E S S A Y
Enough about Food
By "Guido Veloce"
Early this year the word "I" appeared nine times in the first paragraph of one such column. "My" pushed the personal pronoun total into double digits. Two items of food made a belated appearance at the end of the paragraph. One was fried chicken purchased from a national franchise. The food column appearing the Sunday that I am writing this column has nine personal references, although a richer variety of them: "I," "we," "my," and "us." No item of food sullies the prose until the end of the third paragraph.
My favorite bit of self-referential food writing came many months earlier, when readers of the Sunday column could follow the writer's courtship. It began with a rocky bit of sweetener incompatibility (he liked the artificial stuff and she didn't). It proceeded through the uncertain middle stages of meeting the folks and other hurdles true romance must leap. Then, one glorious Sunday, we saw the beaming couple on the Times' wedding page. By then we felt that we knew them so well that a gift would be appropriate, perhaps something by Julia Child.
I do not object to this mode of writing out of principle, or even out of nostalgia for more recipes and less author. It's self-interest. If the market is for writing about food writers, those of us who lead extremely dull lives — and wish they were even duller — can never publish a cookbook. What is to become of a food writer wannabe who met his mate on a committee and counts staying awake through a movie as a personal triumph?
One answer is to give up any hope of writing about food. Another possibility, more venal — hence more appealing — is to invent an exciting life and build a cuisine around it. In a shameless act of self-promotion (I'm trying to get in the groove), here are some cookbook prospectuses, looking for a publisher:
Cooking on the Lam: Recipes from the Witness Protection
The Gatsby Gastronome: Food Adventures of the Rich and
Cowboy Jack's Bean Cuisine
Psycho About Food: Secret Recipes From the Bates
Guido, the Gourmet Gangster
There is yet another, potentially risky, alternative: write about food and hope somebody cares.
"Guido Veloce" is a Johns Hopkins University professor.
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