I have made a recent transition in my career. From covering the crime beat, I have shifted gears completely and gone into the less travelled road of ‘food journalism’. When friends and family ask me what I do, and I give them the usual spiel, I can see the ill-concealed look of disappointment.
Food writer? Can that even be a thing?
That is the thought in their minds.
To all such non-believers, here is what I have to say. (And yes, I do believe writing about food is sacred. After all, we cannot LIVE on the excitement of a crime spree now, can we?)
The simple fact is, food is important. If we do not eat, we do not survive. That’s pretty serious business if you ask me. But surely when Obama is visiting the country on the Republic day, a post on the best oils for deep frying will seem like fluff, don’t you think? No, it won’t. While Obama is surely visiting the country, and it is a highly significant event, that does not mean that people are going to stop deep frying things in the near future (even if they should!).
So fellow food writers, the next time someone makes a comment and gives a pitiful tilt of the head, know this; just because you are not crawling on your knees and covering a war in some far-flung country or shuffling between courtrooms covering trails and tribulations, it doesn’t mean that what you are writing about is not ‘important’ enough. And who decided that one should only write about the so-called important stuff. Writing is fun, it is liberating, it is empowering. If what you write gives you joy and someone is willing to pay you for it, hell, don’t stop. Live the dream, ride that high!
Food is precious. From the time we are born, food and cooking impact our lives in so many overt and covert ways. From building connections that last more than a lifetime to creating bonds that even unite countries, to preserving entire cultures, food and cooking have a lot of importance in our lives. And I am certainly not embarrassed to admit that I feel a vicarious pleasure when I write about the tastes, sounds and smells that make most mortals go weak in the knees.
But beyond the excitement and decadence of writing about food, is the undeniable fact that we SHOULD be writing about food and cooking.
The gross ignorance about cooking and nutrition have given birth to a world of disease and disorder. If only someone had written about Salmonella and Reiter’s Syndrome and Papayas and Pregnancy, and a lot of other really ‘important’ information, fatal incidents could have been prevented. Although these things are considered common knowledge, it is about time we realise that there is a lot of things that people still don’t know about food, eating and cooking.
When a generation starts living on takeaway food and steering in the direction to lifelong obesity, somebody needs to write about it. When birds that we consume become infected with diseases, someone needs to write about it. When recipes that are symbolic of entire cultures are becoming extinct, someone needs to write about it. When relationships are forged over dinner conversations, someone needs to write about it.
And Food, Has Become As ‘In’ As Fashion
Besides all the factors I have mentioned earlier, now is THE time to write about food, because it is cool! And it’s lucrative.
There are over 100,000 food blogs out there, with a staggering readership of over a billion. In a single month.
The fact that there is such a huge demand for recipes and food-related anecdotes is simply because people have woken up to the fact that they need to treat food and cooking with respect. Cooking is becoming more and more mainstream. Frozen meals are increasingly being ditched in favour of simple home cooked meals. With vegetarianism becoming as haute as Marc Jacobs’ Spring Collection, people are flocking to websites with dedicated recipes.
And guess what? This is serious money making business. Ads, sponsored posts, affiliate links, recipe development and a world of other possibilities make this the go-to solution for someone who wants to work from the luxury of their home, or in this case, their kitchen. If you have a substantial traffic, one sponsored post alone could fetch you anything between $500-$5000. Now this is just one post. Imagine ad revenues, revenue from other projects, and several other money making ventures. Now, do you think writing about food is a fickle business?
A Commitment to Society
But it is not the money that is the primary reason why we should be writing about food and in particular cooking. We have evaded cooking for so long that food began to make us sick. And this sickness has translated into an obsession with food. And this obsession has become full-fledged malarky. Raw food diets, Atkins, Smoothie diets, and a whole paraphernalia of potentially harmful diets are taking over. So it’s imperative that someone brings the attention back to authentic, simple home cooking.
After all, one of the things that set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, is that we cook our food. So reversing the natural order of things and going on an all out raw food diet is not going to help us or evolution.
But despite the overwhelming need, there is still however a reluctance to take writing about food seriously. Especially in the literary and journalistic circles. But that is not going to be a detraction for me. When people are scurrying about like the unfortunate folk in Interstellar, relying on corn and panicking over Okra, we food writers will probably be taken seriously. But till then, I will enjoy writing about stories of cooking and feeding, stories of love, stories of indulgence and stories of humanity.
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