Posted by Irish Alison
On Saturday November 14th The Cookbook Store, in conjunction with Stratford Chef School’s Gastronomic Writer in Residence program, played host to a number of leading food writers and journalists for a discussion concerning the art of food writing, at the Haleconian Hall. Panelists included Canadian authors Ian Brown and Margaret Webb, Boston based journalist Corby Kummer, and Australian academic and food writer Michael Symons. Food writing doesn’t lend itself to classification easily; it can take the form of memoir, journalistic, political and historical writing, philosophy and literature, and at its best, it will probably incorporate all of these. Aspects of inspiration for food writing is also much more diverse than simply one’s stomach; the general consensus among our panelists was that the way they write about and enjoy food is tied up with relationships, love, family, and memory, and that to write about food is to write about all of these as well.
But in an age when food blogs are two a penny and recipes can be twittered in 140 characters or less, is something lost in the immediacy of communication? Corby Kummer, an editor by profession, raised the point that in food blogging there little filter between author and reader, and the diminishing role of the editor in modern food writing has led to a lack of form, as well as quality. Motivations for writing about food varied among our panel also; some saw it as an outlet for a good story, others were motivated by anger and frustration, seeing it as a medium to air their discontent about the state of farming and food production, and for others food writing is historical writing, telling of the development of peoples and cultures.
Although the panelists weren’t always in perfect agreement there were some aspects of food writing which united all four; a call for individuality amid the repetition and imitation which often characterizes food blogs, honesty, taking the time to write well researched and thought out pieces, and a democratic approach. The most important features for all were curiousity, enthusiasm for the subject, a unique perspective, and genuine passion, all of which produce truly interesting and informative food writing.We at The Cookbook Store felt that we learned a lot from the afternoon's discussion, and that any budding food writer's out there will be inspired to take up their pens.