Have you always wanted to start your own blog but just didn’t know how to put words on paper? Writing coach and food writer, Jamie Schler, shares some helpful tips for writing about delicious, wonderful food.
Food, as we all know, is more than just nourishment for the body, a dish more than just the sum of its ingredients, a bowl of nutrients and vitamins, something that must be on the table three times a day. We offer something of ourselves each time we share a meal with others which is why food is also very emotional; certain foods soothe and comfort while others evoke memories or inspire feelings of joy and celebration, sadness and loss, even romance or whimsy. And food, last but not least, is such an ever-present part of our lives: we cook and bake for weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and everything in between.
How do we write about something so all encompassing, so charged with meaning? How do we capture smells, tastes, textures and sounds; how can we transmit those emotions tied to a dish, share a memory? How can we excite our readers, make them want to cook and eat the food we are presenting? Food writing can truly be a difficult, even intimidating chore; but with thought and time, each of us have the ability to control the words typed upon the page, transmit emotions and meaning behind the food we share and write a beautiful story.
Like photography, writing is a skill to be learned, honed and mastered. Like great camera equipment, a dictionary, the thesaurus and spell check are the tools of our trade. Like photoshopping an image to perfect light, color and frame, editing is our post processing, our way of perfecting our story. Using only our words, we can create as sensational, as visual an image as a photographer with a camera.
It doesn’t have to be complicated but it should be well written and engaging. I want to share a few tips that may just inspire your confidence and creativity.
1. Read! Read everything: varied topics, different genres, different centuries and eras, different styles. Pick up and use a richer and wider vocabulary, new ways of expressing yourself when you speak every day! The more you integrate new words, expressions and styles into the way you speak, the more natural it sounds in your writing.
2. Write! Write daily. Always remember that you can correct, adjust, change, delete or simply keep it to yourself! Writing is the best exercise for improving your writing!
3. Grammar, spelling, punctuation….are vital! It shows respect for your reader! Learn how to go back and edit, and never be afraid to use a dictionary or the computer’s spell check. Avoid clumsy repetition, of thoughts, ideas or words. Every word has more than just a meaning; words also have a visual and emotional impact; choose each word carefully.
4. Inspiration is often the hardest part of writing; what do I talk about and how do I make it interesting? Think about what the food means to you: where and how did you discover the dish or special ingredient? Who taught you to make it? Why, when and to whom do you serve it? What meaning does this dish have to you? Not there yet? Play little writing games: for example: sit and name the first 3 things, no matter how unrelated, that pop into your mind when you think of the dish or the main ingredient and see if one of those ideas kickstarts a story! Just get the brain working!
5. Food is an all-around sensory experience: we smell and taste – each one a wide and magical range of experiences – but also touch, vision and hearing – think of the feel of dough as we knead, the colors of a basketful of fruits and vegetables, the sound of garlic hitting hot oil or milk being poured onto our favorite childhood cereal. Find words to describe each sense and bring the food that much closer and make it more appetizing to your reader; the more senses you can stimulate, the more your reader will want to cook and eat your food.
6. Great storytelling means capturing your reader with a catchy opening and a smooth and sensible transition from beginning, middle to end. A great storyteller will manipulate the reader’s emotions… make them laugh or cry, feel romantic, nostalgic or silly. Create the setting, create the mood.
7. Find your own unique voice and distinctive style. Be inspired by others but never imitate. Try less to sound writerly and more like your natural self; a distinctive voice is what is appealing to your readers.
8. Be amusing, whimsical, nostalgic, silly, even romantic; have fun with your writing!
To get you started:
Write a short paragraph about something that you have cooked or baked. Then rewrite the paragraph about the same food or dish in a voice that is not your own: a 10-year-old boy, a teenager, a farmer, your favorite tv character… Simple exercises such as this one help us see more clearly the way we write naturally as well as open our eyes to different aspects of an experience that we normally wouldn’t think about.
Jamie Schler is an American freelance writer living in France. She writes the blog Life’s a Feast and is co-founder of and writing instructor for Plate to Page food writing, styling & photography workshops.
You Might Also Like