Food Reporting Syllabus
Assignments 1 through 6

The Associated Press Stylebook
The Associated Press
© 2012

Advisory:  Before sitting down to review anything - food, a restaurant, movie, a play, music video, gallery art...your starter kit is this 400-plus-page guide to all things writing. Free world media use the AP Style Book. It is organized like a dictionary. While compiled for AP staffers, the writing advice will serve users for a lifetime. Recent editions of this text include internet usage and related terms. Most important to new writers...the briefing on media law. (If you are a free-swinging blogger, best you understand libel law before you sit down to......)

Advisory: If you are reviewing or posing as a critic, and fit the vague category of a Citizen Journalist, know the most important writing rules, those relating to libel. Implant in your mind what this style book has to say about libel laws. Basic advice: All writers need editors. In lieu of such, this style book guide is your best friend. Ignore this source and you will be contributing to the bottomless bucket of Junk Journalism.

Advisory: Memorize the differences in meanings of the words reporter, reviewer and critic. Basically the reviewer writes about what he sees as the work of others, such as a chef or artist. A critic sees the work of others but injects his opinion into written or spoken commentary. Simple approach: Become a reporter, then a reviewer before attempting to be a critic.

Webster explains:

>> reporter (ri port'ar) n... a person who reports, a person authorized to report legal or legislative proceedings (in court, reporter), a person who gathers news for a newspaper, radio or television.

>> reviewer (-er) n. the act of reviewing, review, a person who reviews books, plays as for a newspaper. (Editor's Note: In your case as for reviewing food, restaurants, ambience as fact.)

>> critic (krit'ik) n... a person who forms opinions and judgments of people or things according to certain standards of values.


Readers may purchase the AP Stylebook in print, online, and as an iPhone app by going to the website.

-- Eva Parziale, AP Chief, Columbus, Ohio

Bonus 1:
A Brief History of the Internet
The Bright Side: The Dark Side
by Michael S. Hart
© 1995

There is good reason this tome should be a bonus to the the above book: Quirky Michael Hart opened the door for everyone wanting to write that great first novel that may never find a legit ink-on-paper publisher. Hart founded Project Gutenberg. He is generally given credit for inventing e-books, actually a process of putting content into a keeper package... as we once said... putting words to paper. Hart's pioneering new use of the Internet dates to 1971. Simply put, Hart led the way to storing books on the Internet.

To explain the above "quirky" descriptive, here's a Hart stopper by blogger Mokarider..."instead of a 'historical' e-book, we have here a kind of lunatic, chaotic, vagually militant and highly subjective not-to-be-written paper somehow talking about the Internet." Makes me want to read it.

Hey, consider this a fun quick read over morning tea: wordcount 15,478 / 57 pages.

Afterwards,follow the authorative style of AP guildlines, then write your novel, your newspaper stories and avoid bloggerisms that tip your untrained status. Refine your writings as a "citizen journalist."

Footnote: What you are reading is an e-book.
-- A.E.P.

The Invention of The Restaurant:
Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture
by Rebecca Spang
Harvard University Press
Fifth printing: 2001

Why are there restaurants? That's the first question to be answered by anyone intending to write about food first, restaurants second. Many years ago this detailed text drew attention of those deep into and on fringes of the culinary world. Book review scanners probably thought it was a cookbook with recipes for cooking, among other things, fried squid. The first sentence in the preface dispelled any such notions.

"Centuries before a restaurant was a place to eat (and even several decades later), a restaurant was a thing to eat, a restorative broth. This book traces the emergence of the restaurant (as we know it) from a tiny cup of bouillon."

The next paragraph is sufficient reason to have The Invention of the Restaurant become prescribed reading for everyone connected to the food and restaurant industry: "In the fifteenth century..." Dr. Spang, a lecturer at Indiana University and University College in London, began her research where it all began ... Paris. The text travels from Paris throughout our free world of (the author's descriptive) modern gastronomic culture. Price of this text is recouped by a single chapter...some reviewers today in the eat-for-pay trade disparage their seat of research as a trough... Private Appetites in a Public Space.

Without going into exacting detail, or having to wait for the movie, fledgling writers will be introduced to the first reviewer getting into the varied world of restaurant ambience. Antoine Joseph Nicolas Rosny, circa 1801, described people arriving in a public room with tables and expecting to be served kitchen-made food as the makings of a restaurant.

Editor's Note: As for finding Spang's work as prescribed research, you, hospitality students, are on your own. A half-dozen universities shelve the book. If there is a teaching arm of the National Restaurant Association, this book should be the starter course. In lieu thereof, call Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., 617-661-1616. Start your career library before you write your first review paragraph.

Bonus 2:
Ancestral Appetites: Food in Prehistory
by Kristen J. Gremillion
Cambridge University
© 2011

Amazon note: This book explores the relationship between prehistoric people and their food - what they ate, why they ate it, and how researchers have pieced together the story of past foodways from material traces.

Editor's note: Ancestral Appetites has a subtitle taking the reader to food in prehistory. It was researched and published for college-level students studying anthropology. It has a place in this studied collection for the simple reason that its content needs exposure far beyond some stuffy classroom packed with skim-read mentalities waiting for a bell telling them to race to the escape door. Briefly put this deep dish food book is for folk such as I. The only major that ever interested me was graduate level rural sociology. Repeat: Rural. In my time agriculture students were heavy into the marketing and politics of farming. The publisher of a major southern newspaper suggested to me that "this new major…rural sociology" was being created as a major — a far departure from basic sociology.

He needed reporters to delve far beyond the riddle of the little spittle bug. His newspaper was in golden leaf country. The major money crop was tobacco. The enemy was a stem and leaf-eating spittle bug, first cousin to the equally evil boll weevil, enemy of all cotton farmers. All North Carolina farmers knew how to banish spittle and boll. They also knew how to create good food from ground to grandmothers…all of which brings me to my grandfather role.

As is this is writ, as is this being edited and pronounced ready for ink, my 12-year-old grandson has embraced a practical interest in food, practical being at the family stove top, frying pan at the ready, creating breakfast for his mother, father and sister. As he does in classroom assignments, he digs into book content beyond the hard covers. He asks questions.

For his thirteenth birthday, he asked me for a cookbook. To whet and whisk I gave him a paper bound, photocopy of my favorite, Old Timey Recipes, 68 pages of tested how-to by a long-deceased woman who included all the comfort foods plus a recipe for making moonshine. Also, there's one for home brew. He has promised to have his first beer with me. Much later, I want him to move beyond our watery domestics brewed in water-tower-sized tanks and brew his own. Catering to his inquisitive mind under his golden locks, I have purchased a copy of Dr. Gremillion's study that will take him back "several million years" of the professor's "evidence extracted from the material remains that provide for the only direct evidence of how people procured, prepared, presented, and consumed food in prehistoric times."

I want him to follow the writer's message that every meal he consumes tells an evolutionary tale about our beginnings. In the beginning we usually are known only by the title, hunter-gatherer. That has been sufficient as a quick flash meaning about the way humankind poached earth and water to consume. Researcher Germillion goes a huge social step beyond. One of her early-on chapters is headlined: Man the hunter, woman the gatherer. How politically correct for my grandson. At this moment in a repeated scan read, let me bring up a study approach: Evolution. Evolution, not in the bibical sense. In this context my grandson can see food evolve dating back those five million years sans debate and controversy. Follow the author who takes your mind from her prehistoric study times when, my best mental viewpoint, to grubbing soil, rock and fossil to address starvation. She researches by levels: Fossils, fire and cooking, foraging, to the human management of food through farming. The storyline takes readers to a time more familiar in most food study suggestions...her "better life through chemistry." To my grandson, you're on your own after Gremillion.

Three thoughts:

  • sign-up for Dr. Gremillion's classes at The Ohio State University
  • continue to read food labels
  • demand answers when you ask questions

Attention Ken Burns: Meet Five Centuries of Food...

Two most important things to sustain humankind are sex and food. The first is repeatedly beaten to death by all media. In a literate sense Dr. Germillion has provided a detailed five-part location script for a Ken Burns documentary. Download for a deeper pitch and meaning with this 196-pager telling us how humanity has survived sufficiently to reach today's level of living.
--- D.P.C.

Food Lover's Companion
Comprehensive Definitions of Nearly 6,000 Food,
Drink and Culinary Terms
by Sharon Tyler Herbst
Barron's Cooking Guide
© 2001

Dusty book shelves are loaded with food guides. Many still in use date back a hundred years. They become keepers, mostly for reasoned nostalgia and sentimental purposes. Grandparents never toss away recipe books, few if any having sefinitive value. Existing food guides have dated definitions. And then around the mid-1990s non-cook and writer Sharon Tyler Herbst was encouraged to finalize what has become the ultimate food dictionary.

Her husband Ron first suggested this work that took 12 years to reach ink-and-paper. It has become a must for every cook, both in the home kitchen and commercial kitchen. Anyone planning a food writing career at any level today needs this pound-and-a-half reference supreme. Note numerical placement of this food guide in this 96-count syllabus: No. 3. Anyone with just a flirting interest in food will find this volume a steady read. Anyone with a commercial interest in food should consider the book their primary information source. Author Sharon Tyler Herbst should have a chair in her honor in every American culinary institute and university hospitality program. Her research over the final 12 years of her life, composed in 770 pages, should be a full semester credit course in university-level studies.

What have we learned from this tome? Herbst included a few of her "acquired taste" nominations. Here's an expanded list, some sans her endorsement as such, to will tweak student curiosity.  Buy the book for her descriptives: Poi, oxalic acid, bitter cassava, offal, calf's foot jelly, wormwood, variety meats, tripe and Vegemite. Oh, for full treatment on the latter, consider Marmite, also uppercase. For deep study, try to find those in your Funk & Wagnalls.

Curtain line: Once graduating from reporter to reviewer status, you are not obligated to suffer acquired tastes.

Quentin Crewe's
International Pocket Food Book
Quentin Crewe
Mitchell Beazley International Ltd.
© 1980, Reprinted 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988

Consider yourself lucky to locate a of copy of this, the ultimate food guide, much more a guide as opposed to the titled book. Copies dated from the1980s and before are rare.

Simply put, this is a menu decoder for travelers. Generally it is a dream book for everyone intendingto visit every cuisine in the world. The Crewe research supports the contention that people really travel to far away places to experience the food rather than the touristy ruins of some ancient nation and culture. Quentin Crewe was known to world travelers long before being discovered by restaurant reporters and reviewers.

Crewe was a general writer and journalist who found himself in the curious position of having become an expert eater. (That juicy description is from his publisher, but apropo when judging his research.) He was always asked to write about food in the way an actor might be cast as the butler. He has written books about Japan, but not about food. He did contribute to Mitchell Beazley's Great Chefs of France , that work in days prior to American chefs getting much media attention. He was a writer for Queen and Vogue magazines. In his prime Crewe found time to run a dairy farm and a small hotel with an excellent restaurant in Cheshire, England . The book notes he was "married more than once" and had five children.

His guide fits into vest pockets, a least it did when men wore such. Today, it still goes well with a Brooks Brothers jacket, or a back pack, depending.

Entries are in alphabetical order by cuisine; nations beginning with Africa, then Arab food for what we, today, call Middle Eastern, and on through in order, Turkey , USSR , the United States at the end. Note use of USSR for Russia . That dates my well-thumbed copy. Still, Crewe's work has long been my favorite during travels to UK and Europe. It is a quick read for deadline writing. If reading for pleasure, there is something of a continuity that makes it worthy for my Top 12 Starter's Kit.

Consulting Quentin Crewe's worldwide food research
Quentin Crewe's International Pocket Food Guide
Source: Independent book stores or those dealing heavily in used books. Contact: Ramona Moon, Acorn Bookshop, Columbus, Ohio 614.486.1860
Mariani's COAST-TO-COAST Dining Guide
by John F. Mariani
Times Books
© 1986

This dated guide sets the ethical style and authoritative reporting format for composing a dining guide covering the vast expanse of a nation such as the United States . The textbook aspect of this guide provides restaurant information for more than 40 major markets with as many writing styles for study. What Mariani did was to compact into one volume descriptives of food and ambience for each restaurant entry without using a meaningless, ill-defined star-rating system. Neither did he go for the vox populi approach of rating restaurants by numbers. He left it to each writer's narrative to convey the message.

The journalist value of of this guide is Mariani's ability to cover a nation the size of the United States , truly a coast-to-coast dining adventure from Boston-New York City-Florida to a Pacific coast Rt. 101 from San Diego north to Seattle.

A comparison: The acclaimed Guide Michelin originally covered one country, France, a nation about the size of Texas. Consider Mariani's approach and one has a textbook for anyone preparing to write about food and restaurants as a career.

While dated, this 1985 edition reflects 40 writing styles of the nation's prominent restaurant reviewers and critics, each reporting from a different major city.

Despite being out of date, the good read part for any food writing student is Mariani's dining variety between covers. There are 866 pages between those soft covers.

Example:  Mariani booked Tom Fitzmorris to cover his city, New Orleans, even then in the mid-1980s this country's most important culinary stop between the coasts. Fitzmorris (*) probably had the most interesting city assignment of all in Mariani's collection. He had the innovative Brennan family to write about and, by my standards, the country's most important restaurant, Commander's Palace. Important? For students of restaurants and the industry, Commander's is the ultimate success and survival story when it comes to culinary arts. The big wind, Katrina, closed Commander's down for months. It has reopened to continued acclaim. As this syllabus takes shape, New Orleans and the Gulf coast faces another survival test, the BP oil rig explosion and spill endangering wild life, fishing and oyster beds. To cover his assignment, Fitzmorris included among his faves, Cafe du Monde, another one-stop education.

(*) Tom Fitzmorris continues today as one of the nation's top tenured restaurant reporters. Further down in this syllabus, see the 12-pack Fitzmorris et al, the first three are his books and periodicals covering decades of the New Orleans culinary scene.
How Italian Food Conquered The World

Mariani's Latest...
How Italian Food Conquered the World,
Palgrave Macmillan, Publisher

Bonus 3:
Eating Out, Fearless Dining in Ethnic Restaurants
by John Mariani
William Morrow & Co
© 1985

Content Pending

In Bad Taste
The MSG Syndrome
by George R. Schwartz, M.D.
Health Press, Santa Fe, NM
© 1988
But, first, a foreword by Arthur D. Colman, M. D.

A movie script backgrounder:  Before getting into the Schwartz text, it must be noted that a movie potential is in the foreword by Arthur D. Colman, M. D.  As a Harvard College trained psychiatrist, and today a clinical professor at U. C. Medical Center, San Francisco, he dared to concern himself with the negatives of MSG. In 1978 he published a three-paragraph account of his MSG studies in The New England Journal of Medicine. He detailed two casehistories relating to individuals developing physical and psychiatric symptoms when they ate foods containing Monosodium Glutamate.

The Journal, probably the nation's most authoritative medical publication, was immediately hit with the wrath of, Colman writes, "an antagonistic letter from the 'Glutamate Association.'" The outfit questioned Colman's credentials and The Journal's right to print it. Colman relates a later development when a Harvard Medical School classmate surfaced for what Colman thought was to be a casual old school breakfast. Breakfast quickly terminated when conversation turned sour with an offer of funding to do "research on other allergic phenomena" beyond MSG.

My inability to locate Dr. Schwartz in his old New Mexico stomping ground or get any information from his listed publisher makes Dr. Colman today's primary authority on dangers of MSG. A personal note; I once approached the glutamate group's offices in Atlanta. Entering, I announced myself as a reporter. Politely. When asked my purpose, I made the mistake of asking if there was any significance in the group's location, directly across the street from Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. I was instructed to depart.

...and now, your assigned read:

Passing this research on to food writers is with some reservation. Personally I have been involved with the topic for decades. I am allergic to any use of MSG - monosodium glutamate, a chemical additive used in cooking. Simply put, MSG is a salt which tampers with your taste buds and harmful to many, depending...

Decades ago I gave up Campbell soups. In those days ingredients were not listed on labels. In reviewing Chinese foods in the 1960s, it was apparent that something was not agreeing with my body. And be assured that ethnicity was heavy handed in all wok cookery. Not until the mid-1980s did it become fashionable for Chinese eateries to do menu listings... NO MSG. In 1988 the first definitive research citing potential dangers of MSG appeared. It was this 120-page book. I quickly included warning references in my Newspapers In Education lectures. Later the Schwartz book was cited repeatedly in my college hospitality lectures. My warning position is that any food spiked with a chemical changing intended tastes of any food impairs accuracy when reviewing.


My advice: Do not tamper with those 10,000 taste buds (*) on your tongue. For so many years I had to make inquiries of servers: Does the cook use MSG? When they answered with a question, wanting to know what I was talking about, I suggested they go to the kitchen and see if there was a package of a commercial MSG, Accent, on the shelf. Replies varied.

(*) Your four primary tastes are sweet, salt, sour and bitter. Now we contend with a fifth, umami. Go to Google for endless sources passing information on umami.  On my plate it would be a trigger mechanism enhancing any chemicals in my food, thus altering natural food tastes.

If you reason that MSG might be up for discussion, click Google. There your choices number 528,000 "results," most of them negative for your consumption and reviewing. Pending some exacting update on MSG as the substance relates to my reviewing and any critique, I advise a detailed study of In Bad Taste, The MSG Syndrome. Copies are difficult to find.

Curtain line: Give up on the listed publisher. Search used book stacks. If adept at punching through Amazon's keyboard jungle, there may be a copy available.