Food Writing: A Guest Post by Kirsten Dixon

Even if you aren’t a current member of the Foodie Nation (and really, who isn’t these days?) you might enjoy our sampler platter of three delectable sessions exploring the creative and popular genre of food writing. Join me for writing-intensive workshops touching on topics listed below. Oh, and I should mention there’ll be food involved.

Stirring Words – On a women chefs culinary trip through China a few years ago, I found myself on a bus sitting next to a woman named Giovanna from Southern California. We were riding along a crowded Shanghai road peering through a smog-streaked window to catch glimpses of important sites as we whizzed by, all narrated by our tour guide, an unflappable and severe Mr. Lee.

As we drove through Hongkou, the old Shanghai Jewish quarters, Giovanna told me how some members of her family had lived there for a period of time during World War II. We spent the rest of our bus ride together talking about Jewish cuisine, my kitchen, her restaurant, and various wars.

Some weeks after I returned home, Giovanna sent me a small book called In Memory’s Kitchen: The Legacy of the Women of Terezín, edited by Carol De Silva. This little book is a collection of “dream” recipes recounted by starving women. It’s a cookbook not for cooking, but for remembering a time when the authors had children and husbands to feed, and reasons to feast and celebrate. I have since become fascinated with food memories, recollections and writing about food as a form of identity. In this session, we’ll workshop our own food memories and explore the rich, detailed writing of others.

Mise En Place (everything in its place) – Recipes can be much more than shopping lists of ingredients. A good recipe is an intimate communication between author and recipient. A recipe can be a poem, a secret shared, or an urgent communiqué. A recipe collection can be a singular gift or a legacy. We’ll explore fundamentals of recipe writing and collection, discussing variations on form and style. We’ll look at how to craft a recipe for different types of publications, explore different cookbooks, how recipes are delivered, and what makes a great cookbook versus a mediocre one. We’ll also take a look at a few spectacular cases of culinary plagiarism in recent history.

Foodways – Food, like all things cultural, has fashion. During this session we look at modern food writing and what the current trends reveal. We explore culinary magazines and food blogs for clues to social trends, menus from some of America’s top kitchens, and we take a look at intriguing global food writers as well.

The Butter Did It – Culinary mystery writing – have you ever thought about writing a mystery novel? Consider it from the culinary perspective. Perhaps you need an enticing scene involving foodways or dining – or perhaps you want to thread some clues through your story about cuisine as it relates to the culture of the story. We’ll take a stab at writing and solving a mystery.

Haibun at the Table – Haibun is a combination of prose and haiku poetry.  Some have described haibun as a narrative of an epiphany, but many haibun are simply narratives of special moments in a person’s life. We explore this creative literary style to enhance your culinary journaling and blogging. Haibun utilizes narrative, art, and haiku and in this session we will utilize the haibun style to create a short shared culinary journal.

Kirsten Dixon is a local chef and award-winning cookbook author. She attended the Cordon Bleu School in Paris. Kirsten has a master’s degree in gastronomy from Adelaide University in Australia and an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College.  Sign up today for her 49 Writers course Stirring Words:  Writing about Food, which begins Jan. 22.  (We’ve scheduled the last session on Feb. 12 so that those attending the AWP conference can attend.) 

1 thought on “Food Writing: A Guest Post by Kirsten Dixon”

  1. Kirsten,
    That first example of food memories (from the book about Terrezin) gave me chills. The next paragraph started me thinking about writing a food poem, something I'd never considered. And now I'm both chilled, inspired, and also hungry! Your class sounds fascinating and fun.

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