What Do Food Writers Eat When They Write About Food?

The New York Times had a great visual piece in its Sunday Review of Books by illustrator Wendy MacNaughton that charted the favorite snacks of many authors. Best-selling writer Mark Kurlansky, author of two of my favorite books — Salt and Codlikes to write under the influence of espresso, “as black as possible.” Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma likes tea out of a glass with a side of roasted almonds.

It made me think. What do I eat while writing? Do I have such a habit? I looked around at the stacks of food piled in my writing office and realized that when on book deadline, this is what I eat and drink:

It’s a short list, but I mix it up. Sometimes, I put peanut butter and jelly directly on crackers. Sometimes I pair the ak-Mak crackers with cheese and white wine if I am writing in the afternoon. The appeal of PB&Js on deadline is two-fold. One, it’s a comfort food that reminds me of my kid life. Second, it’s easy to make and won’t distract my train of thought to make one at noon or 3 a.m. When I get sick of PB&Js, I eat ramen noodles. But I throw out the flavor pack and settle the noodles into a bowl of steaming miso soup with tofu and seafood.

(At this point, Mike insists that I tell everyone rather than let me subsist on these items, he frequently cooks me dinner when I’m in serious crunch mode.)

I asked a few of my favorite food writers what they eat while writing:

Note how Joe sounds serious and all literate but then keeps it real with the chicken-fried steak reference, and Amanda kicks hers up with that admission to bourbon. What do you eat when you write about food?


Filed under behind the scenes, books

23 responses to “What Do Food Writers Eat When They Write About Food?

  1. Billy Tea (loose, black from Australia) and Mother’s English Tea Cream cookies. Very little variation.

  2. Anna

    I only aspire to write about food! But I love this post. 🙂

  3. Kathleen Flinn

    Larry, isn’t that funny? I wonder if it’s the repetition that’s a key part of the whole thing…

  4. I have a tendency to eat crunchy foods like peanut butter-filled pretzels, apples or crackers. I, too, have very little variety in my choices. Interesting and yes, I got a chuckle out this, thanks.

  5. I usually write my blog entries late in the evening so I usually just drink ice water.

  6. Kathleen Flinn

    I wish I were so virtuous to drink only ice water late in the evenings… I either go for wine if I’m wound up or pound iced coffee if I’m sluggish.

  7. LOVE Joe Yonan’s answer. Makes a lot of sense.
    Also, love the idea of miso soup.

  8. Clement

    I don’t write about food, but when I write I find I gravitate to the same kinds of things: slightly guilty pleasures that remind me of a time I didn’t have to worry about my sodium intake.

  9. When i’m doing a post, I tend to be focused on the thing i’m writing about…
    But if it’s a post about a non food item or issue I tend to do a good fresh brewed iced tea during the day and some type of veggie or low carb thing during the evening.. That way I dont get carb loaded and get sleepy half way through the writing…

  10. I mostly write about baking, but if I ate everything I wrote about I’d be 500 pounds! So it’s funny, I’ll be writing about scones or cake and I’ll be eating my usual thing: seaweed salad and iced tea. An Asian market near the house makes it and I’m addicted!

  11. Very cold blueberries, straight up. Also, green tea. My snacks have to take the Hippocratic oath and Do No Harm (to me or my treadmill desk). I adore rice crackers but cannot have them in the house, as I will binge and go to bed with a sinus headache, and therefore miss my deadline.

  12. Iced coffee in the summer, hot coffee from a thermos in the winter; when I remember to bring snacks, it’s usually some variation of almonds, Trader Joe’s dried white peaches, granny smith or some other tart apple or cucumber slices. But mostly, since I write at the office, I just think about how much I’d like a snack, especially when I’m working on the review of a really good restaurant.

    • Kathleen Flinn

      When I wrote restaurant reviews, that’s when I’d either think “ugh, can’t even think about food” or “damn, those ribs were delicious.” I found it (please forgive the pun) quite feast or famine.

  13. It’s always stress eating. Salty things. Pretzels, nuts, etc. I curse myself for being too smart to stock them in the pantry, so I have to MacGyver it sometimes. Toasted seaweed and dduk, rice with furikake, toast…

    I like the idea of drinking wine or bourbon, but alcohol just makes me sleepy. I drink tea so that if I fall asleep, I’ll wake up alert.

    • Kathleen Flinn

      Pretzels are my weakness, I can’t have them around the house. I get sleepy, too, which is why I frequently alternate between wine and coffee, which makes no sense because if you achieve perfect balance, it’s as if you didn’t drink anything, right?

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  15. I was just flipping through the New York Times book and then I saw this post about Amanda. Gosh, I love her. Great post.

  16. If I eat I get too sidetracked from my writing. Although, of course this happens all too often. But generally, iced coffee, kombucha, or green tea are my go-to drink options when settling down to write. They all give me a little pep!

  17. Someone once said, “Write drunk, edit sober:. Works for me.

  18. I veer for crunchy for my munchie: salted almonds, rice crackers, grapes. To drink, I like ice-water and hot tea with lemon & honey. Notice I specified “hot” tea (living in the south, you have to specify, or you’ll get ice tea…very sweet…too sweet!!!)

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