Writing About Food

Food is any substance consumed to provide energy for an organism, such as plants or animals. It is usually of plant or animal origin and contains important nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. People may eat food for pleasure, for health or to satisfy hunger.

Almost all living things require food for survival. Humans eat a wide variety of foods to obtain the nutrients they need to stay healthy and function normally. Many humans also enjoy eating food for fun or as a hobby, and some even make a career of it. Food is a common topic for blogs, recipes, travel articles, cookbooks, memoirs, fiction and non-fiction, including food reviews, long and short journalism (from profiles to investigative pieces), culinary mysteries and non-fiction food history and foodways (with a full-on anthropological concentration).

A person’s diet can vary greatly from one country to the next, and even within a single country, diet can change according to season, climate, culture and availability of resources. Often, the ingredients and preparation methods used for specific foods depend on local customs and traditions. For example, English tradition encourages roast beef and Yorkshire pudding to be served together, while Chinese cuisine traditionally serves rice with nearly every meal.

Most food is grown and processed before it becomes available to consumers. Depending on the degree of processing, some nutrients may be destroyed or removed. For example, peeling fruits and vegetables removes their fiber and some of their vitamins; heating and drying destroy or degrade many oils and fats; and cooking and canning foods alter their flavor and texture. Nevertheless, modern food processing technologies allow us to enjoy foods produced in far-flung places and made from raw materials that were not grown locally.

In addition to taste, food can have psychological and social meaning for a person. Some people have eating disorders that influence the amount and types of food they eat. Other people rely on medication to control their appetite or have limited access to food due to poverty or geographic location. Eating too much or too little can have serious consequences, both physically and mentally.

Writing about food requires attention to a number of important issues, such as nutrition, health and safety, cultural context and the economics of production, transportation and distribution. Those who write about food are also required to follow basic literary principles, such as clarity of writing and grammar, organization and style. Food writing can be a creative, rewarding and challenging endeavor, and it is important for those who choose to do so to understand the significance of the subject matter. If a writer doesn’t take these factors into account, his or her work will be misinterpreted and perhaps offensive. Moreover, a failure to consider the complexity of a food issue can undermine a reader’s appreciation for the subject. For these reasons, it is important to read and study widely on the subject of food.