Guest post: Bridget Sandorford: Life of a Food Writer

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Life as a Food Writer

Perhaps you are an aspiring food writer who imagines that tasting exotic foods sounds like an amazing career. Maybe you envy the food critics you see getting free food and special treatment at upscale restaurants. If you’re like most people, you imagine that a food writer’s life is one of incredible foods and great service at restaurants. The truth, as is often the case, is much more complex.

Food writers have to try out a range of dishes even if they are not particularly fond of those dishes. Some foods, such as tofu, are difficult to eat if you do not enjoy the texture. This dislike happens regardless of how deftly a chef may prepare the ingredient. Overlooking these personal preferences is a big part of learning to be an effective food writer. The question becomes “how would this dish taste if I enjoyed eating tofu” rather than the simple “how was this dish” question that most people consider when they try a new food.

For food writers who eat specialty diets, the willingness to try out new and exciting foods is even more important. Gluten-free and non-allergen dishes often have some type of attempt at duplicating the offending foods. Something that is casein-free, for example, will eliminate all dairy but also other foods with milk proteins. These chefs may try to make a flavorful cream sauce without any actual cream. Being able to try these foods and give an honest review of them for other people can be challenging, especially if the taste is good but not similar to the replaced ingredient.

Beyond just eating and evaluating food differently, writers who cover food also must expand their food vocabulary. When people eat an enjoyable meal, they often repeatedly use words like “delicious” or “amazing” or simply “wow.” Those words won’t cut it for a food writer. Instead, she needs to be able to explain the slightly sweet, nutty flavor of a specialty cheese or explain the burst of flavor from eating a well-made soup. Food writers learn over time to process food differently while they eat it.

One learns to taste the individual ingredients, rather than the whole of the food, which requires a change in the way that one eats. When eating something like a sizzling Cantonese side dish, the food writer will try to evaluate the strength of the flavor of the cabbage, the texture of the noodles, and the crunchiness of the steamed veggies added to the dish. This variety of tastes and textures requires slower eating. Taking smaller bites and savoring them helps the food writer to make a clearer evaluation of the food.

Though it requires changing how one experiences a fundamental life tasks to write about food, the rewards are indeed worth it. Food writers do get to try out fun foods, learn more about how their food got to their plate, and talk to chefs about their food preparation. These benefits make any challenges about food writing worth it for avowed foodies.

About the Author:

Bridget Sandorford is a grant researcher and writer for CulinarySchools.org. Along with her passion for whipping up recipes that incorporate “superfoods”, she recently finished research on .

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7 Comments

  1. Carolyn Howard-Johnson said,

    March 6, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

    What fun. A food writer. I once wrote a little food column when I was their teen columnist. We found teen cooks and featured them and their recipes. It was a lot of fun. And the memoir my agent is shopping is called “Here’s How I Don’t Cook.” There isn’t a chapter on experiencing cooking through others’ cooking, but I guess that’s one way I don’t cook. (-:

    Thanks for the memories!

    Best,
    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Multi award-winning poet and writer of fiction and nonfiction

  2. Mayra Calvani said,

    March 6, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

    Interesting post from a food critic perspective! Thanks!

  3. Anne Duguid said,

    March 6, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

    What amazes me is the range of descriptive words food writers produce in no time flat when they are doing live tasting sessions, for instance on a television show. Do you have little notebooks full of enticing phrases ready for use on all occasions?
    I had always thought food writers were all-round foodies. Just had not considered the difficulties of being fair about something they might personally dislike. A most interesting article, Thankyou Bridget, and thanks too to Margaret for letting me know about this post.
    Anne Duguid recently posted..Magdalena Ball–On The Value of Slow Writing

  4. Magdalena Ball said,

    March 7, 2012 @ 7:24 am

    I’ve always fancied food writing. Food poetry is about as close as I’ve gotten, but I do have to admit to finding good food writing very appealing (and mouthwatering!). Thanks for sharing your insights Bridget.

  5. Karen Cioffi said,

    March 7, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

    Great post. It’s so true that whatever area you’re writing you need to learn the language specific to it; it might be food, health, business, or other. I love how food writers make foods sound so delicious!
    Karen Cioffi recently posted..The Rhythm of Freelance Writing

  6. Mary Jo said,

    March 7, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

    I like the idea of tasting the ingredients instead of food. I’ll have to work on that.

  7. Guest post: Bridget Sandorford: Life of a Food Writer said,

    March 8, 2012 @ 12:43 am

    [...] Read more here: Guest post: Bridget Sandorford: Life of a Food Writer [...]

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