Travel writing & the art of writing about Food

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“we counted fourteen separate hors d’oeuvres – artichoke hearts, tiny sardines fried in batter, perfumed tabouleh, creamed salt cod, marinated mushrooms, baby calamari, tapenade, small onions in a fresh tomato sauce, celery and chick-peas, radishes and cherry tomatoes, cold mussels. Balanced on top of the loaded tray were thick slices of pate and gherkins, saucers of olives and cold peppers. The bread had a fine crisp crust. There was white wine in the ice bucket, and a bottle of Chateauneauf-du-Pape left to breathe in the shade”

” The main course arrived – rosy slices of lamb cooked with whole cloves of garlic, young green beans and a golden potato-and-onion galette

“The cheese was from Banon, moist in its wrapping of vine leaves, then came the triple flavours and textures of the desserts – lemon sorbet, chocolate tart, and creme angalise all sharing a plate. A coffee. A glass of marc from Gigondas. A sigh of contentment.”

Peter Mayle can be irritating. Here I had just finished what most observers would call a sumptuous Sunday lunch and settled down to read his “A year in Provence” and before you know it, I am panting for more food. I must say this for the man. He can bring food alive .

The trickiest part of travel writing is to describe food of the place in a way that makes the reader want to rush out and try it. In fact, I cant think of too many people who can do it well. Peter Mayle is probably the best in the English language.

Which brings me to another thought. Travel writing that works well with food is probably the best food writing there is. And the best food narrative is probably travel writing that discovers a cuisine. Which is why most Food blogs fail – they are so steeped in the minutiae of food that they miss the atmosphere of place needed to give it context.

Reading about food is like reading about everything else – it is a flight of imagination. And the more the writer allows you to ‘set’ your imagination in context (history, weather, people etc), the more you are likely to get excited by the food.

Very tricky thing, writing about food.

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One thought on “Travel writing & the art of writing about Food

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more! Travel and food writing are niche and each has is all about celebrating the differences. If you write about familiar food or place, it might not sound as good as a discovery. Here is where personal experiences (written well, ofcourse) can make a difference!
    Zahid

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