A peculiar conversation has developed in one little corner of the food blogosphere, which has led to another chat, and another beyond that. At issue are questions on whether good food writers, good food writing, and readers of such people and things exist. The comment that sparked this forum: â€œI honestly canâ€™t think of another single writer who writes about food in a truly interesting, engaging and entertaining way.â€
Of course good food writingâ€”great food writingâ€”exists. So do the writers and readers. Both way back when and now. MFK Fisher, Monique Truong, Calvin Trillin, David Foster Wallace, Nicole Mones, KT Achaya, Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, Diana Abu Jaber. Want witty, interesting, engaging and entertaining? Please read Francis Lam. (Lists go on and on and on, and I haven’t even begun to pimp my own editors.) But I suspect most of us are beyond these questions of quality. So I want to focus on another notion that was raised in the aforementioned conversations:
Food writing is easy.
Well, it can be. Done well, it is not. Like any serious journalism or scholarship, food writing is what the writer puts into it. If a writer thinks food writing is easy, chances are his or her stories reflect no great difficultyâ€”no nuance, irony, craftsmanship, dedication or investigation (a.k.a., reporting by the old-school journalistic definition of the word). Thank goodness we have a lot of writers who recognize this and channel their efforts into their work.
Certainly, not all food stories (or food blogs) are meant to be works of journalism. And that’s perfectly fine. But good bloggers who write for the pure love of food, family and friends put enormous effort into their recipes, reviews, photos and research into what goes on the dinner table. That’s not easy.
Neither is writing (food or otherwise) when it’s a calling. A passion. Some of the best food writing surfaces among non-food writers and reporters who write and report wellâ€”period. On any topic. Simple as that. These people know their stuff. (The late, great Hemingway, Halberstam, Kapuscinski? How about Rani Manicka?) The stories these writers produce? There is nothing simple or easy about them.
What do you think?