How to Write About Food

by Jan 23, 2014Blog, Content | Social Media | Email

When I was a kid, I would watch the Food Network for hours. Wait, when I was a kid? I mean last night. Even if I’ll never make the delicious dishes served up onscreen, I love the process of watching a meal come together, and seeing the host take a great big bite. Then, they have a really hard task: they have to describe what the food tastes like in a way which makes other people want to eat it. That is actually not as easy as it sounds. It’s a matter of translating a taste experience into words which make sense to other people.

I never aspired to have my own cooking show, yet I find myself writing about food on a regular basis. Often, this is food I have never tasted. In some instances, it’s food I have never even heard of before. Yet somehow, I have to find a way to make my reader drool. Over the years, I’ve gained a few tips for writing mouthwatering copy for all sorts of mystery foods.

Research, Research, Research

Obviously, in a perfect world you would get to eat all of the dishes you’re describing. The world, however, is not perfect. I work with recipe developers from all over the country. I can’t pop over to their house to try their dish, and making them all myself would  be time consuming, expensive and boring for me. So all I’ve got to go on is a recipe and whatever notes the developer gives me. Sometimes, they include ingredients I’ve never even heard of. When that happens I bust out my Google fu. Searches like “what does bourbon taste like?” or “how hot are Serrano peppers?” are common for me. Pictures also help me pick up the nuances of an ingredient.

Use the Power of Imagination

Writing about food isn’t just about writing about ingredients, usually. You also have to understand how different flavors and textures work together to form a cohesive dish. If you’ve never eaten the dish, it can be tricky, but not impossible. Here’s what I like to do: Imagine you were going to order this dish in a restaurant. You’ve never had it before, but the menu description gives you a vague impression of what it will taste like. Use that same sense to figure out how the ingredients go together, and you’ll be on the right track.

Involve All Five Senses

Food is not just about taste. It’s about the sizzle of meat hitting a hot grill; about the sweet-sharp smell of caramelizing onions; about the bright green sprinkle of onions at the end; about the meltingly soft and butter-rich texture of the steak. By only talking about how it tastes, you’re missing out on major opportunities to draw your prospect into the world of food you’ve created. In particular, I find  rookie food writers tend to leave out textural words. Don’t.

Whether you’re a food blogger or you work in marketing, you’ve got to cook up a meal with your words. Do it right.

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