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Friday, October 15, 2010

I've been doing a bit of food writing lately. It  isn't an altogether new topic for me, but I'm struck by how much more difficult it is to do than I would have thought. The chief problem is, as in most writing, avoiding cliché, and this is further complicated by virtue of the fact that most of the time I am writing about things I've enjoyed . Snark is easier than describing something delicious. I had occasion in a recent piece (recently written-- it won't appear for a while) to describe the texture of something as like Playdough left on a window sill overnight. I was pleased with that, but my editor found it unnecessarily harsh, so I didn't get to use it in the piece, which is probably just as well, but it was a more-or-less factual description that had the added merit of being funny.  I'm not sure how to write about something that tastes great in a funny way-- food writing about good food is more wholesome and serious than that.

There are rules for this sort of thing-- The Association of Food Journalists guidelines are a formal set, but there are other considerations. It can't just be descriptive, for example-- there should be an anecdotal element, so that people can relate to the experience. When it is descriptive it should be descriptive-- it is tempting to say something is good because it does not have a flaw frequently associated with that sort of thing, but this is hard to do.  "The mozzarella was creamy" is dull; "The mozzarella wasn't rubbery" is damning with faint praise. Those are tough shoals to navigate when are trying to write something interesting about something simple.

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