Finding Humor in Food Writing

Wednesday, April 08, 2020
I enjoy making treats, but don't do a great job writing about them.

Have you ever gone to look up a recipe and found yourself scrolling way down the page to actually get to the recipe while the blogger/chef tells the story of how their great-great-great grandmother used to make these special buttermilk biscuits/chess pie/pickled beets? It’s become sort of a running joke in my house, and an article on Slate even discussed “Why Does Every Online Recipe Begin with the Preface to a Personal Memoir?” My daughter, who adores Asian food, shared a recipe recently for Chinese Steamed Custard Buns, and this was part of the preface:

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, my family and I would have dim sum at least once a week at our favorite Chinatown teahouse. I was excited to see the servers push shiny silver steam carts filled with goodies around to each table.

This is a classic example of what you’ll often find if you’re on a professional food blogger site, and it makes sense to me. A lot of these bloggers end up pitching cookbooks or searching for agents down the road, and this is a perfect way to showcase their writing skills.

And have you ever read any of Ree Drummond’s recipes like this one for fried goat cheese? They are a hoot!

I still occasionally get aggravated when I’m quickly trying to get to the heart of a recipe for Instant Pot mashed potatoes, though. This is a response I gave friends on Facebook a few days ago when I bragged about making homemade queso. Of course they chimed in asking for the recipe, and I said:

I seriously eyeballed it. First, I sauteed about a teaspoon of garlic in 1 tablespoon of butter, then added about 3/4 cup heavy cream. (You could add diced onions here if you eat them.) Then I slowly melted about half a tub of cream cheese in it, mixing slowly, sprinkling in salt and cumin to taste. Then I added in shredded monterey jack/cheddar cheese (maybe 3/4 cup to start and then add more if you want it to be thicker). To finish it off, I put a few teaspoons of salsa in there and mixed it in. You could get creative and add Rotel tomatoes and green chilies if you had those. You can also use regular milk if you don't have heavy cream.

I’d say I can kiss any future career as a food writer goodbye at this point, and I’m okay with that.

But if you ARE interested in publishing a food blog, or creating your own recipes to share, here are a few of my favorite bloggers whose cookbooks grace my bookshelves. They provide great examples of how to write about food efficiently while also sharing interesting anecdotes:

Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food
Gina Homolka of Skinnytaste
Lisa Lillian of Hungry Girl
Ashley McCrary of Healthy Little Peach

This article also offers solid tips for documenting recipes.

A final note: According to Candace Nelson, who hosts the podcast “Live to Eat,” Google Trends has reported that searches for banana bread have gone up 54 percent worldwide in the past 30 days. I guess I’m not the only one spending way more time in the kitchen since COVID-19 hit.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who enjoys cooking, baking and meal prepping in her spare time. Learn more about her at


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I lost my virginity today--and it's because of you.

I think I'm the only human in the world who's never encountered the Pioneer Woman... until today. (She IS a hoot.)

Rick Bragg's most recent book (I think it's his latest one) is part memoir and part recipe book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. (But I love Rick Bragg.)

And my favorite recipe for banana bread is this: go to Trader Joe's, buy a box of their mix, go home, and follow the directions.

Reading Drummonds' piece made me laugh and right now, that's a wonderful thing. And now I have to put on a face mask and some gloves and buy some pretzels and some goat cheese. ;)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I love the Pioneer Woman.

But when I click through to see what's in a recipe (do I have what I need), I don't want to have to close 47 ads and scroll scroll scroll to get to it. I am fickle and I am okay with that.

That is especially true if I'm just showing it to my husband to get a reaction from the man who would eat PBJ every single day if I would let him.


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