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Christy Catherine Marshall

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January 11, 2006

Do you feel like a chef when you’re whipping up dinner every night for your family? Does your creativity flow when you’re adding a dash of this or that to your roast in the crock pot? You may not see yourself as a food critic, but every time you decide whether something tastes good or needs a little more salt, you are.

And when you scribble down a recipe that you copy from a magazine or from a dish you loved at your Sunday School potluck, you’re a food writer.

Here’s a book I recently enjoyed. I can even go so far as to say it’s changed my life — though that may sound a bit too spiritual. Ever since reading it, I’ve connected food with words in my mind, and it’s made cooking and describing food much more interesting. I read this book before I had my blog, so I reviewed it on Amazon — all by my lonesome. Now I can share it with you real people!

What is food writing? Before I read Jacob’s book, I thought I might learn a few techniques for writing restaurant reviews. Wow — I was wrong! This is a huge, magnificent field, of which I’ve merely sampled my first appetizer.

The author’s research in compiling this book is extensive. In presenting her ideas, she doesn’t limit readers to her own personal experience; she interviewed hundreds of successful food writers and asked them how they got started, what a typical day is like, and what advice they have to give.

Despite her years of industry experience, Jacob truly understands the heart of a beginner, and her voice is as far from snooty-hooty as one can be. Readers will feel encouraged and energized after reading chapters on the secrets of restaurant reviewing, cookbook compiling, recipe writing (yes, it is an art form!), memoir and nonfiction food writing, and food in fiction.

Jacob’s passion is so contagious, her words dance across the page. She seems especially interested in the trend of narrative food writing, and she gives you tips on how to make your writing full of jolt and flavor. What are the three laziest adjectives used to describe food? She says “nice,” “wonderful,” and “delicious.” She writes, “They are so vague that readers don’t know what you mean other than something positive.” Instead, she offers an extensive list of adjectives in chapter 5 that make it well worth the price of the book.

I’m only a simple home cook. My creativity usually involves whipping up kid-friendly favorites without having to dash off to the grocery store for exotic ingredients. Although I’ve written a few of my own recipes, I certainly didn’t realize what an exciting art form food writing can be.

While reading this book, we ate out at a new restaurant, and I imagined myself as one of those fancy New York Times reviewers in disguise (didn’t know they may actually wear wigs!). I had our waiter answering a myriad of questions, and even dashing back to speak with the chef. I brought home a menu and scribbled all over it my impressions.

She quotes experienced food critic Alan Richman who says he can’t wait to see what a restaurant has in store for him. He shares, “I get a hop in my step.”

I think some of you Mom 2 Mom readers out there are secretly gourmet cooks — I enjoy reading your recipes, especially the ones where you add in your stories. I’m crazy about recipe stories! I helped compile a cookbook last summer, and I loved hearing people tell me, “This is the one my great-aunt always made — it never fails to turn out delicious.”

After reading this book, I’ve had several ideas simmering in my mind, and one is to add better food descriptions to my writing — even when I’m adding recipes to my blog. So, if you’ve recently written about food in your blog, send me the link. Inspire me — in the slow month of January — help me put a hop in my step as I open my pantry and decide what to cook…over a thousand times this year.

P.S. I thought I should add that I picked this book out of the Writer’s Digest Book Club catalog, and I paid for it. Nobody asked me to review this book, and I don’t know the author — I just loved her book!

By: Heather Ivester in: Book Reviews | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

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