While looking through my book, Will Write for Food, over the weekend, I was struck by the writers I quoted just a few years ago, all newspaper and magazine writers and cookbook authors. Certainly they were the big names in print food writing.
But that was then and this is now. So now I’m going around asking: “Who is the ultimate food writer today?”
On a cemetery walk with blogger and cookbook author Romney Steele, we decided it’s not a simple answer, depending on how you define success and food writing. Later she named cookbook authors Jane and Michael Stern, John T. Edge, and Deborah Madison; then bestselling author Michael Pollan and Tom Philpott for food politics and science. Are these last two truly food writers?
What about from a commercial perspective? The only cookbooks I’ve seen on bestseller lists lately are Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (sorry, she’s dead) and Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. I’m disqualifying cookbooks by celebrities and celebrity chefs who would not call themselves food writers, like Rachel Ray and Paula Deen, and Hungry Girl author Lisa Lillien. Does this mean Julie Powell is America’s most successful food writer?
Yesterday, over herbal chai tea with blogger Tara Weaver, I posed the question. Commercially speaking, she offered New York Times writer Mark Bittman as a candidate, a newspaperman who has also mastered the cookbook bestseller lists and blogging.
But she’d rather look at success through the writing. This is where the conversation turned to bloggers, to her friends at Orangette and Gluten-Free Girl, beautiful writers like herself. Tara says she does most of her reading online today, not in books. Are bloggers the best food writers?
I’m still thinking about the answer. I’m interested in knowing what you think. Who gets your vote, and why?