An editor wrote me recently stating that my readers need to know that until they know everything about all culinary traditions and trends, they are not qualified to write about any food.
I was quite surprised at that attitude for I've sold many articles about healthful meals, cooking for children, and vegetarian baby food, yet I am constantly learning new ways to prepare more elegant foods and am loathe to study the art of sauce and stock making. Can I still write about food?
Yes, and so can you. If you fear being passed over when networking with editors and worry that your letters will be lost in the slush pile because you, too, have gaps in your culinary training, become an expert…in one food topic. Then, write about it.
The “one topic" could be tropical fruits, grilling, regional cuisine, or just one food item like beans or bread. Choose the food that incites your passion. Explore something you've always found fascinating. Let your emotions guide you on this choice and I promise you'll be an expert before too long.
Why should you be the expert? Say you love microbreweries and have begun brewing your own beer. By interviewing owners of brew pubs and picking up valuable tips, reading books, joining associations, and building a website devoted to your topic, you position yourself as the storehouse of all things related to beer.
You start by writing articles for your site, querying beer magazines with your ideas to help new home brewers and pitching ideas to travel magazines about brewery tours around the state, country or world. While you've been studying this “one topic" you will have delved deeper into the history of your passion and may decide to write about that in a series of articles which you later turn into a book. You are approached by a publisher to write a cookbook, not of how to brew the beverage, but of how to use it in recipes for breads, soups, sauces, and stews.
An hour or two each day, reading up on your topic, has led you to become published in magazines, online and in cookbooks. Each time you are published, your expert status grows. And it began with your passion in one food topic.
You could choose grilling as your focus. You could take it several directions: smoking meats, choosing woods for more flavor, grilling meats, fish and game, grilling vegetables and fruits, baking on the grill, reviews of different styles of grills, recipes, techniques, and/or tools.
Perhaps your passion is baking. Start with cakes. Bake your way through several cookbooks, study the science of baking, create healthful cake recipes for those who avoid sugar, study cake decoration. Turn what you learn into magazine queries, and cookbook proposals.
Knowing about a topic includes knowing the nutritional information, studying any medical studies that have been done about its benefits or dangers, and reading those who have gone before you paving the way in this area.
If you are not a nutritionist, make friends with one who can answer your questions and point you to studies you should be reading. If you are new to baking, apprentice with a pastry chef for a few months. Connect with a chef who can offer advice on grilling. No matter your expert status, you will need other experts to lift your writing to new heights.
You need never give up learning; nor should this article be seen as advice to avoid structured education – cooking lessons, culinary degrees. I am only offering one means to push yourself into a solid, and desirable food writing position.
My work with cooking for children has led to dozens of articles, an editorial position and work on a cookbook in progress. My studies in macrobiotics have allowed me to write about an often misunderstood topic, and to develop recipes for those articles. My absolute need for easy-to-prepare weekday meals, and healthful brown bag lunches have also increased my income in the form of published articles and recipe development.
While I may not be blessed with the time to study sauces and stocks (yet) I will continue to declare that I am, indeed, a food writer. You can too.
Break into food writing in six easy lessons – Make Money as a Food Writer by Pamela White is available at amazon.com and http://www.food-writing.com Get a free copy of Ten Tips Your Editor WANTS You to Know by subscribing to the no-fee ezine, Food Writing.