Nov 152010

The most overused word in the food writer's lexicon.

While chatting with Brooke Burton of Food Woolf, she mentioned that L.A. Weekly gave her a list of words freelancing food writers are not to use. She reeled off a few from memory:

  • farm fresh
  • sustainable
  • local
  • yummy.

If I wanted to see a good list, she suggested, I could read these blog posts: Top Ten Foodie Words We Hate: Starting with Foodie, and a follow-up generated by the response to the first article, Part 2. Written by Amy Scattergood, L.A. Weekly’s food blog editor, the list of 20 words mixes fad terms like “iconic” and “mixologist” with bland, boring terms like “offering.”

Brilliant! Somehow I missed this list. I like it because it branches out  from the usual vague adjectives I’m always going on about: delicious. wonderful, and tasty. I’ll add a few more:

  • authentic: a hotly contested word, because no matter where you travel, there is never just one version of Spaghetti Bolognese or Pad Thai.
  • orbs: When tired of saying “grapes,” do not substitute “orbs.” No one talks that way.
  • toothsome: Not sure what this means. Chewy? If so, use a word we all understand.

Now it’s your turn. Which words make you cringe or see red? Do you disagree with Scattergood’s or my choices?

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Oct 122010

That's me, barely visible on the left, talking in the demonstration kitchen of Kendall College in Chicago. My book, Will Write for Food, came out in July and I'm still in promotion mode.

At a recent talk at a culinary school in Chicago, I told the audience of food writers about an outrageous request a company made of a food blogger, showing that food bloggers aren’t taken seriously when it comes to pay. A woman raised her hand and asked whether to omit that she is a food blogger when pitching a publication for a story.

“That depends,” I responded. “Are you already established in print?”

She said she was. And then I thought: This woman in the audience is brilliant. Because she will be taken more seriously and offered more money than if she says she is a blogger.

Signing books after the talk. That's Scott Warner on my right, program chair of the Culinary Historians of Chicago, host of my talk.

How do I know this? Print publications sometimes ask bloggers to work for free. And while many print food writers have started food blogs to stay current, saying so might Continue reading »

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Mar 012010

march_10_cover_vThe postcard inside the plastic-wrapped package advised “…we will be sending you Bon Appetit for the duration of your remaining Gourmet subscription term.”

And there it was, my non-Gourmet. First I got sad about Gourmet’s passing all over again. I like the way Elissa Altman summed up its demise: “Gourmet folded because it had a direct competitor under the same roof in the same genre geared to more practical and commercial endeavors, it made more money, and one of them had to go…End of discussion.”

Once I got over the fact that it was not Gourmet, I was curious to see how Bon Appetit was different. Content, for one thing. Bon Appetit is all about entertaining. Tone, for another. It’s all about ease: world-class dining made simple.

Yet most of the recipes didn’t look that easy. In fact, I got the biggest laugh from Continue reading »

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Jan 282010

ipadFirst there was print, where all we needed was the written word. Then blogs, where writers learned to become publishers, photographers and marketers. Now there’s the new iPad from Apple, where publishers are salivating over a new way to Continue reading »

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Jan 262010

measurementJust read 5 Second Rule’s excellent post about whether recipes are boring, and it generated some thoughts about recipe length. (Isn’t it fantastic when an blog post idea arrives on a platter? Thank you, Cheryl.)

Now, some writers like to go long. They like to hold the reader’s hand and explain. Sometimes I’m surprised about how much handholding, though.

I edited a recipe recently that said: “If necessary, Continue reading »

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Jan 212010

silhouetteMaybe the magazine editor was just talking off the top of her head, but when I read it, steam came out of my ears.

In a story in the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ newsletter, by Stephanie Stiavetti, the editorial director of a national food magazine spoke of writing opportunities on her magazine’s website:

“There’s a lot of fear and concern…the move to user-generated content will impact those who made their living writing for print, but it has also opened up new opportunities for bloggers.”

Oh yes, we know all about that, how links are the new currency, and dwindling opportunities for freelancers. The article continues:

“How much quality can you expect from an uncompensated writer who may not be willing to put a lot of effort into an unpaid gig? ‘A lot,’ says the editor, who plans to use guest bloggers in the future: ‘We’ll be Continue reading »

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Dec 172009

14115cadbsaveur200912decp11jpgw300As Gourmet went down, Saveur went up. According to Eater, Saveur ended 2009 as the second highest magazine for ad page growth among all monthly mags. Its December issue was up 32 percent in ad pages, according to publisher Merri Lee Kingsly.

Impressive. Too bad she hasn’t raised the editorial budget in response. Instead, the editors have been working their tails off.

For the December issue, Executive Editor Dana Bowen wrote the 20-page cover story, including recipes and all but one sidebar, a feat that must have taken several months in addition to her full-time job.

In the same issue, Executive Food Editor Todd Coleman Continue reading »

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