Why I Write about Food and Eating

In MFK Fisher’s book, The Gastronomical Me, she begins her forward with these paragraphs:

People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do?

They ask it accusingly, as if I were somehow gross, unfaithful to the honor of my craft.

The words struck me, because they are something I have pondered much over the years … and, with slightly different words, I am often asked about as well. After beginning as a newspaper reporter who focused on crime, punishment and politics, my career took a dramatic shift when I traded that for food writing. It seems like a fabulous writing prompt. So, here it goes …

Why I Write about Food and Eating

Crafting an answer to this question is much like the chicken and egg debate: which came first? My interest or my passion? My intent or the strong pull? The need or the want? It’s really hard to say.

But at its most basic level, I write about food because it’s happy, life-affirming and something enjoyed by many (myself included, of course). While food politics can polarize us in unbelievable ways, food itself brings people together — families over Sunday dinner, friends for a birthday celebration, coworkers for lunch. Food is something we need to survive, and also take pleasure in enjoying.

Of course, there is more to it than that. I began writing about food because I needed to do something other than writing about people at their lowest lows. Becoming a mother changed me, and I could no longer stomach the ins and outs of researching, interviewing and reporting on crime, punishment and politics. (And although the final one is a separate topic than the first two, it is more closely related than it appears.) Sure, I wrote plenty about urban development, an admittedly less macabre subject, but it didn’t lessen the need to find a new writing passion.

But writing about food wasn’t just an out for me — it was a whole new outlet. It allowed me to explore my craft in a way I never had before: with passion, feeling and emotion. While journalism is dry, food writing is explosive. The creative surge that comes with describing a tender, irresistible souffle was a greater pleasure than anything I’d experienced in writing before. It was, to borrow a phrase from Trent Reznor, the perfect drug. Once I started, I couldn’t imagine giving it up.

Moreover though, my passion is about the eating. More specifically, eating together. Food has, throughout my life, brought me together with my friends and family. Wings at a favorite bar. Shared platters of wat and tibs, served with warm injera. Olives eaten off fingertips. Bowls of sizzling Bi Bim Bap. Perfectly seared steaks. Creamy risottos, brimming with artichokes, herbs and olives. Food is love.

Food has its dark side too – the stories of hunger, of school lunches that fail to nourish, of waste and pollution, of life-threatening allergies … and I don’t shy from that aspect. It would be grossly unfair to write about the joys of food and eating without acknowledging the challenges and dangers too many face. Those are important and necessary pursuits in a food writing career as well.

But when I write about food, most often it’s about nourishing and the enjoyment factor. Those are, without a doubt, my favorite aspects about the pursuit. Writing about food, by extension, just makes me happy.

Readers, I am turning this back to you: If you are a food writer, why do you write about food? If you are a food writing reader, why do you read it? Share in the comments!


  1. says

    I agree with you on many levels. As a food writer, I enjoy celebrating both sides of the plate. The story of a chef/personality or a team in a kitchen or an individual creating a dish or recreating a family recipe and what drives them to do so is compelling to me and I love to capture that and share it. The pleasure that one experiences when those forces come together to create a successful dish or meal is
    also fun to dissect and then share how it is executed.

    However, I also see food as a important lens through which our culture can be viewed. Trends come like waves and you can see them ebb and flow across restaurant menus, ingredients and approaches. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Farm to Table, and the popularity of inexpensive luxuries such as gourmet doughnuts and food trucks, has been trending in parallel with the recent demise of our economy.

    I could go on, but when it comes down to it, writing about food and sharing those experiences is, as you say, happiness.

  2. says

    My favorite cookbooks are those that have a bit of a story behind at least some of the recipes. I think that’s why I like food blogs, because most of us share a bit of our selves and our lives along with a recipe. As a writer, I enjoy telling the stories. I also like to teach, so try to explain various ways to do things, to try to encourage others to cook and experiment. Oh, also I just like to keep track of what I did!

  3. says

    Amy, that’s a really great point too — food trends do reflect our culture and cultural changes so much. And you can really see the Farm-to-Table and Slow Food movements going from undercurrent to mainstream these days.

    Ellen, I love cookbooks that tell a story too. And I love following that story through the food.

  4. says

    Like Ellen, I love reading the history behind recipes, and as far as food writing, I love creating memories, and most memories have food intrinsically tied to it… we remember what we ate when So-and-So broke our heart, our favorite Thanksgiving traditions and our first meal when our first-born entered the world. Food always seems very relevant when it comes to memories and I like nothing more than sharing that with family and friends … and my audience.

  5. says

    I read about food because I am constantly thirsting for more knowledge in this area – be it a new recipe, a new way of looking at a particular technique or simply ways to save money in the process. One of the greatest gifts I can give my children is to teach them how to prepare healthy, flavorful foods for themselves AND how to enjoy eating it. Food from all levels, fiscally and physically. :-)


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