Writing About Food


Food is an essential part of the human experience. Along with water and shelter, humans need to eat in order to survive. Because food is so central to our lives, writing about it can be a challenging yet rewarding endeavor. Writing about food can take many forms, including food reviews, blogs, long- and short-form journalism (including profiles and investigative pieces), cookbooks, fiction, the culinary mystery, nonfiction food history and anthropology, and even academic research papers. The universe of worthy subjects is endless.

Whether writing about the food on your plate or the people who made it, the best food writers are those who can make an emotional connection with their readers. “Great food writing crystallizes the experience for the reader and makes them want to dig in, chew around and savor every bite,” says Ruth Evelyn Terry, a freelance writer.

A person’s diet depends on a variety of factors, from biology to culture. Eating a wide variety of foods is important for maintaining a balanced and healthy diet. Humans need carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta; fats, such as those found in butter and oils; protein, such as meat and beans; and vegetables and fruits. Some people choose to eat only certain types of food, such as cereal grains, legumes and fish, or they may refuse animal products altogether, a practice known as vegetarianism or veganism.

People also have varying food preferences and traditions, which is why there are so many different cuisines in the world. A cuisine’s roots can be traced back to hunter-gathering, horticulture or the development of agriculture. These practices spread to other areas of the world through trade and colonization, allowing for the introduction of new foods such as hot red peppers, corn (maize) or sweet potatoes.

Some people have specific dietary requirements, such as an allergy to dairy or gluten. Then there are those who have personal beliefs that affect their choice of foods, such as a religious belief that forbids the eating of pork or a desire to support local farmers. Food is also a way of expressing one’s cultural identity, as demonstrated by the popularity of foods like barbecue and heart-shaped Wonder Bread sandwiches in the United States.

When writing about food, it is important to avoid using words such as strange, odd or unusual in reference to a dish. These descriptions can offend, especially if the food is a common or central part of another culture. It is also inappropriate to suggest that a food has been discovered, as this carries connotations of colonialism. Instead, try to emphasize how the dish is an important part of the culture that created it.