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Spice of Life: Food writing is more than just about the food

Last Modified: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 6:22 PM

By Eric Cormier / American Press

A young man who is just starting his writing career with a local tabloid gave me an open invitation to talk about food writing.

No date was set for our sit down. Honestly, discussions about food and writing don’t have the same appeal to me like they did years ago. When you do something practically every day, the need to get away from it and regroup for the next day tends to command attention.

Don’t get me wrong, I love eating and I love writing about it. But mental breathers and the chance to eat without looking for some interesting aspect to write about are needed.

But I’ve been thinking about what suggestions or advice I would impart to the man — who happens to be a cook — or anyone else aspiring to get into the food journalism arena.

First and foremost: learn to write.

There are a plethora of features, columns, websites and blogs by writers that run the gamut of professionals to hacks. Guess what? Not all of them are good, mainly because they — for the lack of a better description — aren’t readable.

Food writing is about making a person see, smell, taste, and enjoy food that they might otherwise never get to sample themselves.

One of the best compliments a reader can give a food writer is that they “got hungry just reading what you wrote.” Nobody is served if the writer can’t describe what they experienced in a understandable way. In order to do that, you have to be able to write.

It isn’t easy. Even those of us who do it often struggle.

Practice writing informative and interesting sentences. Basic language and spelling is paramount.

Second, I think an aspiring food writer needs to read everything. Then read about food.

Reading opens the mind to the world. Once you are interested in everything, I believe a person will be able to get into the food writing world. Food journalism is about people and the planet, therefore you can’t type any words unless your reference point is broad. Believe me, your knowledge and confidence about the subject and your art form will grow as a result.

Next, respect the person who prepares the food, serves the food and the workers who keep eateries clean.

When writing about our area, I have taken to being an observer instead of touting myself as a critic. It is more enjoyable to entertain and provide information about a cook or some waiter who has worked for years.

Remember, a person who has the gumption to open a restaurant ought to be given the chance to succeed without some intrepid modern day scribe spouting off at the pen about the food being too spicy.

Lastly, I encourage any would-be food writer to have fun.


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Eric Cormier writes about food every Wednesday. Contact him at or 494-4090.

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