How to Write About Food

Food is any nutrient-rich substance eaten by humans and other animals in order to sustain life and provide energy for growth, movement and vital functions. Plants are the primary source of food for humans and other organisms, and animal products are also important foods, providing protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The absorption and utilization of food by the human body is facilitated by the digestive system.

People’s diets vary greatly between nations and even within countries. Dietary differences reflect historical, cultural and geographical influences, as well as the availability of specific food items. Food availability is influenced by climate and soil type, which affects crop yields; it is also affected by the cost of producing the food, the ability to transport and store the food, and the social, political and economic conditions of the country in which the population lives.

The food supply is also influenced by the interaction of the food chain and the biosphere, and the overall environmental health of the planet. The food that is available to a certain species or individual depends on the abundance of its natural resources, including the land and water, the availability of sunlight, temperature, rainfall, the quality of air and water, and the presence or absence of predators and competitors.

Almost all food is processed in some way, and the degree of processing depends on the food’s intended purpose and the available technology. Some types of processing are minimal and do not change the food’s nutritional value, while others significantly reduce its nutrients. For example, the removal of inedible parts of plants or the heating and drying of grains removes some vitamins and minerals.

Food processing involves any activity that prepares raw food for consumption or storage and may include washing, cleaning, milling, chopping, boiling, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, blending, mixing or packaging. Some foods are also preserved through preserving methods, such as pickling, salting, curing and smoking.

A food additive is any substance added to food that is not a vitamin, mineral or hormone; it can improve flavor, texture or color; extend the shelf life of the product; or protect against spoilage. Examples of food additives are colorants, flavors, stabilizers, preservatives and sweeteners.

To write well about food, you must be able to describe not only what the food looks and tastes like, but also how it smells and feels in your hands. This is why it’s essential to do extensive research about the food you are writing about, especially its history and the region from which it comes.

When describing food, avoid using words such as “odd,” “strange” and “weird.” These terms suggest that the dish is foreign and exotic to your readers, when in fact it is often a central part of other cultures’ cuisines. These words also carry negative connotations and are likely to alienate your audience. Instead, use descriptive adjectives and analogies to bring the reader into your article’s world. For instance, instead of describing a dish as bitter, describe it as sharp and acidic.