Eating and Reading

On food and food writing

Lisa Renee

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Photo by blackieshoot on Unsplash

I’ve always wanted to write about food but have wondered if I’m allowed. If I’m qualified. As a home cook who needs a recipe and has little culinary imagination, what could I contribute? I love to cook, sometimes. I love to bake, always. The alchemy of butter, sugar, and desire can fix a lot. When it works.

Mostly I love to eat.

As I felt “unqualified,” this landed in my inbox from Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen fame:

“In the summer of 2007, the Smitten Kitchen was about to turn a single year old, and I want to make this absolutely clear: I had no idea what I was doing. … I’d started the site as a place to share recipes I felt were worth repeating, and fully expected it to last six months before it fizzled into oblivion as I knew very little about cooking and presumed most people preferred to get cooking advice from people who had a clue. Instead, I was heading into the site’s one-year mark with a steadily growing audience and despite lacking any central guiding philosophy aside from “I want to make this today,” I still love so many of these seemingly random picks.”

She didn’t know what she was doing! She knew very little about cooking! I think her blog became so popular because of her writing (her recipes are great, too, reliably successful). I’ve always looked forward to her little essay at least as much as the actual recipe.

“I want to make this today,” is my guiding principle in the kitchen, skill be damned.

Good food writing is as essential as good food. MFK Fisher and Elizabeth David, Ruth Reichl and Laurie Colwin. I adored Phyllis Grant’s blog, Dash and Bella, and was a very early reader of Smitten Kitchen. It was mostly because of the writing. All this recent whining about wading through writing to get to the recipe is baffling to me (I will not link to these buzzkills). If it’s well-written, a food essay is delicious and then you get a recipe! The reading is the sustenance, the recipe is a gift. If you don’t like it, scroll! Turn the page! Sheesh.

Early June is a great food moment here in the northeast. Yesterday was the season’s first CSA pickup and it feels like a heavy, dark door has been thrown open on a green landscape, lush and sunsoaked. We brought home an…

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