Monday, June 23, 2014

Food for Thought

When I left my job in the corporate world in 2001, I wasn't sure what I'd do next in my career. I put the word out that I was available to do marketing, public relations and any kind of writing. In essence, I became a writing whore, writing anything for anyone who would pay me. 

I'm not complaining. I've made a decent living over the past 13 years writing articles for magazines, newspapers, business journals and trade publications. The wide array of subjects I've written about have made me (and hopefully my readers) more knowledgeable on people, places, and events in our area. It's not unusual for the subject of my interviews to become friends, so there's always that. And now where ever I go, what ever I'm doing, I'm thinking of a story angle and who I can pitch it to. 

Over the years, while I'll take on just about any assignment that comes my way, the thing I've enjoyed writing about the most is food. Not just food, but the production of food--where it comes from, how it's made, who prepares it, who eats it and where they eat it. I'm fascinated at how the preparation and consumption of food has become an event, and chefs and restaurateurs are becoming celebrities. 

What we eat determines our status in life--that's nothing new. But now the lowly box of Kraft macaroni and cheese is poo-poo'd in favor of grown up mac and cheese from the likes of Ina Garten, using artisinal cheeses, Kosher salt and fresh herbs. Who would think of eating anything less?

I have grown to admire many food writers who romanticize foods I'd never consider eating. Just hearing Anthony Bourdain go on about ant larvae and fermented shark makes one think again... 

We seem to celebrate our food now more than ever, which is, I think, a good thing. Before taking the first bite of any meal, we take a picture of it to share with the world on Facebook. "Look at what I'm having to eat! It's special and worthy, as am I. I'm better because of what I'm choosing to eat today. Don't hate me because I'm eating better than you probably are."

I'm now going back and studying food writers who have gone before, like MFK Fisher. The first real food writers were housewives who wrote a weekly column for the local paper. I'm exploring that in a book called The Food Section: Newspaper Women and the Culinary Community.

I'm also reading work by Susan Puckett (Eat Drink Delta) and Julia Reed (But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!). It seems Southern food is popular nationwide, as are Southern writers. 

Thanks to Susan Puckett's urging, I joined the Association of Food Journalists in January, and this past weekend I went to the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Jackson. I had a chance to rub shoulders with John T. Edge and Cat Cora and I ate myself silly on food prepared by some very talented chefs (more about that later this week.)

So this food writing business may end up being just that--I am working to hone my skills as an accomplished food writer and make my mark on the culinary world by writing about it. I just hope my waist line can handle it.