By now you’ve seen the announcements for the Oscars of food writing, the James Beard Awards for books, broadcast and journalism.
But have you read the pieces that won over the judges? I thought not.
I tracked down a handful of feature stories and explain why this is food writing at its finest. Here’s what it takes to win an award of this caliber, with links to writers so you can investigate who won as well:
Here’s a sensuous look at how Thomas concocted recipes for green soups for her most recent cookbook, Love Soup. Her writing is full of action verbs (“a bitter wind was swatting down the last damp leaves”), evocative writing (“onions, slowly sizzling in the skillet, turned the color of caramel toffee”), and passionate storytelling about how her obsession drove her to create earthy, elegant soups.
I still have my beloved 1972 copy of The Vegetarian Epicure, which Thomas wrote while a film student at UCLA.
What’s a computer industry magazine doing writing about food and food politics? It’s really a tale of how agriculture giant Cargill triumphed in bringing a new sweetener, Truvia, to market. Paynter, a first-rate reporter, humanizes the story by focusing on a single employee’s successes.
Dunlop expertly leads readers into a suspenseful tale of serving stinky cheeses to to the Chinese. You’re halfway through the story, wondering, “Will they like it?” before you find out the answer. And you’re as fascinated as she is by the question.
4. Group Food Blog, The Salt: NPR’s Food Blog
Quirky, intelligent, and newsy, this group blog focuses on the fascinating issues like whether rice and beans really are good for you; and how chefs add butter to make wild food taste great. Read bios of the main contributors on NPR’s right column.
I don’t know about you, but I am so over reading about drunken Tokyo escapades with chef David Chang. I mean, the whole idea of answering a tweet asking if a magazine could sponsor a drunk weekend of amazing meals is crazy…unless you’re a testosterone-fueled magazine like GQ. A fun read, nevertheless.
As we know, anyone can start a food blog. But Elissa Altman is not “anyone.” She’s a fascinating storyteller, trained chef and published author. This post was a seemingly ordinary tale of gorging on pimento cheese and eating smoked oysters, but her thoughtfulness and intimacy about her life come through with a total lack of pretension. Here’s Altman’s post on winning the Beard award.
It wouldn’t be the Beard Awards without Alan Richman. He almost always wins. You can see why in these three stories. You’ll be shocked by the bravado he displays in the last one.
Richman writes with confidence and intelligence. He’s funny, brutally honesty, and suspenseful. He’s famous for such lines as, “The cooking here has two styles: a little too much or a lot too much.”
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You might also like:
- Alan Richman, the “Most Decorated Food Writer in America”
- Who Qualifies as a Beard Finalist, and What They Wrote
(Disclosures: I was a judge for the Beard awards this year, but in books, not journalism. This post contains affiliate links, from which I make a few cents if you buy something.)