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How do you write about food?

How do you write about food whether in fiction or nonfiction? You write about food as if you were writing about the topic of art or art history, whether it's as a foodie, a restaurant critique, a biographer of famous chefs, or simply about the taste of various foods. Writing about food can be in book or print form or as documentaries such as the popular TV shows about foods and travel. 


Food has a texture, tone, and mood all of its own

How does the food 'sound' to you? Does it have it's own nuance, ring, or chime? What's the texture, tone, and what behavior does the food elicit from you? In what way does the food inspire, motivate, or coax you to visualize, behave or think? Does the food inspire you to feel and react or analyze and inspect what's on the table?


If you want to be a food critic, there are groups to join such as the Association of Food Journalists. See, "Food Critics' Guidelines - Association of Food Journalists." Restaurants change. If you review a restaurant or its food or service one way at a specific date, know that as time passes the restaurant can change. So you may want to update the changes. 


You need to do fact-checking before you go to print. Check the spellings and the accuracy of a printed menu against anything you're told on the phone or by e-mail. Before you write anything negative, know you're dealing with the entire income of the owner and his or her family on a permanent basis. So be fair and ready to prove your point should you be sued. But to avoid all these problems from a restaurant or chef, it's much easier to focus on the foods so that customers can order what they like rather than what tastes good to your individual preferences. 


Have a sense of what a star or other rating symbol mean. Although you should develop a rating system appropriate for your readership. Check out the website, "Food Critics' Guidelines - Association of Food Journalists" to see what each of the star recommendations actually mean. Some foods taste different to people based on how they perceive spice, salt, sweet, sour, or bitter, and it's genetic. 


If a food is too spicy for you, let people know which dishes are super-spicy and which are mild so people can make individual choices. Good food writing is about taste and appearance of food as an art. And you want to comment on the service and cleanliness of the restaurant as well. 


If you use the restaurant's restroom, is it clean and well-stocked? Or is it filthy and smelly? It's important to know whether someone is available to do the cleaning often enough so the place doesn't ruin your appetite for the food if you have to use it or want to wash your hands. Is there enough soup in that room?


There's also another angle whether food writers get to see the kitchen in action like some documentary video producers of food programs. Most food critics aren't even able to get to a restaurant. Some freelancers aren't paid to eat anywhere. 


Restaurants usually don't give food writers free food. Instead, freelance food critics usually buy food from their own pocket and write about the experience, and some food reviewers don't get paid anything to comment and review their eating experience. The food writer who's being paid for a restaurant or food review needs to think about the goal. On one hand, you're giving the restaurant free publicity instead of having them pay your publication for display advertising. So they are hoping for a good review. Food writers usually are expected to pay in full for all meals and services. 


Don't accept free meals or use gift certificates donated by the restaurant or a special-interest group. What's really fair is if publications budget enough money for restaurant visits so the reviewer can do the job without having to resort to personal funds to help pay the bill. But for people new at food reviewing, many of these publications expect you to pay for your own meals and don't pay you enough for your review to cover the meal and your article.


Some do pay more than others. Journalism jobs still have keen competition for the jobs that actually pay you for your article and cover the cost of your meal. And on some newspapers, you get a salary for your writing and can bring friends to dine with you, as long as the friends pay their own bill in full for what they order. 


The goal in writing about food or commenting on the work of chefs or food service is not to be the type of critic that puts the eatery out of business, when in turn sues you for loss of income in a he said, she said situation about how the food tasted or how the service was perceived by you, since food writing is a subjective opinion based on taste and your perception of time when it comes to service. If you obviously see problems such as vermin crawling around, you know what to do. But if it's about individual taste preferences, that's a subjective topic. The goal is to be fair. 


Food writers illuminate the cuisine, and often the reviews are anonymous 


Some food writers sport their own food and restaurant review columns where they illuminate the cuisine and the service or ambiance. Food writing should be lively, not flat using action verbs instead of a line of descriptive adjectives. Food writers need to look beyond the particular dish or experiences with aroma or service to capture the entire ambiance of the intentions of the restaurant. 


That's what makes food writing somewhat like writing about art in a gallery. You can benefit by a knowledge of food history and the cuisine of the restaurant you're reviewing, the ethnic cuisine with which you can familiarize yourself.


If you're writing about East Asian cuisine, the food is going to be different than if your writing about European food, unless you're reviewing Chinese restaurants in Ireland where you'd write about both cultures and the preference for various ethnic foods there. You may wish to check out the articles, "Will school lunchrooms be the next rock star venue for chefs?" and "Dining review: With professional service and good food, Orphan rises above its past." 


Food reviews often are anonymous. Sometimes a food critic's position precludes him or her from participating in the food community as a reporter might when covering an event. Back in 1967, this author covered the food layout in various embassies in Washington D.C. as a freelance/independent journalist, writing about the food and what people wore when they showed up at embassy dinners or luncheons. 


It's interesting that the website of the Food Critics' Guidelines - Association of Food Journalists notes that food critics should avoid functions that restaurateurs and chefs are likely to attend, such as grand openings, restaurant anniversary dinners, wine tasting events or new product introductions. The website also states that critics should also avoid in-person meetings with publicists. 


You might check out the website, Food Critics' Guidelines - Association of Food Journalists for some tips on how to act as a food critic. For example, the site states that if a critic writes about restaurants, restaurant owners or chefs, he or she should strive to conduct interviews by phone. Also, try to steer clear of interviewing the staff of restaurants that have been recently reviewed or are on the immediate reviewing schedule. 


Favorite childhood Greek, Turkish, and Armenian delicatessen shared each others' music and food recipes 


As a food extoller-praiser rather than a food critic or 'critique,' memories of food and eating establishments that most often well up and are written about are memories of ethnic eateries during the 1950s in multiethnic spaces.  In this case, New York.

For example, the mainspring of my school friend’s life focused on the red brick Mediterranean grocery and sundries store in the mid-1950s. Everything she ate, wore, and owned came from it. 


A store like this could be found in almost any large city


The smell of green peppers hung on a string across the ceiling along with platters of Greek spanakopita (spinach and cheese pastries) and the dry, chipped Armenian style beef called bastoorma. The scent accompanied that of onions frying in olive oil, filling the dark, wooden interior with an earthiness. Pickled watermelon and strips of fried eggplant lay on the counter top soon to be wrapped and stored in the cooler. The Greek deli featured foods also familiar in Turkey and Armenia. The music, Konyali, shared music from both Greece and the west coast of Turkey. 


The food's fragrance as ambiance 


My delight had been to be sent to the store’s fragrance cellar where Armenian and Greek versions of bread were baked. There's Armenian akmak (cracker bread) or Turkish ekmek (soft bread). The Greek or Cretan pita is flat but leavened, and round and crusty inside. When you bite a hole, the bread opens up into a pocket. Today, you can find online the recipe for Turkish breakfast buns. See Binnur's Turkish Cookbook for the recipe in English. 


Another treat is to stuff flat, lightly toasted pocket bread it with healthy greens, tomatoes, feta, and olive-oil drenched sardine balls stewed in tomato sauce with raisins, vinegar, pine nuts, cinnamon, cloves, and saffron. It reminds me of the sweet and sour fennel and fish (sardine balls) feast from that island off the coast of Sicily. 


My school friend used to stuff this bread with hot cubes of roast lamb. She would put chunks of peppers and onions in the sandwich and dust the stuffed sandwich with spices such as lemon pepper and thyme, rosemary, sage, and cumin.


Another delight were chilled fish balls, like meat balls, only balls of ground seafood stuffed with chopped garden mint and flat parsley. For meat eaters, there were the ground lamb balls stuffed with mint and parsley, and for the vegetarians, lentil balls stuffed with grains, parsley, and mint with cumin and thyme.


Lemon pepper, thyme, rosemary, sage, and cumin  


The roast lamb had been soaked in vinegar and sugar to make it taste sweet and sour. Over open flames on a charcoal broiler, family members roasted the skewered cubes. Lunch crowds would walk into the store each day to take out the big pocket toasted flat bread full of spice-tendered, marinated lamb cubes. 


The cellar had a delicious smell of cinnamon and walnuts. A whiff of pastry from the big ovens, the tang of lemon, the scent of pistachio nuts and saffron or orange blossom water and honey cleared your head. 


The immaculately clean dark cellar counter tops smelled of lemon and cold-pressed olive oil. Strains of shared Greek-Turkish-Armenian music wailed delightfully around the corridors of the cellar from an old phonograph. You didn't only listen. You stood up and danced or snapped your fingers to the nuances of wooden spoons clacking in rhythm like castanets. 


My school friend never used canned foods. Everything came in bulk, in big barrels, boxes, or jars 


Hand-made coffee grinders turned the beans to the thick, sweet Turkish coffee powder served, when customized to each diner’s order, mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and orange blossom water. A small, long handled bronze-colored pot heated over a single burner soon brought the coffee to a temperature just below the boiling point. When foam appeared on top, a server poured the syrupy-thick, sweet coffee into tiny china demitasse cups and placed them around each table. 


Night after night Greek and Armenian men would drop in for a bit of gossip or to settle the world's business affairs. Young and old came often with sleeping infants in their laps, not only men, like in the old countries, but with their wives and extended family members, neighbors, and friends. 


A large platter of food arrived. Then the nuances of minor-key music pulled many into a dance, a stroll down memory lane, or laughter. Moods, textures, and tones in that store helped to settle local problems. The scent of freshly baking cinnamon, dried fruit, and walnut bread opened a welcoming door, a center of life for the neighborhood. 


How to write nonfiction such as how-to works or fiction such as stories and novels about foods, chefs, nutrition, dining, or eateries 


More authors are organizing and writing mystery novels focused on chefs and food-related topics. Sacramento Reads, more than a decade ago was billed as California's largest and most congenial open-air book festival. It takes place every fall in Sacramento, bringing together a variety of writers, readers, children and adults. 

If you're interested in a specific area, you might take a look at the list of Sacramento Writers at Wikipedia, including numerous mystery novelists.


Or select a list of writers to peruse from another area that you prefer. Also see Capital Crimes, 15 Tales by Sacramento Authors. In your own city and state, check out the branches relative to your home town for Capitol Crimes, for example. Here, it's the Sacramento Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a national organization of mystery writers that meets monthly at the Rancho Cordova public library, 9845 Folsom Blvd., Rancho Cordova, Sacramento, CA. See, Rancho Cordova Library. Some writers choose to develop articles focusing on hyperlocal news of the published works of various authors and journalists from a variety of locations.


Ever notice in fictional literature how often famous chefs are linked to or solve murder mysteries? Or star in mystery novels as curious culinary catalysts, investigators, and problem solvers? Why is food so often linked to mystery novels? Want to organize manuscripts for famous chefs or novelists writing culinary mystery literature or nonfiction? 


How about you organizing manuscripts for various authors, chefs, the culinary curious, or writing food-related mystery novels yourself? Do you enjoy reading food-related mystery novels? See the article, "Private Chefs of Beverly Hills' host medieval murder mystery." 


Working with chefs and authors 


See the Delicious Evil: Food Mystery Novels library list. There's a fascinating book on the list titled, Slice and Dice by Ellen Hart. The library list site notes, "Cooking queen Connie Buckridge's plans for a culinary empire in Minnesota are threatened by a nosy investigative journalist, and by the murder of a cooking colleague of food critic Sophie Greenway." 


If cooking can be blended with the science of medicine as a healing tool, it also can be woven with the art of creativity enhancement, connection, and communication. Look for similar goals. The objective is to reverse disease by scientific research, wise traditions, and through foresight, insight, and hindsight. 


There's another route. You can become a medical television producer or documentarian specializing in nutrition, foods, and healthy eating. Or you can start a food and nutrition media awards project. 


For example, look at the FREDDIE awards given to Web sites by the International Health and Medical Media. Creativity also is about communicating what are the most powerful and satisfying foods. 


Culinary wizardry is about creativity enhancement to your tastebuds through imaginative writing. It acts as a healing tool and a multimedia experience--visual, kinetic, and musical. 


When you create flavor without saturated fats, sugar, or salt, it's personalized, preventive medicine. One place to start is by writing a cookbook, life story gift book, or food-related genre novel. Perhaps you'd set your novel on a cruise shop and explore the lives of the people that cook the food on cruise ships that go around the world, perhaps exploring food created for people that live on cruise ships all-year and have their residences on cruise ships. 


Their expensive condos have kitchens. What do they cook? Or do they eat the food provided in the many restaurants and buffets? Who does the cooking? What special menus are there for tailored diets? 


Another possibility could be to write a food-oriented novel or career and travel documentary emphasizing a specific type of nutrition. You might emphasize a unique career as a creative food writing therapist. 


You might use a novel such as Dogs with Careers with happy endings about people caring for people to inspire you to write your own novel or other fiction about cooking for dogs or traveling as a roaming chef, even though that novel is not about food.


As a creative nutrition writing therapist or assistant to a working therapist (as a creative expressions therapy assistant or intern), you'd use writing about food as a healing tool to move people onto a more nutritious track by supplementing food-related mystery novel reading enthusiasm with creating realistic cookbooks that are road maps to culinary medicine. The goal is inspiration and motivation in good taste. 


Within the field of decidedly nonfiction, read the excellent book on culinary medicine, (healing foods) and see the highly recommended NY Times bestseller, Chef MD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine, by John La Puma, M.D. and Rebecca Powell Marx. Get the free recipes emailed to you. View the video and information about the book on the website titled, Chef MD® 


The practicing Santa Barbara internal medicine physician went to cooking school to practice culinary medicine. The delicious and healthy cinnamon orange dreamsicle in the book is highly recommended from this base. 


One of the doctor's tips is to eat a handful of walnuts before a fatty meal. Within 20 minutes of eating walnuts, the antioxidants will block the artery-stiffening effect of saturated and trans fats. 


Another example in the physician's book is to eat watermelon at room temperature. Watermelon has 40 percent more lycopene and 139 percent more beta carotene at room temperature than when the melon is refrigerated. Also keep tomatoes at room temperature. 


So how can you, too start on the path to becoming a creative food writing therapist? Let's look at using creative food writing as a healing tool. For example, after writing 22 novels (out of 90 paperback books myself), the most valuable lesson learned still emphasizes food, music, visual images and words as healing tools. Nutrition also is one of the expressive arts when communicated in the media visually, textually, and musically. Food has a texture, tone, and mood all of its own. 


Creative food and nutrition writing therapy differs from bibliotherapy or poetry therapy. Creative food and nutrition writing therapy emphasizes using food as a healing tool while listening to oral or personal history-either one's own or someone else's personal history against a background of soothing music for thinking and creativity enhancement, and then writing from inspiration using facts, significant events, and turning points as highlights of an experience, issue, or life story. 


Bibliotherapy may focus more on either reading books, articles, or poems and discussing the facts, experiences, or emotions in the written word read. Bibliotherapy may emphasize reading and discussion, whereas creative writing therapy emphasizes expressive writing from behavior, emotions, or logic. 


Bibliotherapists in the USA have a Federal Title classification for this job description.
In 1977, a Federal Title, classification 601, was created for bibliotherapists to be hired. Poetry therapists undertook 440 hours of the study of poetry therapy became eligible for the newly created position, according to the National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT). Check out the NAPT's site. 


The Association publishes a quarterly for Poetry Therapy called the A.P.T. News. It's estimated that thousands of professionals use poetry therapy. The requirements for a "trainee in poetry therapy" include graduation from an accredited college with a degree in the humanities or behavioral sciences. 


Equivalent credit may be granted for combination of completed college courses and experience in a recognized institution. There should be evidence of concentration in poetry covering the primitive, classical, post-renaissance, modern, and avant-garde writing. The trainee must be accepted into a mental health program as a volunteer or paid employee under professional supervision. 


As a poetry therapist, you must not exaggerate your own importance in the therapeutic team. Certification allows you to put a C.P.T. (Certified Poetry Therapist) designation after your name. Training programs in poetry therapy and bibliotherapy are offered through the National Association for Poetry Therapy and through other private schools.

Or you can study expressive arts therapies at a wide variety of universities offering degrees in one of the therapeutic arts and focus on creative food writing as therapy. 


Other expressive therapies include art, music, drama, dance, poetry, and various types of creative writing


There are several poetry therapy institutes. The New School for Social Research in New York City offered training programs in poetry therapy and bibliotherapy. One poetry therapist, Don Theye, has a motto: "Observe, absorb, create, share." Check out the book titled: A Seminar on Bibliotherapy: Proceedings by Dr. Franklin M. Berry, a psychology professor. Research bibliotherapy-related books at the Library School, University of Wisconsin, Helen White Hall, 600 N. Park, Madison, WI, 53706. 


See the ERIC (Educational Research Web Portal) ERIC # ED174226, Seminar on Bibliotherapy. Proceedings of Sessions, June 21-23, 1978 in Madison, Wisconsin. For guidelines to poetry therapy and book lists, write: J.B. Lippincott, Co., East Washington Sq., Philadelphia, PA 19105. Of interest are the pioneer books written in the sixties and seventies, such as Poetry Therapy, by Dr. Jack J. Leedy (1969), and Poetry, the Healer, Dr. Jack J. Leedy (1973). For the current newsletter, click on the association's site. 


Publishing Your Creative Food and Nutrition Writing Therapy Book


You can publish your own cookbook of family recipes or your originals. But another possibility is to publish life story highlights related to food and nutrition as a creative healing tool or an open door to creativity enhancement in writing, culinary arts, and nutrition. 


Some people pay handsomely for one hand-bound, gilded, and elegant gift book of lifetime turning points, social issues, highlights, family recipes, or corporate events. You'd be surprised how many people are satisfied to offer up to $10,000 (or more, depending upon the publisher) to have only one copy of a hand-bound hardcover book published about their event or life story. What does it take to create and publish a memoirs gift book commemorating a celebration of life, rite of passage, affirmation, wedding, commemoration, or true experience? 


What quality of personal book do you want to make from scratch-writing, printing, and binding? As far as printing and binding, you can make one finished book at a cost to you of only $1.50-$4.50. What you charge a client depends on what it costs you.
If you create and publish a custom gift book, you'd publish only one copy of a hand bound, hardcover book. The tome would contain anywhere from 60 to 100 photos. 

Text material would be based on phone or live interviews.


The interviews usually would run at least two hours or more for one person (and about two hours spent per each interview). The gift book would be about 80 to 120 published pages or slightly more if necessary. Look at yourself as a designer, writer, interviewer, and bookbinder. 


You can even tailor a pop-up book creation (with the help of input from engineers on how to fold paper). Or learn how to make your own pop-up books. See the Joan Irvine Web site on making pop-up books . Also check out the How We Make Pop-Up Books site.


What questions do you ask to help people respond calmly and openly at an interview? Start with "What do you enjoy the most about this particular time of life? What do you enjoy most about this event? What do you enjoy most about this holiday? What do you enjoy most about this experience? What thought, act, or feeling do you want to emphasize in the gift book? 


Serious Life Experiences and Favorite Foods, Recipes, or Family Nutrition History

If the person is going to emphasize a war-related or military service event, an ordeal, medical or survival details, or a factual report of behaviors related to any other serious segment of a life story, you could ask in addition to the details, what have you learned from this experience? 


How have you transcended the past and moved on? What have you learned from other people's mistakes or choices? What have you learned from your past choices, mistakes, decisions, or alternative solutions and paths? 


For business case histories, ask your client to relate the details step-by-step so readers can follow how your client arrived at solutions to problems or achieved measurable results. A memoirs book is like a public relations campaign. It's about image built on solid detail and storytelling illustrated by visually-striking photography (photojournalism).


Answer the individual's silence or long pauses (to gather thoughts) by using action verbs such as, "Bring me up to date on your life story, a special event, or your work. Tell me about your plans for this book. Also let your client describe experiences in detail and color. Ask interview questions such as the following: "What's your favorite experience and why? 


Describe a special gift you have given. What have you received that transformed your life? What lessons have you learned from past mistakes? What holiday or event do you enjoy the most?" For further information see the book, 30+ Brain-Exercising Creativity Coach Businesses to Open: How to Use Writing, Music, Drama & Art Therapy Techniques for Healing (paperback, 2007). 


If you want to record the family nutrition history and use creativity enhancement as a healing tool when interviewing people for recorded life story highlights, the interview questions should be given well ahead of the time of the actual live or telephone interview. Meet with the person by phone and/or in person before you arrange any interviews so you can learn your client's expectations. 


If your client wants to exceed the maximum number of words allowed, that client would be charged usually a dollar for each extra word included in the book above the maximum words allowed. (It varies with different publishers, of course.) Each reprint of the book you're your client would pay your team $10,000 for also would cost the client $250 or more per additional copy. 


The family nutrition history and favorite foods as healing tools as a gift book could be wonderfully hand crafted in full color-a lifetime experience. The book could feature only one person being interviewed, for anywhere from two to 70 hours. Or an entire family may be interviewed in any city. 


There might be only a half-hour interview of each person when 100 or more people have to be interviewed. Or such a valuable, well-crafted book may be customized to fit an individual's special requirements. Yes, people do very happily pay this much for having a gift book crafted on them or their theme, and businesses doing this are doing wonderfully well finding clients.


The books are spectacular-rightfully gorgeous, hand bound in full color


For $10,000 (or more) anyone with the money and the time can have a book written based on interviews from anywhere, published and beautifully hand-bound with a hard cover. Are you ready to become a publisher of customized gift books?


You can publish all by yourself at a price only you will determine as you research the markets for gift books. You have a lot of choices varying from print-on-demand software to handcrafted bindings. 


One alternative is to hire a team of interviewers, writers, and publishers or put to learning volunteer help from school projects and senior centers. The outcome is all the same: recording, organizing, and publishing peoples' true life stories or other events. And you can pay for books that can be bound a whole variety of ways. 


Choose either to act alone or work with a team of hired skilled people, volunteers active in retirement, or students learning the publishing business. However you manage your craft, every life story is worth a book as well as a way to creativity enhancement.

You can open a business or enjoy a hobby publishing gift books.


Food is a necessity. It also can be a healing tool and an instrument in creativity enhancement in writing or speaking as well as in the visual arts accompanied to music. Food is a subject for literature. And inspiring or relaxing music goes well with nutrition tailored to your requirements.