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Scott Lax Blog

Weighing in on Food Writing

To make a terrible pun, I think it's time I weighed in on food writing.

There's a lot of it. It's everywhere. Writing about food - tweeting about it, blogging about it, feature writing about it, writing cookbooks, you name it: if you can eat it, you can write about it. A few million of our fellow writers are doing just that. And they have the pictures of their platings to prove it.

Honey bees are disappearing at alarming rates from around the world, which would seem to warrant more attention than bacon, cupcakes and everything else we learned was bad for us, but that the hipster culture now embraces with a fervor I haven’t seen since the Beatles landed at Idlewild Airport. And who am I to ignore a trend of that stature?

Good food writing needs to be good writing, not just writing about good food. The reason people like Michael Ruhlman get book deals and have popular blogs and go on TV to judge food contests is because people like Michael Ruhlman are good writers. Michael’s current – and perhaps it will be very long running – subjects are food, chefs, restaurants, and cooking. He’s adeptly crafted and connected two things: writing and food. Make no mistake: Michael is a devoted writer; he’s not just a cook and eater. He has written about a lot of subjects, and done so well enough to have an excellent career as an author.

I think it’s fine that there are so many blogs and articles about food. But if you’re serious about being published beyond a blog, you need to learn to write well. “Yum…cupcakes!” and “Yay…bacon!” and “…mmm…pig’s ear” aren’t going to get you book deals. Writing is very hard work, and takes practice, the same as being a great chef takes practice.

Learn to write first. Know your subject and try to write about it in ways that haven’t been done before. And while you’re at it, hipster friends, it wouldn’t kill you to eat an apple, carrot or a handful of almonds to go along with your bacon-wrapped cupcake drenched in duck fat and dipped in a bowl of sea salt and fennel.

Oh, and I highly recommend “Julie & Julia.” It’s a terrific movie, and a good example of food and excellent writing blending beautifully.

Bon appetit, and happy writing.  Read More