Tag: Food Writing

Amanda Hesser’s Advice for Aspiring Food Writers

What does the former New York Times food writer and editor say to aspiring food writers who ask her for advice?

I can no longer responsibly recommend that you drop everything to try to become a food writer. Except for a very small group of people (some of whom are clinging to jobs at magazines that pay more than the magazines’ business models can actually afford), it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a food writer, and I think it’s only going to get worse.

Hesser talks salaries and freelance budgets, and she offers other suggestions for those still interested in pursuing food writing.

So what happens now if someone comes to me wanting to become a writer? I don’t totally crush their dreams. I just step on them a bit—before trying to help the aspirant re-imagine his or her future in a whole new way.

If all that’s too depressing for you, check out this photo of falafel and tzatziki on the same site. It’s pretty, and it won’t step on your dreams. Its only purpose is to delight you.

The ‘I Ate at El Bulli’ Genre of Food Writing

Famed Spanish restaurant El Bulli closed Saturday. Among its many legacies, the Telegraph notes, it created a new genre in food writing:

Over the years, however, hundreds of restaurant critics from all over the world made the pilgrimage to northern Spain, establishing a distinct genre of review that has become known in the trade as the “I Ate At El Bulli Piece” (IAAEBP).

A pioneering example appeared in the New York Times Magazine: “Welcoming cocktails of a frozen whisky sour and a foam mojito were accompanied by popcorn that had been powdered and reconstituted as kernels, and a tempura of rose petals. A ‘Kellogg’s paella’ consisted of puffed Rice Krispies to which the waiter added an intense seafood reduction; on the side were a small, flash-fried shrimp, a piece of shrimp sashimi and an ampoule containing a thick brown extract of shrimp heads that you were instructed to squeeze into your mouth.”

Anthony Bourdain’s April blog post about his El Bulli meal would have to stand as a masterful example of an IAAEBP.

To China’s Fangji Cat Meatball Restaurant and Beyond

More travel-related hilarity from David Sedaris in China, though it’s not for those without an adventurous palate. And if you do have an adventurous palate, Sedaris salutes you:

Another of the dishes that day consisted of rooster blood. I’d thought it would be liquid, like V8 juice, but when cooked it coagulated into little pads that had the consistency of tofu. “Not bad,” said the girl seated beside me, and I watched as she slid one into her mouth. Jill was American, a Peace Corps volunteer who’d come to Chengdu to teach English. “In Thailand last year? I ate dog face,” she told me.

“Just the face?”

“Well, head and face.” She was in a small village, part of a team returning abducted girls to their parents. To show their gratitude, the locals prepared a feast. Dog was considered good eating. The head was supposedly the best part, and rather than offend her hosts, Jill ate it.

This, for many, is flat-out evil but the rest of the world isn’t like America, where it’s become virtually impossible to throw a dinner party. One person doesn’t eat meat, while another is lactose intolerant, or can’t digest wheat. You have vegetarians who eat fish and others who won’t touch it. Then there are vegans, macrobiotics and a new group, flexitarians, who eat meat if not too many people are watching. Take that into consideration and it’s actually rather refreshing that a 22-year-old from the suburbs of Detroit will pick up her chopsticks and at least try the shar pei.

The Best Travel Books of 2010

Frank Bures surveys the year's most intriguing titles and offers a few gift ideas

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Jonathan Gold and Rick Bayless Tweet Off Over Mexican Food in L.A.

What was it? A battle? A shot over the bow? Maybe, looking back, it was just a misfire. But it got L.A. Mexican foodies pretty excited for a few days.

At a talk in Orange County last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold—a hero of ours who has made a career of championing great hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants in SoCal—took a shot at PBS TV host and restaurateur Rick Bayless. The chef, whose Frontera Grill in Chicago gets rave reviews, just designed the menu for a new upscale Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, Red O—his first project in the region.

Now, L.A. loves its homegrown Mexican food. It’s a source of pride. So the arrival of Bayless earlier this year was bound to raise eyebrows.

The Los Angeles Times gave Red O a favorable review. Then Gold took the mic at a gathering of journalists last week.

Reported the OC Weekly:

Gold said Bayless was a “good” chef who knew his way around Mexican recipes, but he sneered at Bayless’ nerve in coming to Los Angeles and opening a restaurant—Red O—that presumed to introduce Angelinos to “authentic” Mexican cuisine. In particular, Gold zeroed in on Bayless’ inclusion of chilpachole—a glorious seafood soup from Veracruz—as some rarity, when Gold said the soup was easily available in the Southland, along with dozens of other Mexican regional specialties.

Word reached Bayless, and he tweeted:

@thejgold Thought a Pulitzer meant you checked facts. Sneering at me for something I never said is either mean or sloppy. I’m offended

He also posted this comment on the OC Weekly’s article:

I know it’s all the rage for journalists to go into unsupported hyperbole, but I never said I was going to introduce Southern California to “authentic” Mexican cuisine. I said I was going to bring the flavors of Frontera Grill to Los Angeles.


As of today, however, both sides are tweeting that the spat is behind them.

Gold’s tweet:

@Rick_Bayless and I have kissed and made up, I think. Further thoughts will have to wait for the full review.

Bayless’ reply:

Yes, i think we have :) RT @thejgold @Rick_Bayless & I have kissed & made up, I think. Further thoughts will have to wait 4 the full review.

Taco détente.

Whew. Now we can all go back to eating our enchiladas in peace.

Finding the Zagat of the Napoleonic Era

World Hum contributor Tony Perrottet has a great read in this week’s New York Times Travel section—he heads to Paris on the trail of Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, a legendary gourmand who financed his immersion in early 19th-century Parisian dining by writing a series of proto-guidebooks, the “Almanachs des Gourmands.” It’s exactly the kind of historical tidbit I love stumbling across, though it’s not recommended for readers on an empty stomach.

The New Yorker’s Food Issue Goes Traveling

The new issue has a definite global bent, with stories on China’s burgeoning wine culture, spending Thanksgiving abroad and more. Most of the stories aren’t accessible online for non-subscribers, but John Colapinto’s ride-along with a Michelin restaurant inspector is available in full. There’s also a podcast to accompany Calvin Trillin’s “kamikaze” poutine mission to Quebec, and a video to go along with the Chinese wine story.

The Decline of the Traveling ‘Food Anthropologist’

Over at the VQR blog, Michael Lukas offers a lament for the days when cookbook authors—instead of being celebrity chefs sharing their singular visions—were more like “food anthropologists”: “They visited home cooks and chefs in their kitchens, beat the pavement, and found recipes in dusty archives.” The last generation of food writers, he argues, “had an entire world to discover.” (Via The Book Bench)

Interview With Andrew Zimmern: Travels in a ‘Bizarre World’

Interview With Andrew Zimmern: Travels in a ‘Bizarre World’ Credit: Travel Channel, L.L.C.

Joshua Berman asks the Travel Channel host about his new show, his book, and the impact of globalization on culinary diversity

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Frank Bruni on Italy and Eating

In a recent interview with the Book Bench, Bruni—who’s just wrapped up his five-year stint as the restaurant critic for the New York Times—offered some thoughts on food culture and social class in Italy. Here’s what he had to say about the Italian-American feasts of his childhood:

What I realized, after I went to Italy and lived in Rome, not in the rural south where my grandparents were from, that the ethos of food in my Italian-American family was a kind of peasant-immigrant ethos. I always thought of it as Italian, because it was my Italian. A bounty of food as a badge of accomplishment. What I learned later in life was that, that’s not so much Italian, as Italian-peasant immigrant. It has as much to do with socioeconomic status as it does with ethnicity.

Sam Sifton: Hard-Traveling NYT Restaurant Critic

The latest New York Times restaurant critic was unveiled yesterday, and after the announcement the lucky winner, Sam Sifton, took some questions from readers. Among them: Where would he like to travel on assignment for the Times? By his response, I’m guessing we have a fellow travel enthusiast on our hands:

I’m forwarding [your question] to the accountants and news administrators as complete explanation for why I just booked flights to and hotel rooms in Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Brussels, Shanghai, Barcelona, Riga, Los Angeles, Seattle, Toronto, Mexico City, Stellenbosch, South Africa and Big Pine Key, Florida (home to the only credibly fantastic ham and pineapple pizza on Earth—no lie).

Travel Movie Watch: ‘Julie and Julia’

Here’s a promising one. “Julie and Julia” tells the story of Julia Child’s years as a Parisian expat, when she first tackled French cuisine, alongside the story of New York City blogger Julie Powell, who spent a year attempting every recipe in Child’s classic, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Meryl Streep plays Child—who was recently included in our list of ten inspirational women travelers—while Amy Adams takes on Powell. On top of the promising cast, Nora Ephron wrote and directed—cue the jokes about a recipe for success.

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Ten Inspirational Women Travelers

Julia Ross celebrates women who have blazed their own trails

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The Heat Seeker: Into the Heartland

The Heat Seeker: Into the Heartland Photo by Nicolas*, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Alison Stein Wellner likes her food hot and spicy. To find out how hot and spicy, she searched the world for heat. Part five of five: From Nashville to Indianapolis.

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The Heat Seeker: ‘Between Unseemly and a Little Slutty’

The Heat Seeker: ‘Between Unseemly and a Little Slutty’ Photo by TooFarNorth, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Alison Stein Wellner likes her food hot and spicy. To find out how hot and spicy, she searched the world for heat. Part four of five: What happened in Honduras.

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The Heat Seeker: Spicier, Please!

The Heat Seeker: Spicier, Please! iStockphoto

Alison Stein Wellner likes her food hot and spicy. To find out how hot and spicy, she searched the world for heat. Part three of five: Into Kumarakom.

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The Heat Seeker: ‘This Raita Will Be Your Savior’

The Heat Seeker: ‘This Raita Will Be Your Savior’ Photo by Swami Stream via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Alison Stein Wellner likes her food hot and spicy. To find out how hot and spicy, she searched the world for heat. Part two of five: Getting Hot in Mumbai.

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Video: Alison Stein Wellner: The Heat Seeker

Alison Stein Wellner traveled around the world to eat the hottest food she could handle, a quest she chronicled for World Hum

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The Heat Seeker: Eat, Sweat, Love

The Heat Seeker: Eat, Sweat, Love iStockphoto

Alison Stein Wellner likes her food hot and spicy. To find out how hot and spicy, she searched the world for heat. Part one of five: Currywurst in Frankfurt.

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Would You Like the Chicken, the Fish or the Dead Hamster?

airplane food Photo by d'n'c via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by d’n'c via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Oh, airline food. Always getting the bad rap. We love to hate airline food. The hate brings us together. It’s airplane conversation starter. I might be one of the few people who doesn’t dislike airline food. Consider the context: you’re eating 30,000 feet above the earth. If I were sitting in a Michelin-starred restaurant, eating soggy croquettes out of a tin tray, I’d probably be a bit disappointed. But on a plane I’m captive. Which is why I watch (and actually enjoy) Drew Barrymore movies while I’m flying. I fork the rubbery chicken into my mouth and like it.

Then there’s this guy. The Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer who had had enough. Food, that is. He wrote a scathing—and humorous—letter to Sir Richard Branson, Virgin’s founder and CEO, about his latest meal on the London-to-Mumbai flight. An excerpt after the jump.

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