Food Writers Gone Wild! Or Purple, Pustulant Prose

Categories: Food Porn
The literary food writer, circa 1973.
Yesterday, I came across two essays about the self-indulgent language that I and my species ― I'm talking food writers here ― are as drawn to as we are to lardo and feculent-smelling French cheese. Overwriting is hardly a new flaw among our kind. Have you read restaurant reviews from the 1970s? There were an awful lot of bad M.F.K. Fisher imitators who thought that describing bordelaise sauce in 19th-century prose proved their sophistication. Too many essays read as if they were written with giant peacock-feather quills dipped in glittery mauve ink.

Contemporary food writing has its own excesses. On Slate, Noreen Malone appears to be the only food writer in America thrilled to see the end of legendary Spanish restaurant El Bulli, for years the most sought-after reservation on the planet. Not because she's bitter she never got to go, but because its closing signals the extinction of the "I Ate at El Bulli" Piece, or IAAEBP. Larding her essay with a couple dozen links, she cuts through the self-congratulation and artsy-ness to show just how cliched and competitive the IAAEBP has become: Look at me going to El Bulli for a staff meal! Look at me eating a meal Ferran Adria cooked for me! Malone's article almost makes me wish I'd eaten there and never told a soul. (Actually, I just wish I could have eaten there.)

The literary food writer, circa 2011.
Responding to the outrage over A.A. Gill's searing Vanity Fair review of L'Ami Louis in Paris, Good's food editor, Nicola Twilley, clucks her tongue and gives Americans a lesson in just how visceral British restaurant critics can be.

Coming from the alt-weekly school of restaurant criticism, which is ever-so-slightly more prim then mainstream British newspapers, I say, if a room does smell like "fetid bladder damp" (thanks, Mr. Gill), why censor the vivid image? But "chicken in barf sauce with mouse-tasting potato croquettes" (courtesy of Giles Coren) is neither descriptive nor instructive. It's swinging your dick around in the hope centrifugal force will give it a couple millimeters more length.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

My Voice Nation Help

I've been perusing the foodie blogs for an hour now, and FINALLY one was well written and direct enough to get my attention! I've run into a few people that have been very pleased with flaunting the exclusivity of things they've been lucky to attend, and writers that don't backup arguments with any real, approachable subject. Thank you for just laying it out there and being able to make a real point without mincing words.

Now Trending

From the Vault


©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.