For writers who have a hearty appetite and know how to use words to describe their cravings, then writing about food and cuisine might interest you—and your taste buds. Not only is conducting research for food writing assignments an exciting task, but you will also have an endless supply of restaurant reviews and possible free meals — even though you might run out of well-fitting clothes.
To succeed in this genre, the very first skill you must hone is knowing how to describe food so that it appeals to the reader’s five basic senses: hearing, seeing, touch, smell and taste. The technique to write meaningful descriptions, at least in common literature, is to construct specific, perceptible comparisons. To find out why, consider which phrase is more captivating: “It was the most delicious shrimp I have ever tasted,” or “The lime-pressed garlic herb shrimp, smoked over Hickory wood, had a texture and consistency between the crunch of caramelized apple and sugar and the soft resistance of a medium-rare fish filet.” It’s obvious which sentence enticed your taste buds.
Entice the Reader’s Five Senses
The basic rule of food writing is to entice and excite your reader’s senses so that he or she craves whatever delectable dish you’re describing. Try to nudge the reader’s five sense so that he feels like he is an active participant in tasting the food. The human mind has a strange oddity: whenever we reflect on an image, or think about an activity, or visualize something that we’ve held in our hands or tasted with our own lips, we stimulate parts of our brain that causes subtle mental and physical reactions. If we visualize tossing a baseball, the nerve fibers in our fingers twitch. Or, if we visualize eating a juicy cheeseburger, our belly moans and growls and our mouth drools. When you’re covering food, you should stimulate those same regions of the mental faculties to force the reader to share in the experience of eating it. Words like “wonderful,” “yummy,” or, even worse, “truly great,” are non-descriptive words that will dull the reader’s sensations. Only words relevant to food — or words and visuals with powerful mental associations — will excite and ignite your reader’s taste buds.
Selling Your Articles
After you have composed an article or a series of articles, you will need to find suitable publications or websites to pay and publish your material. Here are a few suggestions: if you reside in a big metropolitan area, you can write for a local tourist guide, a newspaper (or an alternative paper), or for regional publications. Millions of people read these publications, both online and offline, and many of these readers jump directly to the food and cooking sections. Many people (especially in large communities and cities) use the food section to find new restaurants to try out, to schedule restaurant reservations, and to read new eatery reviews. Keep yourself updated with new dining and restaurant openings, including the ones that close or re-open under new management. New and recent openings of local restaurants can earn you a steady paycheck. Local and regional publications and websites always need new restaurant reviews and food critiques.
Topic Ideas for Food Articles
For writers who have a favorite diner, cafe, or restaurant in their neighborhood that many locals don’t know about, why not write an article about it and pitch it to a local website or newspaper? Send your article to the editor with a suitable query letter. Who knows, you might be the first writer to write a review about the venue, generating necessary business and publicity for the owners. In the end, you receive a nice paycheck from the editor, plus a published clip, a byline, and maybe more assignments and word-of-mouth referrals.
Another choice is to compose articles, recipes and reviews for tourist guides and magazines that cover cuisine, eating out, city lifestyle, and nighttime activities. If you intend to produce articles for magazines, you have a much broader canvas on which to write. You can compose how-to articles, interview pieces, kitchenware reviews, culinary advice, and so on. If you want to write for local travel and leisure publications, your best option is to put together restaurant reviews. Vacationers may be clueless about the popular eating places in your community. Travel and leisure publications offer details and direction to what’s popular and what’s not in the region. As a result, you can build up a regular supply of prospective readers for your restaurant reviews, food critiques, and nightlife recommendations.
Alternative Writing Opportunities
If you live in a very small town, it’s more challenging to find steady work as a food writer. The family-owned bistro in town might have the most delicious egg omelets, but how will you sell an article if all the locals already eat at that bistro every Saturday evening? Think about offering your articles and reviews to regional and state publications. The Dept. of Transportation in many U.S. states publishes monthly or seasonal publications that cover a variety of subjects, including food-related topics. The editors frequently view local eatery reviews as an oasis of human interest, or as a means of increasing out-of-state tourism to non-traditional hotspots.
Likewise, you could try producing sample content for cookbooks and recipe guides, press releases for new restaurants and cuisine manufacturers, or ads for food organizations. Businesses and book publishers employ skilled food writers to help publicize everything from new types of spaghetti sauce to premium pork dishes. Even a local food market might need your writing skills to compose ads, website copy, and press materials.
Regrettably, for rural, country folks, you may find it more difficult to find local and regional publications to publish your articles; if so, research potential websites and online cooking and cuisine publications that don’t restrict themselves to a local area. Full-time food writing is more for suburbanites and city dwellers because of tourism and the abundance of people located in one area.
Food is a commodity that will never lose its popularity, especially when food is an integral part of a good restaurant experience or making the most delicious strawberry shortcake. The bottom-line: food writing can lead to steady employment; most of all, it’s just downright satisfying writing.