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A Second Path: Getting into Food Writing and Blogging

Alongside my day job, and the writing of a few novels (The Magic of Christmas is progressing well, and a few other things are in the pipeline), one of my big interests has always been food. Writing about food has been a dream that has lurked within the deep corners of my mind for years now. It bubbles up each time the start of autumn brings with it the tempting thought of warmer, comforting meals. Food writing is something I have dabbled in previously, but I have always hit some form of mental barrier whenever I’ve begun to go anywhere with it.

The original purpose of this website and blog was to change my own mindset, to make me think of myself not as ‘an aspiring writer’, but as ‘a writer’. To not think of writing as something I would like to do, but something I actually do. And amazingly, it has worked. I now think of myself as much an author as I do a researcher (for my job). I more openly discuss my fiction writing progress with those around me than I ever did before (well, sometimes). Something has changed.

In the last few months, I’ve been adding posts about food, using the blog as an outlet for this other side of my life. But really, it is all part of the same ambition. To write. Whether that is food or fiction, it is my passion and these two genres are the fuel for that passion.  As my own mind changes and evolves, so too does this site. Now it is not just a corner of the Web to act as my presence for fiction writing, but for all my writing in general. Here you will find my voice, discussing fiction, food, or anything else that suitably inspires and captivates me.

Food Writing Exercises

In many ways, food writing seems like something that I am at a much earlier stage with than fiction writing. I think this is partly due to the duration with which I have used this site and my social media presence to portray myself as an author of stories. Knowing the type of person that I am, I need to do something similar in order to change my own perception of me as a food writer. So, I bought a book. After scouring Amazon for a while, I settled on ‘Will Write for Food’ by Dianne Jacob, a comprehensive guide to the trade. Nestled within are a set of writing exercises, opportunities to practise and refine my technique. I’m working through them as I read the book, and will post some of them here.

A Favourite Meal

The first exercise in Chapter 1 is to take the tips presented so far and write a long paragraph about eating a favourite meal. Within this, you have to use all of the senses: touch, sound, smell, appearance and taste.

Okay… how to choose a favourite meal?! There are so many things I could write about here, depending on the weather, my mood, my level of tiredness… etc. I eventually settled on some sort of pie. Not that it really helped much. What kind of pie? Chicken and leek? Cheese and onion? Steak and Guinness. Yes, steak and Guinness. Right, problem one, solved. Now to write about it. So here is my first paragraph of food writing based on the teachings of Will Write for Food:

Steak and Guinness Pie

Any pie fresh from the oven is a thing of beauty. The pastry so golden and puffed on top, waiting patiently to be broken through to reveal the filling within. Steam rising from a small vent to indicate the warming comfort nestled inside. And then there is the crunch, the oh so inviting sound of a knife shattering those golden, buttery layers – once, twice, three times: each cut tearing further through the lid to reveal the rich, dark gravy that begins to ooze upwards, free now from its pastry cage. The beefy perfume dances through the air, swirling around the pie, enticing you in. Between the filling – a thick casserole of beef and carrots – and the crispy top, lies the hidden gem: the gooey, gravy-soaked lower half of the pastry that has soaked up some of the velvety liquor, the intersection of wet and dry, the amalgamation of container and contents. And then you move a probably-too-big piece of the pie towards you. It trembles on the fork, threatening to fall away. Gravy drips lazily from it. Then that crunch again as the pastry crumbles between your teeth, melting into your mouth. The dark filling now divulges its deeper secrets: the robust hit of stout, a salty tang of cheese, all slathered around the tender, delicate beef, which falls apart with satisfying ease.

 

 

Chris Phethean is a writer and blogger. He is working on a range of sci-fi, fantasy and adventure stories, and dreams of writing interactive narratives for video games. Find him on and Twitter.

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