I’ve taken several classes in food writing at various schools around New York City. My first class took place at the New School. Andy Smith teaches a practical guide to food writing. He says, very clearly at the beginning of the class that with the tools that he offers- the student should be able to pay for their class. He was right. Not only did I pay for the class, but his teaching launched my career. Thanks Andy.
One of the books that Andy recommends in the class is the book named: Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob. Again, as I’ve stressed in other articles on Wild River Review, I would have never been able to contact so many interesting people without the gift of Social Media. Thank you Dianne for being such an interesting subject for Wild Table.
1. Where did you grow up? Who taught you to cook? Mother? Father? Grandparents? TV cooking shows? Cookbooks? Who is your favorite “cookbook” chef?
I grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. My immigrant parents were obsessed with food, mostly as a way to connect with their past in China. My father made pickles, yogurt, and grew obscure Chinese vegetables. My mother was in charge of getting dinner on the table every night, as we did not go out to restaurants. But her real love was baking and canning. She probably made at least a dozen kinds of jam every year, and our chest freezer was full of cakes, cookies, and bars.
My mother did not teach me to cook. She said that having me cook with her would ruin the food. So I taught myself, mostly by cutting recipes out of the newspaper.
I enjoy the cookbooks of Claudia Roden, Deborah Madison, and Martin Yan, although day to day I rarely use cookbooks or recipes
2. Where did you get the spark to become a food writer? Are there other writers in your family?
I started my writing career as a newspaper reporter and feature writer. One of my first jobs out of college was to edit a restaurant magazine and write features about food and dining. I had not eaten in many restaurants at that point, and thought it would be fun. Looking back, I realize I knew very little about fine European food.
My father wrote poetry, and songs that he recorded onto 78-RPM vinyl.
3. Is there anything that you enjoy eating or cooking that brings a tear to your eye when you prepare/eat it? Why?
I like making our family’s favorite savory bracelets and date cookies, both of Iraqi-Jewish origin. The bracelets are made with caraway seeds and brushed with egg. They’re hard, a little oily, and the ends break into shards when snapped. The date cookies have a crispy crust that shatters when you bite it. If you’re lucky, some of the date filling has seeped out and caramelized onto the bottom of the cookie.
Both my parents are gone now, as are most of my closest relatives. We used to sit around the table and eat these baked goods with tea.
4. If you could be anywhere (with first class ticket in hand…) in the world right now, where would that be? What would you be eating/drinking?
I would be in India at a seaside restaurant, wearing a sari, eating a feast of many courses, and drinking a mango lassi.
5. Social Networking brought us together. Where do you see food writing going in the future? Who is your favorite “media” chef?
While blogging has been around for several years, it’s still just getting started. As food enthusiasts search the web for recipes, blogs will rise to the top of search engines.
Re media chefs, I assume you mean anyone who appears on television. While I dip into cooking shows occasionally to see what’s going on, I can’t say I’m a fan of any particular chef.
Bio for Dianne Jacob
She has taught classes on food writing for 10 years, including online for Leite’s Culinaria, the Smithsonian Institute and UCLA’s Journalism Department. See her website, www.diannej.com, for more information.
Dianne Jacob is a writing coach for both aspiring and experienced non-fiction writers, specializing in freelance writing, book proposals and blogs about food.
Her blog, Will Write for Food: Pithy Snippets about Food Writing, covers food writing trends and technique. Her posts have been picked up by Publishers’ Weekly, Chow, Eater, and the Food News Journal. She started the blog in 2009 as a way to update her book, Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More. Just released in its second edition and already in reprint, the book won the Cordon D’Or International award for Best Literary Food Reference Book and features an extensive new chapter on blogging.
She is also the co-author of the cookbook Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas, with chef Craig Priebe, and regularly edits cookbooks for national publishers.
Previously a newspaper, magazine, and publishing company editor-in-chief, Dianne has been self-employed since 1996 as a writing coach, author, and freelance editor. She coaches writers across the US, Canada, Europe and Asia on writing and publishing books, freelance articles, and blogs.
Dianne judges books for the James Beard Foundation and for the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual cookbook awards. She is also a regular judge for the Bert Greene Award for Food Journalism. A feature she wrote about food blogs was a finalist for a Bert Greene award in 2007.
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Wild River Review/Wild Table editor, Warren Bobrow grew up on a farm in Morristown, NJ. A graduate of Emerson College in Boston- with a degree in Film, he spent his senior year of college as a research assistant in visual thinking. (CAVS @ MIT)
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