A Little Word on Writing about Food

When I first started Little Word Bites, I thought I’d be ruminating more on the process of writing about food.  I thought I’d talk more about my writing career, and the near-weekly shipments that come to my apartment from used bookstores across the country, and occasionally, the UK.

(This week, I received Gael Greene’s Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess, and Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating, along with a few anthologies of prose poetry because all good things depend on variety.)

But Little Word Bites has clearly become the place where I eat, cook, spend my free time grocery shopping, and tell you about it in great detail.

Writing, however, is still the fundamental practice driving forward my new passion for food and food writing.  On Saturday, I participated in a workshop to perfect that craft.

The Boston Center for Adult Education is the fantastic place to develop or refine a skill, pursue a new interest, and meet people with those same proclivities.

From 9-4, the BCAE hosted an annual Magazine Writing Workshop, where participants were able to select from a variety of topics and take two intensive courses.  I was very fortunate to be able to take Lifestyle Writing with Courtney Hollands, the Senior Lifestyle Editor at Boston Magazine, and a Food Writing course with the Editor of Eater Boston, Aaron Kagan.

Between sessions, John Mariani presented a keynote speech.  As the food columnist for Esquire Magazine, a published author in the genre, and an expert on all things edible, this was a truly humbling experience.

For Lifestyle Writing, I explored my first experience with Pilates Fusion, and why it's a great thing.

For Lifestyle Writing, I explored my first experience with Pilates Fusion, and why it’s a great thing.

I learned a lot from these three industry experts, and am excited to have my work reviewed by them in the coming days.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some of what I took away. If you aren’t privy to my limited-issue hand-written notes, I pulled some of my favorite moments.

Never refer to food as yummy, nibbles, toothsome, or nibbles, as a noun.

Write about food in a way that revives it, transforms it.  Use personal anecdotes, unexpected themes, and refreshing metaphors to make the “mm” moment we all have worth sharing.

Read as much Hemingway as possible.

Aaron also assured me that my being a health-conscious vegetarian wouldn’t be, as my father has feared, detrimental to my career.

He referred to the food writer who talks exclusively about raw, vegan, grain-free one-pot meals exclusively from the Northeastern region of Thailand as the more compelling writer than the one who will eat anything.

“Any way you can set yourself apart,” he said, although his example certainly made me feel like a sweeping generalization.

Writing for a magazine – especially a food magazine – is what I’ve placed before me as my current career goal. And I am more excited than ever to pursue this path.

In more traditional Little Word Bites fashion, I think it’s only fair to talk about the food.  Boloco catered the event, and I was not alone in my relief.  Vegan burritos, vegetarian burritos, massive bowls of salad and their fresh tomato salad.

Boloco catered the workshop, bringing lots of vegetarian and vegan options to the group.

Boloco catered the workshop, bringing lots of vegetarian and vegan options to the group.

I chose the vegan option, which was Teriyaki with baked tofu, brown rice, carrots, and steamed broccoli.  I did without the wrap and the rice, but used the remnants of my decomposed burrito to dress the salad.

I’m a big fan of Boloco, providing our city with genuinely healthy options and fresh ingredients.  That is, everyone needs to indulge every once in a while.  And with brown rice, whole wheat wraps, steamed and grilled ingredients, it’s possible to have a satisfying, quick meal-to go without sacrificing quality.

In addition to a large number of writing courses, including feature writing, travel writing, blog promotion and self-publishing, the BCAE offers a huge selection of cooking courses, of which I am eager to begin taking.

Courtney Hollands assured me it’s not necessary to be an expert on a topic in order to write about it, but a set of professional knives came into my possession the other day, and I nearly lost my finger to one in a traumatic onion-chopping frenzy.

That’s why you’ll probably find me taking Basic Kitchen & Knife Skills, before trying my hand at Vegetarian Italian Cuisine or Gourmet Soups with Boston Organics.

More than anything, this workshop reminded me that it is never too late to explore and develop, to pursue that hunger to write or eat, cook, or grow.

What’s important is that you take the opportunity presented before you, and soak it up in its entirety.

Until next time,

Melanie

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