What is food writing? Before I read Jacob's book, I thought I might learn a few techniques for writing restaurant reviews. Wow -- I was wrong! This is a huge, magnificent field, of which I've merely sampled my first appetizer.
The author's research in compiling this book is extensive. In presenting her ideas, she doesn't limit readers to her own personal experience; she interviewed hundreds of successful food writers and asked them how they got started, what a typical day is like, and what advice they have to give.
Despite her years of industry experience, Jacob truly understands the heart of a beginner, and her voice is as far from snooty-hooty as one can be. Readers will feel encouraged and energized after reading chapters on the secrets of restaurant reviewing, cookbook compiling, recipe writing (yes, it is an art form!), memoir and nonfiction food writing, and food in fiction.
Jacob's passion is so contagious, her words dance across the page. She seems especially interested in the trend of narrative food writing, and she gives you tips on how to make your writing full of jolt and flavor. What are the three laziest adjectives used to describe food? She says "nice," "wonderful," and "delicious." She writes, "They are so vague that readers don't know what you mean other than something positive." Instead, she offers an extensive list of adjectives in chapter 5 that make it well worth the price of the book.
I'm only a simple home cook. My creativity usually involves whipping up kid-friendly favorites without having to dash off to the grocery store for exotic ingredients. Although I've written a few of my own recipes, I certainly didn't realize what an exciting art form food writing can be.
While reading this book, we ate out at a new restaurant, and I imagined myself as one of those fancy New York Times reviewers in disguise (didn't know they may actually wear wigs!). I had our waiter answering a myriad of questions, and even dashing back to speak with the chef. I brought home a menu and scribbled all over it my impressions.
I'm intrigued as to how to better describe tastes and food. And I never considered children's books to be a place where good food writing can exist. After reading WILL WRITE FOR FOOD, I am much more aware. I appreciate the recommendation from Writer's Digest and will certainly add this to my bookshelf of favorites.
I love the way she describes what it takes to make a great reviewer: [They] have passion, knowledge, authority, a great writing style, and stamina...They give the reader a feel for the place, its rhythm, and overall vibe. And they keep up their energy level and enthusiasm. Passion is paramount."
She quotes experienced food critic Alan Richman who says he can't wait to see what a restaurant has in store for him. He shares, "I get a hop in my step."
A well done book, indeed.
--Reviewed by Heather Lynn Ivester