Throughout class, we’ve had a few great journalists come in and talk about their work in food, as well as what food writing means to them. Yigal Schleifer of Culinary Backstreets talked about how he resists dehumanizing his subjects through his coverage of food:
“Food opens the door to other, bigger stories,” he said. For Yigal, bringing the focus back to the people who make and eat it is vital to his work. He made it clear that he aims to delve into the stories that are not yet being told, the narratives that are so often ignored for a simpler, easier-to-digest portrayal.
Our video conference with Victoria Bouloubasis, an accomplished journalist, food writer, and filmmaker, was eye-opening. I really like Victoria’s work and how she imbues it with empathy, forming real connections to her interviewees. She says she sees each person she interviews as a collaborator and partner in the process, and I think this is evident in her work.
When I asked Victoria about the idea that journalists should make it their first priority to be distant and impartial when writing people’s stories, she brought up something a mentor of hers had told her: Throw those ideas out the window. For Victoria, her investigative work in food writing is interconnected with her activism. Needless to say, this is an approach I really admire.
When Robert Sietsema of Eater speaks about food, there is something in his voice that belies just how much he loves it. Robert detailed his upbringing on what he says were bland, boring foods, and how his excitement for food partly stems from that. He touched on his time in Texas, and how he was blown away by Tex-Mex cuisine, a sort of gateway to discovering all sorts of different foods.
He encouraged us to write about things we truly care about, as the fact that we care will shine through and make for good reading. When I asked him about the prevalence of “fusion” cuisine, I think his response was really interesting: Fusion is something that really happens naturally. Robert also brought up how food should be approached with respect; I couldn’t agree more.