Finding Ideas for Writing Food Stories

Without a compelling food idea we tend to procrastinate, hoping a brilliant notion will suddenly hit us on the head — and sometimes it does. A more reliable method of producing a regular stream of thoughts for food articles or blog postings is simply keeping notes about everything that piques our interest.

This means keeping your eyes and ears open to everything that is happening around you. For example, today there is a lot of talk about salt.

Mark Kurlansky wrote an entire book on the subject of salt. Two handfuls of fleur de sel in a fancy container is selling for more than the steak. You may want to jump in and share your opinion about the heated discussion of reducing salt in processed foods and restaurant meals.

I think I could make a case to suggest that unless there is a compelling medical indication to reduce the quantity of salt we are eating, we should just be happy God gave us kidneys. (This kind of unsolicited opinion is sure to ruffle some indignant feathers.)

Food writers are rather like character actors. We must decide which role makes us most comfortable. Food science writers are hopeless about writing airy, fairy descriptions of the arrival of the first baby carrots of spring. Those who like facts and figures will have a difficult time writing an evocative restaurant review. Food humorists are impatient with the precision of recipe writing.

A single subject such as salt (or apples) can be handled in literally dozens of ways from the perspective of a nutritionist; a food historian; a fisherman; a chef; a food exporter or importer; a folklorist or a journalist. Each specialist approaches the subject from a different expertise.

Still stuck for inspiration? Read everything you can lay your hands on. Read the real estate section of the newspaper, for instance, and discover that city apartments in Manhattan are being offered without a kitchen. Ask yourself, why. Then write the answer.

Read on airline fare rates and you’ll discover that it costs way more to transport a dead body than a live one. Why?

How do restaurants get rid of young lovers whose hormones are baying at the moon after the clock has struck midnight?

Or, how about this? I’m sure you’ve been to restaurant with walls lined with autographed photographs of celebrities that send greetings and good wishes to the owner. How does this happen?

Did the star happen to have an 8″ x 10″ glossy photograph in his pocket in case he had a terrific lunch? Does the restaurateur beg for such recognition? Does the owner of the ‘Face on the Wall’ receive a free meal when he leaves an image of himself behind. As you see, there all sorts of possibilities  to be gleaned from a passing thought.

Next Wednesday: a word about writing a query letter to a magazine.