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Eating My Words

Michele Morris CAL
By Michele Morris

I’m a foodie. For those of you who aren’t, let me explain. I’m one of that breed for whom food takes center stage. I live to eat, I don’t eat to live. I dream about food, I buy food souvenirs on trips, I adore spending time in a farmers’ market, I start planning my next meal before I finish the one I’m eating, I am riveted by food television, I read grueling tales of chefs trying to earn Michelin stars, I cook (a lot), I throw dinner parties, I teach cooking classes, I photograph special meals in restaurants…and I write about food.

The writing certainly came second in this chicken and egg tale. I’ve been into cooking and food related things since I was a young child making small cakes in my Easy Bake Oven, through my teen years cooking a Chinese dinner for my mom’s 40th birthday all by myself, and into my adult years collecting cookbooks, swapping recipes, and attending cooking schools all over the world.

And yet it was a completely novel idea to me when one of my friends suggested I also write about food. I was planning to leave the corporate IT world to pursue my passion around food, planning to launch a cooking school, but never in my career brainstorming had I thought about food writing. At first I wasn’t sure I would be any good at it. Every writer has challenges: mystery writers need to craft a plot that captures the reader’s curiosity and draws them into the story, journalists must become adept at unearthing the details of a story and presenting them in a compelling and unbiased way, and poets need to make their writing sing.

As a food writer, it’s my job to make my writing flavorful. People are not nearly as intrigued by the phrase “beer ice cream” as they are by the description “a smooth, caramel flavored Guinness stout transformed into a rich and creamy ice cream.” My words need to make the reader salivate. I know I’ve done a good job when I see a comment posted on my blog that starts with something like “OMG!” and ends with the reader declaring they had to drop everything they were doing when they read my piece so they could run into the kitchen to start cooking.

It’s not always easy to get it right. Some dishes are easier to describe, and often the photos I post along with my writing do much of the work for me. But at times, the photos leave the reader wondering and it’s up to me to fill in the blanks. That’s the real challenge of a food writer. Can I make this sound mouth-watering good, can I actually get the reader’s taste buds excited, with just words? How can I say bitter without it sounding like a bad thing? Isn’t there some other word I can use other than savory for the tenth time? If I say that tarragon has a mild anise-like flavor that complements creamy scrambled eggs perfectly, will readers be able to taste that in their mind even before they try it?

True foodies love to share food. Indeed, I love nothing more than cooking for friends and family. But since my readers rarely get to share in the actual meals I create, I want to stimulate their appetites with my writing. And more than anything, I want to leave them satiated after eating my words. Buon appetito!

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