Library Notes: Food Writing
By Sara Medlicott,
“It will be about eating and about what to eat and about people who eat. And I shall do gymnastics by trying to fall between the three fires or by straddling them all,” so said M.F.K. Fisher about her first book, Serve It Forth. The same could be said about almost all food writing, it takes a particular talent to do those literary gymnastics. In honor of our Food Writing class with ICC Dean of Food Journalism and Media Studies Alan Richman, this month’s Library Notes is dedicated to some of the great food writing housed in the ICC Library.
The best pieces of food writing will cover not only the actual food but place it in a cultural context. It’s important to remember that food writing is not a genre but a topic and can include cookbooks, memoirs, journalism and sometimes even fiction. The term “food writing” only came into use in the mid-nineties and is still not included in the Oxford English Dictionary. With that vague and broad definition, where is the food reader to start?
For a thorough overview, the library has the Best Food Writing volumes dating back to 2001. Editor Holly Hughes scours magazines, books and websites to find outstanding essays on a broad range of styles and topics each year. Covering a wide range of topics from Home Cooking to Extreme Eating, each book provides a great overview of the year in food. This book is great for a commute read too, the selections are bite sized.
If you are looking for a critic’s perspective, Dean Alan Richman’s book Fork It Over covers the ins and outs of working as a “professional eater.” The essays contained span the entire globe and are divided up into courses and palate cleansers. This is a must read for anyone in the Food Writing Class, or anyone who is considering taking it in the future.
Many of my favorite selections in this category are memoirs. A good food memoir marks major events in the life of the author with tastes or meals. Many include recipes for the reader to attempt. While our library has food memoirs written by people from all walks of life, the two I’m highlighting here are both focused on professional kitchens.
Our alum Lauren Shockey decided to apprentice around the world after completing her education at International Culinary Center. She started at wd~50 in New York City, from there she traveled to Vietnam, Israel and France. In Four Kitchens, Lauren divulges the secrets of working in upscale restaurants around the word as well as her interpretation of the recipes she cooked at each one.
Another perspective on the professional kitchen is the memoir by ICC Dean Jacques Pépin, The Apprentice. This book has been a “staff pick” multiple times from many different ICC employees because it offers a glimpse into what the industry used to be like and tells his unique story in a very approachable way. The Apprentice also includes recipes.
Whether you like short essays or a long narrative, if you love food writing, we have something for you in the ICC Library. These and many more are all available for circulation. Stop by and pick something up for a little inspiration.
This blog post was originally published by the International Culinary Center (ICC), founded as The French Culinary Institute (FCI). In 2020, ICE and ICC came together on one strong and dynamic national platform at ICE's campuses in New York City and Los Angeles. Explore your culinary education where the legacy lives on.