A Recipe for Writing

Wednesday, August 06, 2008
by LuAnn Schindler

I admit that I enjoy food. Developing a new recipe, testing it in my kitchen, preparing it for dinner and awaiting my husband's response provide fun, trial and error and a pleasurable dining experience at our house. Sure, some of you might tell me I need a new life, but the truth is, I inherited the "good cook" genetics from both sides of my DNA strand. And I've used my cooking talent to my writing advantage.

My first experience with food writing was about five years ago when I entered a pizza recipe contest. I'll be honest. I'd never made the pizza recipe I submitted. I saw the ad for the competition, looked at previous winners, closed my eyes and envisioned what would be a good pizza. I had plenty of past experience tossing the pizza pie; I managed a pizza place when I was in college. I made pizza often when I was growing up and when I married and had kids. Surely I could come up with a good recipe. So I wrote a recipe for the pizza I saw before my eyes and submitted it.

Six months later I received a certified letter from the sponsoring company informing me that I won the national contest!

I would not recommend this type of food writing to anyone! I consider it a lucky fluke that my creation was crowned champ.

Now, I take my time when writing about food. As with all types of writing, the first step is coming up with the story idea. Next, you knead and mold the idea into a delectable story. And the good thing with food writing: there are so many different ways to present information.

If you're interested in food writing, consider these options:
  • Recipes. Have a killer recipe for salsa? Many magazines and newspapers look for features based on a food, theme or ingredient. Along with a traditional salsa recipe, add a recipe for a fruit-based salsa or a bean-based spread. Most stories of this nature feature an introduction with three to five recipes.
  • News. Think about the salmonella outbreak from this year. First, tomatoes were the cause. Eventually, peppers took the heat. Interview experts and write a news story based on our findings. When I first heard about the salmonella outbreak in March, I contacted my editor at a regional magazine and pitched a feature based on when I had salmonella a year ago.
  • Interviews. New restaurant in town? Looking for a personal chef? Interview these people and turn their responses into a profile.
  • Travel guides. Heading somewhere on vacation? Take note of restaurants, food trends, drink specials and submit to travel magazines.
  • How-To. Readers are always looking for a more effective or efficient way to complete a project. Cooking isn't any different. Pitch a how-to article based on anything kitchen related: choosing new cookware, sharpening knives, selecting fresh produce. One of my specialties is cheesecake. No, not the boxed kind. I'm talking real cheesecake with cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar. The kind that doesn't add any weight to your hips. :) I wrote a quick how-to avoid cracking the top of the cheesecake and sold it to a cooking website. I got paid $50 for a common sense tip that I use all the time. Plus, it only took me a half hour to write it.
  • Human interest. O regional newspaper recently featured a group of volunteers who run the soup kitchen at a church in the metro area. The story showed how you can make something edible out of nothing, and how these volunteers are building a connection with the homeless who eat lunch there. It was an amazing vignette!
  • Food history. This is one of my favorites since it combines two things I like: history and food. I wrote a history of pecans and included five recipes for a magazine a few years ago.
  • Cookbook reviews. Everyone has a cookbook that they turn to often. Mine came from my godfather when I got married. He's a church pastor and it was from his church. It's weathered and stained, but I use it daily. Sometimes I add ingredients to a recipe to fit my family, but it's still a good source.

These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing in the kitchen and on pen and paper!


Anonymous said...

Good ideas. I am highly creative so I frequently "tweak" recipes to try out on my family. The ones that work become new recipes. I have recently decided to try entering recipe contests - no luck yet, but I am constantly try new tastes, so one may fit in with the judges.

I like the other ideas you shared on this topic, which should help me in this area of writing. Thanks!

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