Last night a local NYC bookstore convened some local-grown (but nationally known) food writers to discuss the state of online food writing. The panelists were:
- Ed Levine, of Serious Eats
- Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, of Food52
- Cathy Erway, of Not Eating Out in NY
- Julie Powell, of “Julie and Julia,” and the new “Cleaving”
- and moderator Lynn Andrianni of Publisher’s Weekly
Each of these panelists came to online food writing from different places–with Julie P. almost the young grandmommy of the movement. Looking at her old Salon blog, one has to smile–only 6 years old or so and it looks like an ancient artifact, a sepia-toned e-photograph of a simpler time. Fast forward to the lively, media rich sites like Serious Eats and Food52 and one is amazed at how far we’ve come. Conversation was lively, exploring how online food writing and real live books and newspapers can work together, even complement each other; what the demise of Gourmet meant, if anything; how online writing is exciting because it lacks the doubting gatekeepers of old institutions (who like to pigeonhole writers into their specific beats and who sometimes can’t think outside the box); how online writing can be used to form food communities (like Food52).
Interestingly not mentioned was how each of these folks use twitter–which most of them do!
One highlight: when Civil Eats editor Paula Crossfield asking about the transition we’ve all seen from food writing focusing solely on pleasure to food writing exploring provenance and politics. An extremely important point that hit home for this writer, certainly, as well as for Powell–now writing about whole animal butchery–and Erway–a regular on the NYC sustainable food scene.
Another highlight: a high school teacher in the audience got up and explained that he teaches a course called “Food and NYC” and asked the panelists for their suggestions on where to take a 16 year old for the afternoon in order to “enliven their relationship with food.” What lucky high schoolers! What a great questions! Most of the panelists seem to agree that meeting producers like bakers, pizzaiolos, farmers at the market etc. would be a great start. Also agreed upon were the ethnic culinary riches of Sunset Park, Brooklyn and Jackson Heights, Queens. Then the conversation veered towards the idea of bringing kids to high end French restaurants and my frustration grew….then, Cathy Erway to the rescue: “bring them to an urban farm!”
Phew, all was not lost.