“It seems to me that 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.”
~M.F.K. Fisher The Art of Eating
"And that’s why food writing can be so satisfying: Because it gives us stories about food that let us live more fully, because it fulfills us, and not just at the table."
~Eric LeMay In Defense of Food Writing
Life. Death. Sex. Joy. Alienation. Society. Politics.
These are weighty topics deserving of treatment by the best writers, are they not?
What about food? I've always felt that excellent writing is excellent writing whether the topic is life and death, a film review or details about the best hot chocolate.
I like food and I like to read and write. So it’s not a surprise that I’ve been a voracious reader of cookbooks and food writing since the pre-Internet days and that my views on eating and food (as well as life and relationships) have been shaped by some of the very best writers around.
Take hot chocolate (please!). In 1994 my views on the beverage were forever changed after reading an article written by one of my favourite food writers, Corby Kummer, senior editor of The Atlantic (that original article is available for library members to read through our E-Library, but a more recent blog post contains his recipe for the perfect hot chocolate).
Online food blogs and cookbooks that are as much about the stories told by the author as they are about recipes have become the norm.
Food writing is not limited to food writers. The Kitchn website asked readers to list their favourite food scenes in classic novels and you may be surprised at the wonderful examples listed. Most of my favourite fiction authors have written about food or have food feature in their writing. Food is a strong element in all of Haruki Murakami's novels and I was happy to recently discover one of his short stories online: The Second Bakery Attack. Last night, while discussing Julian Barne’s Man Booker Prize winning novella The Sense of an Ending, some friends and I specifically discussed the signifcance of the following line:
“She eased another egg on to my plate, despite my not asking for it or wanting it. The remnants of the broken one were still in the pan; she flipped them casually into the swing-bin, then half-threw the hot frying pan into the wet sink.”
This seemingly unimportant detail from the memory of an unreliable narrator opens up a number of questions and may foreshadow an unexpected plot detail revealed at the end of the work. The egg, and how this moment was remembered, has little to do with food and everything to do with life, death, sex, self-awareness and character.
Perhaps the art of eating is not that far off from the art of living (or the art of writing).
If you need more convincing that food writing is worth your time (as a reader and a writer), you may want to read Eric LeMay’s In Defense of Food Writing.
Are you a food writer? The Food Bloggers of Canada and The Association of Food Journalists sites may be of interest to you.
The Library has countless cookbooks, many classic books on food and books on how to write about food. Here are just a few:
The newest Canada Writes challenge is for all of you food-loving writers or (writing food-lovers).
The Canada Writes Edible Nonfiction Contest challenges writers to submit 250–300 word “true personal” stories relating to food.
The deadline is January 3, 2012.