Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Close Reading Food

Have you ever read Zagat or the Michelin Guide? Maybe you have read a review of a restaurant that made you drool over a juicy steak or maybe a crispy pie right out of the oven. This is called food writing. It is my favorite kind of writing and I would like to share you my perspective of how it works best.

Think of it like this, which makes you more hungry?

The steak I ate was delicious. It was tender.


The centerpiece of the meal arrived, a 12 oz buffalo filet mignon, grass-fed and marinated in huckleberry juice. As soon as my knife penetrated the meat I realized the lack of need for such a thing, this is tender enough for toothpicks. I took a bite and I savoured the fruitiness of the meat. It brought me straight to a lake in Yellowstone lined with lakes and evergreen.

The second  is better because it uses more adjectives. A good food writer makes you vicariousl feel like you are at the restaurant eating a meal across the globe. A good food writer can make you taste what you are reading. A good food writer can also make you despise a restaurant just with his words.

The service was bad and so was the food. 1 star.


When I came to The Vans I was expecting a lot more, considering they have been open for 100 years and their reputation for hospitality. This was not received. My drink was lukewarm as was my food. I ordered the etouffee. It reminded me of tepid baby food with seafood in it. Clearly I was not important to them and neither will you be.

This is called food criticism. It is a way of steering people to a restaurant or away from a restaurant, and if you are really good you can use analogies that are very vivid.

The key technique to writing about food is making it vivid. Use descriptive terms like “tender,” “succulent” or “frostbitten” to describe the food. Feel free to be analogous. Compare thick gravy to paste as it most likely has to much flour in it. You could be less insulting and compare a vegetarian special to a day in the garden. When people hear this thing they relate to the situation and associate it with the meal.

Menu planning and cookbooks are another part of food writing. They are similar. The one part I would like to touch on is naming food.

Which sounds better:
Sablefishwith your choice of Side or

Local Sablefish with snowflake salt served atop sunchoke puree chorizo bits and lotus root chips

Obviously the second one! As a restaurateur you could make more money knowing this.

This is it for food writing 101. 



  2. This was written really well. To be honest I really liked reading this and it wasn't just because it's about food and I have a huge inner fat kid, but because it got me thinking about other ways to improve my reading and writing.

  3. Y U hav 2 mention steak?! NYEEEHIMSOHUNGRY!

  4. Curse you Pecan Kai! I just ate lunch, and now I'm hungry again.

    (.-_-.) (That is my crying face)