Although I’m not a teacher, I often find myself in the classroom with students. I’m called upon to teach a wide variety of subjects to students of all ages. Last year, I was a guest lecturer for a senior writing seminar class titled, “Food, Travel and Adventure.” As a current writer, food enthusiast and former diplomat, this class was right up my alley.
There are many different types of writing: narrative, journalistic, scientific… You could use any of these styles to write about food. However, sometimes when you’re writing about food, you’re not writing about food at all.
For example, in the book Julie & Julia, author Julie Powell dedicates page after page to descriptions of ingredients, recipes and preparations. But what she’s really writing about in this autobiography is self-discovery:
“Julia taught me what it takes to find your way in the world. It’s not what I thought it was. I thought it was all about-I don’t know, confidence or will or luck. Those are all some good things to have, no question. But there’s something else, somethng that these things grow out of. It’s joy.”
In his book, Yes, Chef, Chef Marcus Samuelsson verbally fans the aroma of each ingredient from his kitchen through the pages to the reader to vividly envision and inhale. But Samuelsson isn’t writing about food either, he’s writing about culture and communication.
“Food and flavors have become my first language. Not English, not Swedish, not Amharic…”
Food critics, who write exhaustively about taste, texture and flavors are not ONLY writing about food. They are also writing about creativity, artistry and talent.
“Magical dishes, magical words: a great cook is, when all is said and done, a great poet. . . . For was it not a visit from the Muses that inspired the person who first had the idea of marrying rice and chicken… Parmesan and pasta, aubergine (eggplant) and tomato…?”
‘Cinquante Ans a Table’ (1953)
Marcel Étiennegrancher (1897-1976)
When I write about food, it is born out of my own experience. When you have food allergies, food may mean something different to you. When food can both sustain you and do you harm, your relationship to food may be complicated – or not!
When I write about food and food allergies, I am writing about inclusion, respect, and trust. I am writing to express my appreciation, a pot boiling over with gratitude. I am illuminating my belief that access to safe and healthy food is a right and a necessity – one that creates opportunity for learning, growth and a better future. Finding safe food can be a creative challenge that offers hope, pleasure and a platform for fun times spent with friends and family.
Most of all, as a person who adores someone with food allergies: food – and its sometimes endless hours of preparation and worry – represent love. Pure (and hopefully delicious) love.