July 11, 2014

Creme Brulee

Creme brulee, a culinary classic. Credit: Angelica Portales / Flickr Creative Commons

Guest:

  • Ruth Reichl, author of "Delicious: A Novel," and former New York Times food critic and editor of Gourmet

The Future of Food and Food Journalism

For Ruth Reichl, the act of preparing food is what makes us human.

"I truly believe that cooking is what separates us from other animals. We cook; they don't," says Reichl.

But the current state of food is in flux. With increasing emphasis on quick, pre-packaged food, Reichl fears we might lose the communal feeling that is so deeply entrenched in cooking and eating. She points to the rise of Soylent, a drink created by a software engineer, who didn't want to spend time buying, preparing, and cooking food.

"What happens at the table is more important than what's on the table," Reichl notes. "It's the one time of day that we slow down, pay attention to each other, talk, and relax. That's the power of food."

This yearning for a communal feeling is also what turned Reichl, the former editor of the now-defunct Gourmet magazine, to social media. Reichl is a proponent of using Twitter to rekindle the community around food - and food journalism.

She also happens to have one of the most unique Twitter feeds, characteristic for its dramatic, drool-inducing descriptions of food.

 
On Twitter

But Twitter and other outlets for food journalists have not yet filled the void left by publications like Gourmet, according to Reichl. Blogs simply don't have the funds to pay for investigative pieces by writers like David Foster Wallace, who wrote his famous "Consider the Lobster" article in Gourmet.

I think the real tragedy of what's happened with food journalism is that bloggers, as good as they may be, do not have the money to do investigative journalism. And one of the things that we were doing at Gourmet, we would go out, and I would send someone to be in the fields with tomato workers for a month, and write about the conditions in the fields. A blogger can't do that. There's good writing, and then there's really journalism. And that divide got lost. Most of the epicurean magazines and writing is now just focused on pleasure and recipes and traveling.

 
Nonetheless, Reichl, now the author of Delicious!, is optimistic about the potential for good journalism:

"I think we're going to be able to do fantastic things in journalism. We are at the awkward point where we can't quite see where it's going. We're in the middle of a revolution that's scary right now."

To hear more about Reichl's vision of the future of food and food journalism, listen to the full interview, above.

Body and Mind, Ruth Reichl, Culture, media, food

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