For the last month I’ve been studying food writing on a Saturday with David Burton who writes restaurant reviews for the Dominion Post, Cuisine Magazine and has a wealth of food books under his belt. He also has a library of about 1,500 food and cookbooks, a tiny proportion of which he has lugged in for us to peruse and be inspired by.
Each week we’ve had to read out our homework to the group for critique. It’s been fascinating to listen to and read other people’s work plus get feedback on your own. We’ve had some vibrant debates about food helped by David’s encyclopaedic knowledge to correct myths and encourage ways we can check our facts. I will miss out on the last class of the course next week which is a bit of a bind, especially as the class is concluding with lunch out at a restaurant following by writing up a review.
I have had a lot of fun on the course because of the remarkable people who not just love food but love to talk and write about it too. Although there are a few other people on the course who write blogs, most of my classmates don’t. They want to write food memoirs, cook books or about food culture and history.
Amongst all the words published about food the ones I enjoy the literary ones. Writing that tell a meaningful story, a new perspective and go beyond mere communication of food and the food experience to unveil what food and eating represents as a human experience of life.
David’s challenge to the group was to uphold the principles of great literature defined by Evelyn Waugh, one of the worlds greatest wordsmiths. Waugh argued that there are three essential traits that make a work or prose literature than just communication; these are “lucidity, elegance and individuality”. Although I am a committed fan of the novels of Evelyn Waugh you can’t deny his man talked sense about what makes great writing memorable and pleasurable to read.