific, less interesting. This doesn't happen every time, but in the end I was left with an article I'm not happy with. Thank God for Web sites where you can put your own versions up for all the world to see that, yes, indeed, you CAN write.

3. Time crunches. There are times when you simply just have to get it out. Period. Your editor has a hole to fill because some thick-skulled moron of a writer bailed on her, and she turned to you. What do you do? Play prima donna and say you can’t possible deliver 1,000 in 8 hours? No. You say yes, then freak out after you hang up. You do your best and hope no one who regularly reads your work will find the piece. That, or get a nom de plume.

But I do think there is some great food writing out there. But like anything in life, you have to find it. How many guys do you have to date until you find a great one? How many off-Broadway shows so you have to slump through until you discover a gem? How many...well, you get my point. Great wouldn't mean much if there wasn't a lot of mediocre to go around.

Best,

David


David Leite

Leite's Culinaria

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Amy, you might have been put off by a few marginally chippy responses. But by now I hope you understand that your question was unhelpfully broad, a de-pinned hand grenade tossed into a room full of ... American food writers.

I might well have asked, "Why are the questions posted on eGullet so bad?"

:biggrin:

My contribution to the discussion: One reason much food writing isn't as scintillating as the output of the famed authors named above is that the pay is often dismal. If you have a book gig, a well-appointed contributing editorship or a staff job at a metro newspaper, you might have the time and resources to immerse yourself in knowledge and hone your prose.

There are still talented outsiders who work on their writing while holding down another job (i.e., Bourdain). But those are exceedingly rare, in my acquaintance.

Most often, food writing is piecework (say, $75 a section front story in a 200K circ metro, for instance), and gets cranked out like chicken carcasses on a packing house assembly line.

(Edited for clarity.)


Edited by sacre_bleu (log)

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Who do you write for?

Busted! That'll larn me to shoot off my mouth every time a smart-ass answer comes into my head. (Actually - nah, it probably won't, at that.) Just at the moment, I guess the answer is "remains to be seen." WWNorton has first refusal on my next book, but that and a coupla bucks'll get you on the subway. More to the point, there's no knowing whether or not they'll go for it (much has changed since the last one, both for them and for me) until I get my act together to finish the proposal and sell it, is there. Meanwhile, I write the occasional whimsically foody piece for Tin House; have one coming out in the next (spring) issue, but by the time we finished re-casting it to suit the theme for the issue it ended up being only loosely food-related. At least the title ("Dinner with the Borgias") still harks back to its earlier gastronomic intent.... In galleys now; not sure when it actually hits the stands - next month, I guess.

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Good luck, and please keep us posted.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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While all the good stuff has been said by others,

Hardly! I'd say your remarks are very much to the point. Couldn't agree with you more about the hazards of editing. Actually, I've been incredibly lucky in that regard - have managed to win all the battles that mattered most to me, which ultimately is what really counts, I guess - but the blood runneth cold at the thought of certain suggested edits that clearly betrayed the copy-readers' inexperience. (When did that function get relegated to the underpaid and undereducated apprentice level, I wonder. Maybe I don't want to know.) And I realize full well that one reason I've gotten off easy is that I've only written for formats with relatively slow turnaround. Uncle who was writing for a daily at the time tells nightmare tale of a music review wherein his editor carefully changed his mention of a "Savile Row suit" to "Seville Row suit" - without talking to him about it, of course (who has time for such niceties on a daily?), until after the fact. Editor confronts him with printed edition, shows him the "correction" and says something like "you're just lucky I caught this in time and kept you from embarrassing yourself." With support like that, who needs enemies?

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It occurs to me that there is one thing that may set food writing apart from other areas. I'm talking through my hat here - haven't thought this through and am interested in doing so and testing it - but it seems to me that food writing lends itself more than most other categories to a use of the writer's personal thoughts and feelings and experience. Why? Maybe because food is so universal; there's no one who isn't touched by it, there's no one who doesn't have important and visceral memories and feelings connected to it; no one can be truly indifferent to it. Food writing doesn't *require* the personal element, but as I think about it I find that the writers who charm and engage me most (partial list in previous graf...) are those who do inject something of themselves into their work. Who *give* of themselves; great food writing is, above all, generous. I love to feel that I'm comparing notes with them about something that affects us both, or that I'm being given a glimpse of someone else's life, an insight into a memory that really matters to someone. Food writing is - or at any rate can be - more *intimate* than most other forms. And to do it that way requires a special kind of openness and courage on the part of the writer.

At what point does one draw the boundary line between food writing and memoir?

Maybe one doesn't.

I think there is definitely a line that should be drawn between food writing and memoir...and as I'm working this out in my head, maybe there's two different lines.

One line depends on audience. You have to be in a situation where the memories you're relating somehow move your audience and a lot of people's memories depend on age, where they grew up, lifestyle, etc. So for me, while a memoir of Depression-era foods and eating situations may be historically interesting, it won't strike the same chord with me as I piece I once read waxing on the joys of popular candies in the 1980s when I grew up. When I read those stories in my hometown newspaper (circ 30K) they have the same effect. And the reason those pieces work so well in that paper is that there's not a lot of influx and outflux in that town. Most people are lifers. Where I live now, 50%+ are transplants from other areas of the country and don't have the same base of experience and foods they grew up on and childhood memories of places and restaurants. Yes, food is universal, but interpretation of it depends on so many factors. A lot of times those don't translate across time and space. The pieces I find so charming when I visit my parents, I hate here. I just want to know whether the new restaurant is using basil properl and whether they make their desserts in house--and hey if you can say it in a funny and interesting way...I love it!

The other line depends on format. As I said above it is really hard to work memoir pieces into newspapers. There is also a space constraint in newspapers that can be very tight and the turnaround constraint. And having done that myself, most of the time I had too many irons in the fire and too little space to do anything like that. Memoirs can work wonderfully in magazines and books though.

Certainly there has to be an element of universality for a memoir to be good, but what else does it take? Should this be another thread? Debating what is food writing and what is memoir and what makes a memoir "work."

Don't know how to add a second quote:

David Leite:

"2. Poor editing. Now everything that flows from a writer's pen is not gold, we all know that. But yesterday for the fun of it, a friend and I were comparing the original piece I wrote for a publication with the published version. Granted there were a few changes that truly improved the piece, and I was grateful for them. But on the whole, the changes didn't add ANYTHING--clarity, dimension, heft, or knowledge--to the piece. In fact, my friend commented that several phrase that were changed made the piece less precise, less specific, less interesting. This doesn't happen every time, but in the end I was left with an article I'm not happy with. Thank God for Web sites where you can put your own versions up for all the world to see that, yes, indeed, you CAN write.

3. Time crunches. There are times when you simply just have to get it out. Period. Your editor has a hole to fill because some thick-skulled moron of a writer bailed on her, and she turned to you. What do you do? Play prima donna and say you can’t possible deliver 1,000 in 8 hours? No. You say yes, then freak out after you hang up. You do your best and hope no one who regularly reads your work will find the piece. That, or get a nom de plume."

Couldn't agree more with number 2. That's one thing I have been universally disappointed with in speaking to newspapers myself and speaking to friends who work a prominent newspapers and magazines. At far too many it is not seen as important that the copy-editor be as well versed or almost as well versed in a subject as the writer they are editing. I think some of it is the mentality that this knowledge of the subject is only important when editing "hard news" pieces and not other writing, which is blatantly false and sets the paper up for at best looking stupid and at worst getting a restaurant really riled up. (Don't even ask me about the time one restaurant pulled its ads and another tried to sue a paper I was working at over restaurant reviews!)

3. Yes, there was definitely a memorable time when some jack sh!t writer didn't turn in their piece and I had to write about a restaurant I had been to once and hadn't even ordered dessert in two hours!! At 9 pm! Thanks for reminding me of the good times :wink: !

SML


"When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University!" --Ralph Wiggum

"I don't support the black arts: magic, fortune telling and oriental cookery." --Flanders

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I think there is definitely a line that should be drawn between food writing and memoir...and as I'm working this out in my head, maybe there's two different lines.

One line depends on audience. You have to be in a situation where the memories you're relating somehow move your audience and a lot of people's memories depend on age, where they grew up, lifestyle, etc. So for me, while a memoir of Depression-era foods and eating situations may be historically interesting, it won't strike the same chord with me as I piece I once read waxing on the joys of popular candies in the 1980s when I grew up.

Yeah, OK - I got a little carried away there, I grant you - and of course the memoir-ish style of writing doesn't lend itself quite as well to an area like restaurant criticism where you have a certain number of hard topical facts that must be put across. But I can't quite buy your argument about relevance. Sure, not everything in the more personal kind of food writing will resonate the same way with everyone, but does that really mean you're not going to read it, or enjoy it, if it doesn't speak directly to your own experience? That seems rather a limited perspective. The thing I find most enthralling about a memoir, foody or otherwise, is that it introduces me to scenes and perspectives that are *not* familiar to me, that I could never have achieved on my own. One food writer I admire (OK, OK, I'm talking Carter again in this case, but she's a good example, what can I say) grew up on a farm in the midwest, and much of what first attracted her to food writing is what she learned there as a child; about cooking, from her grandmother and her mother; about fresh ingredients, about harvesting, about milking, about storing, about the social uses and rituals pertaining to food in that kind of community. All this informs her writing and her point of view - sometimes overtly, sometimes subliminally. Culturally, most of it is entirely foreign to me; I can learn from it, and I find it fascinating. And the farther removed it gets from my own experience. or my own century, the more fascinating I find it. Seems to me that the whole point of reading other people's writing is to broaden one's knowledge and understanding; conversely, much of the point of writing is to entertain as well as inform. Of course there is an onus on the writer to tell the story skilfully, and to make it relevant to the matter at hand, if such matter there be; that's the whole point. But there's a reason that writers - even writers at a comparable level of skill - are not interchangeable.

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I'm kinda late to the party, but I wanted to get my two cents in on such a fun subject (near and dear to my heart...)

I have to completely disagree with this:

Actually I have had several discussions with chefs and foodies about the San Francisco Chronicle and the general agreement is that Marlene Spieler is one of the it's saving graces. But to answer FG's question the Chron in general is a perfect example of food writing out of touch with the average Joe. I'm not sure who it's in touch with at all.
(not the part about you Marlena).

If anything, the SF Chronicle food section is definitely provincial, and written expressively for the average Joe. Not that that's a bad thing. They don't cover the international food and dining trends like the NY Times, but of course, who has the Times big pocket book to dip into? And besides, since the Times already covers the international and dining trend scene with such aplomb, why not do something different and distinctive? No sense in copying them...

Take a look at Tara Duggan's "Working Cook" column. Pretty straight forward stuff for the average joe just trying to get a nutritious meal on the table after a long day of work.

Then there is the weekly "Tasters Choice" column, which has local chefs and writers blind-tasting brand name food stuffs. That has average Joe written all over it.

In defense of the SF Food section, I think in the last 4-5 months, they've really been cranking out an incredible body of work. For instance, Olivia Wu's articles on Microwaving Lobsters and Dungeness Crabs. Pretty good stuff about a unconventional technique. I just nuked 2 lobsters and steamed 2 lobsters this Saturday night. The difference between the two is remarkable.

What about Carol Ness's lovely colum on "Bergamots"? In a year or so, you'll see bergamots showing up on winter menus across the country, once the pipeline for the regional growers spotlighted in the article is set up. Janet Fletcher has written an article a week for a year on over 52 different cheeses. Try and find any other food section with that resource on-line. And how about the ongoing coverage of trans fats by writer Kim Severson, which resulted in a book on the subject? Well today, Campbells/Pepperidge farms announced that they are eliminating the use of trans fats in their uber-popular snack Goldfish, by September of this year. Ka-ching.

Personally, I think if the SF Chronicle combined their Wednesday Food Section with their Thursday Wine Section, and published both on the same day, they would have the best "Food Section" of any newspaper in the country. Besides, we all know that the epicenter (pun intended) of the food world is in San Francisco anyways...(heh heh).

Just to note, I think the gripe that most chefs have with the SF Food section, has to do with their dislike of the restaurant reviews, and not with the general food coverage.

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The following concerns the British book and magazine publishing scene, and doesn't necessarily relate to newspapers:

There are observable trends in book and periodical editing, and one is that those holding the jobs are getting younger and younger. This may be optimistically attributed to a search for new ideas, but is more realistically explained by the fact that kids straight out of college are cheaper to hire.

My wife has written five books on feeding infants and children, including The Nursery Food Book, which for five years has been the standard textbook for students in the Nursery Nurse diploma program. She taught infants in state schools for more than thirty years and in the evenings taught cookery to adults for over twenty years, so that she had a double perspective on the subject.

In 1996, her first relationship with her editors went smoothly. They assumed that she knew more about her subject than they did and confined their observations to useful suggestions having to do with structure and clarification.

From then on it was all downhill, culminating in her last book on Managing Nursery Food, for nursery school managers. It was for Times Educational, a Murdock press which one might expect to be professional. But the editor put in charge of the book was an arrogant young man who had just been moved across from sales to fill a gap left by a departing employee. He knew nothing of the subject – indeed, of writing itself – but rewrote the book into an illiterate travesty full of factual errors. It took my wife several months of open warfare culminating in a refusal to allow her name on the cover, and a threat to publicly denounce the book in the professional press, before he gave in and allowed the book to go to press as she had written it.

Writing for professional magazines, she now continually comes up against girls straight out of college who rewrite her copy and whom she then has to diplomatically pursuade to allow her to vet the proofs so as to avoid factual errors which could even lead to law suits.

Friends in the Guild of Food Writers and the Society of Authors echo these experiences again and again. They are the inevitable result of the ownership of publishing houses having passed into the hands of meganational corporations which make and sell books with the same callous disregard for quality as prevails in the marketing of T-shirts.


Edited by John Whiting (log)

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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The following concerns the British book and magazine publishing scene, and doesn't necessarily relate to newspapers:

There are observable trends in book and periodical editing, and one is that those holding the jobs are getting younger and younger. This may be optimistically attributed to a search for new ideas, but is more realistically explained by the fact that kids straight out of college are cheaper to hire.

My wife has written five books on feeding infants and children, including The Nursery Food Book, which for five years has been the standard textbook for students in the Nursery Nurse diploma program. She taught infants in state schools for more than thirty years and in the evenings taught cookery to adults for over twenty years, so that she had a double perspective on the subject.

In 1996, her first relationship with her editors went smoothly. They assumed that she knew more about her subject than they did and confined their observations to useful suggestions having to do with structure and clarification.

From then on it was all downhill, culminating in her last book on Managing Nursery Food, for nursery school managers. It was for Times Educational, a Murdock press which one might expect to be professional. But the editor put in charge of the book was an arrogant young man who had just been moved across from sales to fill a gap left by a departing employee. He knew nothing of the subject – indeed, of writing itself – but rewrote the book into an illiterate travesty full of factual errors. It took my wife several months of open warfare culminating in a refusal to allow her name on the cover, and a threat to publicly denounce the book in the professional press, before he gave in and allowed the book to go to press as she had written it.

Writing for professional magazines, she now continually comes up against girls straight out of college who rewrite her copy and whom she then has to diplomatically pursuade to allow her to vet the proofs so as to avoid factual errors which could even lead to law suits.

Friends in the Guild of Food Writers and the Society of Authors echo these experiences again and again. They are the inevitable result of the ownership of publishing houses having passed into the hands of meganational corporations which make and sell books with the same callous disregard for quality as prevails in the marketing of T-shirts.

I think that your wife's experiences speak to the fact that not enough people look at editing as a craft separate from writing. Speaking as a young person myself (24), too many of my peers want to put their own mark on someone's writing or are using editing as a stepping stone--a way to pay bills and make contacts--towards their own writing career. ("Look! Look how much better I made this!!!") It's sometimes as if they see editing as a mistake-finding contest instead of an exercise in improving/tweaking the manuscript.

This is unfortunate because the best editors are the ones who put aside their own voice and work to enhance the voice of the writer. The editor, ideally, should simultaneously represent the average reader's perspective (whether it be a technical work for PhDs or popular press for anyone) and ensure each part is clear and well articulated. Hopefully, the editor would have some amount of knowledge on the subject as well. (A number of times I've separately researched before I edit, just so I don't sound like an idiot and can follow the piece. It never hurts to know more.)

I'm curious as to what solutions you might see in this situation or what improvements can me made.

balmagowry:

Yes, I do think reading about different experiences in memoirs can be wonderful. I guess I hold those to a higher level of quality as far as creativity ability to convey the story in a compelling manner. So few people in my experience do it well, while a lot of people think they can do it. Call me hyppocritical, but I'm willing to forgive a lot more writing sins if it's something I can easily relate to.

SML


"When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University!" --Ralph Wiggum

"I don't support the black arts: magic, fortune telling and oriental cookery." --Flanders

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I'm curious as to what solutions you might see in this situation or what improvements can me made.

They involve structural alterations in society which are unlikely to occur, such as various trades and industries being once more in the hands of people who love and understand them. They needn't be virtuous, they can even be greedy -- Hollywood, it was often said, was run by SOBs, but they were SOBs who loved movies.

EDIT: The finest editors of the past have been those who were older and in certain respects wiser than their authors but were capable of admiration. Maxwell Perkins, for example, who turned the logorrhea of Thomas Wolfe into novels.


Edited by John Whiting (log)

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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It occurs to me that there is one thing that may set food writing apart from other areas. I'm talking through my hat here - haven't thought this through and am interested in doing so and testing it - but it seems to me that food writing lends itself more than most other categories to a use of the writer's personal thoughts and feelings and experience. Why?

I'd completely agree with you there, Balma. We had an interesting thread on e-gullet about a year ago (it's probably in the refrigerator somewhere) on first-person in food writing.

Cookingwithamy, please don't think you got barked at for starting a thread. I had that same feeling when I first posted. I'd never encourage you not to post, just to be more specific in your question. Rather than "why is so much food writing bad," I wanted you to define what you meant by bad: Imprecise? Dull? Predictable? Repetitive?

Food writing at newspapers has a history and that history still resonates. There are food writer/editors who date back to the days when most were home economists by training and weren't hired for their ability to spin engaging prose. And if you really trace our lineage back six or seven decades, we all date to food editors who were adjuncts of the advertising department. Those days are long gone -- thank the lord and pass over the paid press junket -- but memories still linger in some newsrooms and color the perception of food sections as not being "real news," or worthy of "real writing."


Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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At what point does one draw the boundary line between food writing and memoir?

Maybe one doesn't.

I'd definitely say that for me, it's a "know it when I see it" type of thing. The word "slippery slope" comes to mind. At what point does the writing pass from being about food, with the warmth of the writer's experience enhancing it, to being about the writer, with the food there just to say it was? :angry:

Perhaps it does have something to do with the target audience, trying to appeal to people who are more self-centered yet want to be sophisticated in all things culinary, without actually having to cook meals.

Makes me want to cancel a magazine subscription when I see that.


Edited by Katherine (log)

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At what point does one draw the boundary line between food writing and memoir?

I've got a nomination. Jason Epstein's New York Times Sunday Magazine columns walk the line, and occasionally slip over into the pointlessly memoirish.

Case in point Sunday's offering, wherein Epstein belabors readers with his account of his 1953 honeymoon aboard the Atlantic liner Ile de France.

Not enough about food. Too much about him and the decor in his stateroom, etc. I often enjoy his columns. Just this one made me mutter, "Get to the food already, sheesh. I don't care that much about your life."

Meaning that I could be interested in your life. But you completely failed to hold me there this time.

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At what point does one draw the boundary line between food writing and memoir?

I've got a nomination. Jason Epstein's New York Times Sunday Magazine columns walk the line, and occasionally slip over into the pointlessly memoirish.

Case in point Sunday's offering, wherein Epstein belabors readers with his account of his 1953 honeymoon aboard the Atlantic liner Ile de France.

Not enough about food. Too much about him and the decor in his stateroom, etc. I often enjoy his columns. Just this one made me mutter, "Get to the food already, sheesh. I don't care that much about your life."

Meaning that I could be interested in your life. But you completely failed to hold me there this time.

Rather like where, through reading memoirish articles, you become personally acquainted with a writer, and realize that you don't like them at all, and wish you'd never gotten to know them.

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