On June 24th 2014, I grabbed a seat (super early) at the “Eat Your Words” workshop at Changing Hands, my local bookstore. It’s funny to me that it was almost two years ago, because in my head it was just a few months ago. Time is funny like that. It was a food writing workshop full of tips for publishing everything from a Facebook status to long-form magazine stories about food.
It was the first time I had gone to anything like it, and even though it was going to be fun and casual and snacks were provided, I was nervous…hence, my super early arrival. As it became a more appropriate time for people to actually show up, in walked Amy Silverman, managing editor of Chow Bella and our teacher for the evening.
And she was great. Really great. I took copious notes as she gave her sage advice on making our food writing better, which included 1) leaving out foodie terms far beyond their expiration (ie tasty, yummy, and mouth-feel- which Amy proclaimed and I second is “an asshole word for texture”), 2) knowing what to replace those omitted words with, and 3) taking great photos.
She also took us through a few writing exercises, one of which I believe nudged me just enough outside my comfort zone to feel both validated in my nervousness about the class, and at the same time grateful I was sitting there. The writing prompt: to either describe the kitchen in the house where we grew up, or describe a special kitchen where we did a lot of growing. Oh and we had, as I recall, somewhere between 3 to 5 minutes to write. She said it would help us be more concise, edit ourselves less, and simply story tell. When the timer stopped, she asked for volunteers to read their short pieces.
I quickly got that feeling where your heart somehow falls to your butt but at the same time beats in your throat. Again, this was a fairly casual class, THERE WERE SNACKS, but I remained nervous. Even though I am a dietitian and my career is literally in food and nutrition, food writing was something new to me, and I was surrounded by people who seemed to know what they were doing. And then, probably thanks to the energy provided by the cheese and crackers I had been mindlessly sticking in my face as if to say “can’t read what I wrote, mouth currently full”, up went my hand. I took a breath and I read aloud my first attempt at food writing, a few lines about my very own first kitchen.
No larger than a closet, the first time I saw the kitchen in my soon-to-be-leased apartment, I laughed and thought, “I can’t do this. I don’t even care that this place has its own washer and dryer.” The stove was mid-evil and the oven had to be a fire hazard. But in the year I spent there, I grew to adore that space. Through trial and error, I discovered how long it took to really bake a batch of cookies, and the stove and I eventually became close friends. As I prepare to move to a larger space, I will truly miss that tiny culinary corner. And the washer and dryer.
As the class came to a close that night, Amy told us it was not for the faint of heart to run a food blog. I jotted this down, tucked my notebook away, and thanked her as I left, nerves gone and replaced by excitement. Nearly two years later, I have launched this blog and am still in heavy pursuit of becoming a better food writer. To her, I owe a lot, even though she may not realize it, and in her honor I hope to read more, write more, take more meaningful photos, tell more stories, and never ever use the word “mouth-feel”.