Food writing

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Food writing is a genre of writing that focuses on food and includes works by food critics, food journalists, chefs and food historians.


Food writers regard food as a substance and a cultural phenomenon. John T. Edge, an American food writer, explains how writers in the genre view its topic:

"Food is essential to life. It’s arguably our nation’s biggest industry. Food, not sex, is our most frequently indulged pleasure. Food—too much, not enough, the wrong kind, the wrong frequency—is one of our society’s greatest causes of disease and death."[1]

Another American food writer, Mark Kurlansky, links this vision of food directly to food writing, giving the genre's scope and range when he observes:

“Food is about agriculture, about ecology, about man’s relationship with nature, about the climate, about nation-building, cultural struggles, friends and enemies, alliances, wars, religion. It is about memory and tradition and, at times, even about sex.”[2]

Because food writing is topic centered, it is not a genre in itself, but a writing that uses a wide range of traditional genres, including recipes, journalism, memoir, and travelogues. Food writing can refer to poetry and fiction, such as Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), with its famous passage where the narrator recollects his childhood memories as a result of sipping tea and eating a madeleine; or Robert Burns' poem "Address to a Haggis", 1787. Charles Dickens, a notable novelist wrote memorably about food, e.g., in his A Christmas Carol (1843).

Often, food writing is used to specify writing that takes a more literary approach to food, such as that of the famous American food writer M. F. K. Fisher, who describes her writing about food as follows:

It seems to me our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it ... and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied ... and it is all one.[3]

In this literary sense, food writing aspires toward more than merely communicating information about food; it also aims to provide readers with an aesthetic experience. Another American food writer, Adam Gopnik, divides food writing into two categories, "the mock epic and the mystical microcosmic," and provides examples of their most noted practitioners:

The mock epic (A. J. Liebling, Calvin Trillin, the French writer Robert Courtine, and any good restaurant critic) is essentially comic and treats the small ambitions of the greedy eater as though they were big and noble, spoofing the idea of the heroic while raising the minor subject to at least temporary greatness. The mystical microcosmic, of which Elizabeth David and M. F. K. Fisher are the masters, is essentially poetic, and turns every remembered recipe into a meditation on hunger and the transience of its fulfillment.[4] Contemporary food writers working in this mode include Ruth Reichl, Betty MacDonald, and Jim Harrison.

As a term, "food writing" is a relatively new descriptor. It came into wide use in the 1990s and, unlike "sports writing", or "nature writing", it has yet to be included in the Oxford English Dictionary.[5][6] Consequently, definitions of food writing when applied to historical works are retrospective. Classics of food writing, such as the 18th century French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's La physiologie du goût (The Physiology of Taste), pre-date the term and have helped to shape its meaning.

In academia[edit]

Food writer Michael Pollan holds the Knight Professorship of Science and Environmental Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley and since 2013 has directed the 11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship Program.[7]

In 2013, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg began a graduate certificate program in Food Writing and Photography, created by longtime Tampa Bay Times food and travel editor Janet K. Keeler.[8]

Notable food writers and books[edit]


This is a list of some prominent writers on food, cooking, dining, and cultural history related to food.

Important texts in the genre (not easily attributable to an author)[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Edge, John T. "Between the Lines: Picnic in the Democrative Forest," Creative Nonfiction; Issue 41, 2011. Archived 2012-07-23 at Retrieved on April 25, 2012.
  2. ^ Kurlansky, Mark. Choice Cuts: a Savory Selection of Food Writing from around the World and throughout History. New York: Penguin, 2002, p. 1.
  3. ^ Fisher, M. F. K. The Gastronomical Me. New York: North Point, 1989, p. ix.
  4. ^ Gopnik, Adam. "Dining Out: The Food Critic at Table," The New Yorker April 4, 2005. Retrieved on October 1, 2011.
  5. ^ Ngram Viewer.[permanent dead link] Retrieved on June 20, 2011
  6. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved on June 20, 2011.
  7. ^ The UC Berkeley-11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship. Retrieved on December 16, 2015.
  8. ^ Food Writing and Photography: A graduate certificate from USF St. Petersburg. Retrieved on December 16, 2015.
  9. ^ Walker, Ella. "Cookbook: Tortellini at Midnight by Emiko Davies". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2020-07-29.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]