What Sustains Us: The Art of Good “Food Writing”
I believe that, when done with intention, using food in our creative writing can reveal great truth and meaning. By the end of this workshop, you will believe too.
The newly popular term “food writing” can be misleading, as it implies that writing about food—be it food culture, food in restaurants, or food-focused memoir—is different from other writing. Even for those of us who know better, the term conjures ideas of pleasure, of leisure, of eating well. But food is literally what sustains us. Or, in some cases, what fails to sustain us. It can be pleasure and pain, leisure and work, eating well and going hungry. Because of food’s omnipresent role in our lives, using food in our writing can help us narrow in on, or expound upon, the weightiest of topics.
In this workshop, you will learn how to give food the appropriate weight, emotion, and time; when using food in writing works, and when it’s gratuitous. I will guide you in writing your own food stories, whether food is the focus of an entire memoir, a single chapter, or personal essay. Any amount of food in your writing is acceptable for this class. By the end of the week, you will have 1-5 pages of solid writing—either a completed essay or an anchor section of a larger work.
As feedback, I will either schedule a 30-minute phone call with you to discuss your work, or I will mail you a personal letter. Whichever medium of communication you choose, I will provide constructive criticism, suggestions for how to proceed, and where you might find more inspirational reading.
Sara Roahen wrote the memoir Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table, co-edited The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, and contributed a chapter to New Orleans Cuisine: Fourteen Signature Dishes and Their Histories. She has also written for Saveur, Garden & Gun, Oxford American, Wine & Spirits, Bon Appetit, Budget Travel, Chile Pepper, Edible Piedmont, Edible New Orleans, Natural Health, and New Orleans Magazine. Her essays have been republished in Best American Food Writing 2003; Food & Booze: Essays & Recipes; and Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing. New Orleans’ Young Leadership Council chose Gumbo Tales for its One Book One New Orleans reading initiative in 2009, and Roahen was the 2010 recipient of the Louisiana Library Association’s Louisiana Literary Award. She is also an oral historian and has completed a number of Louisiana-based oral history projects for the Southern Foodways Alliance, on topics ranging from gumbo to sno-balls to the fishing culture of Bayou Lafourche.