Food Reporting Syllabus
Assignments 13 through 18
Hungry Planet
What the World Eats
by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio
Foreword by Marion Nestle
Material World, Publisher

When my food book collection was being assembled into syllabus form, Hungry Planet held dual appeal: A beginner's course visually presented for a writer to see what is out there as content; and as an inspiration to choose what has to be the most interesting subject matter for serious human interest studies. In recent years of this decade I have been toting this single heavy weight volumn to lectures and telling my classes... buy the book. It is a keeper, not just as a coffee table book, but for quick research. The selling point appears on the back cover: 30 Families - 24 Countries - 600 Meals - 1 Extraordinary Book.

Hungry Planet is not preaching, but it does briefly explore Darfur's starving refugee camps. The world and writers need that story. Then, possibly, the extreme of our bountiful planet moving from a sad Africa, a family of four displays a week's supply of foodstuffs showing commercial labels, waters and beers. The chapter Bio Logic itemizes the cost of grains, starches, dairy, fruits, libations, even the condiments. What is in between is the study course. At first my intent was to use Hungry Planet as the star attraction, the Harry Potter or Dirty Harry as the grabber. Instead, to be professitorial, note the Associated Press Style Book is your starter for style and literacy in any writing career. But Hungry Planet is the reason for writing about food.

Hungry Planet

The Physiology of Taste
by Brillat-Savarin
Translated and Annotated by M. F. K. Fisher
North Point Press
© 1986 (Originally published in 1825 after three decades of consuming research)

When the day arrives that I am granted tenure with the privilege of selecting my own text for a full quarter, this is it. For this fast living world of today I would give any student an option to bow out, drop the course and take up Bob Dylan 101 (actually a catalogued offering at The Ohio State University). The exiting trigger would be the reading of the sub-title: Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy.

Circa 1930s... thanks to R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co...

Believe it. At the bottom right smoking Camels were pitched as good for your T-zone, the Throat Zone... puff for 30 days for the (T for Throat, T for Taste).


The Wellness letter

On Food and Cooking
The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
by Harold McGee
Scribner, New York
© 2004

The subtitle using the word science may give a slight pause for beginning writers, food not always linked to the field of test tubes and the laboratory world. Harold McGee specializes in the chemistry of food. When he puts his research on paper, the serious food and cooking world stands and salutes. McGee commands attention even when it comes to little facets of food. Example: He may never be given credit for it, but everyone these days thinks twice about wrapping cooked food in plastic. Once unwrapped to be eaten, the food tastes like plastic. From this vantage point, give credit to McGee writings for shaking up the bottled water industry. Only in the latter years of the last decade did we see bottlers reducing the plastic content in water bottles. The move to totally ban plastic water bottles is a lost cause. McGee is not fighting that battle, but his research started thought processes.

Real McGee fans find little brights in the 900 pages. Example: If writing about a food that includes mint as an ingredient, be McGee advised that the mint family is a huge one... more than 180 genera. Best about his mint research, it provides more of our familiar kitchen herbs than any other family. Page 401. If one thinks of a mint leaf in a Kentucky julep as the end of uses, step back one grade. McGee gives readers, nee students, a roster of herbs in the mint family. He provides (Page 403) the
botanical names for thyme, basil, lavender, sage, rosemary, all to be useful in food writing. Not so common for keyboarding, horehound, perilla, hyssop, but may come in handy in a trivia game. Fun fact: When writing about sage as a seasoning for roasted squab, try getting this past a copy editor: use salvia officinalis.

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
Foreword by M. F. K. Fisher (*) Illustrations by Sir Francis Rose Harper Perennial
© 1984

(*) Originally the Alice B. Toklas copyright was in 1954. The 1984 edition contains ..."A Happy Publisher's Note to the 1984 Edition by Simon Michael Bessie." New to writing a cookbook? Writers and reporters will get a brief glance at the tender story behind Alice and her life with Gertrude Stein in Paris.

If not interested in a love story, then be happy with such goodies as page 151. Her instructions for prepairing roast squab reads thusly: "Place in the cavity salt and pepper. Cover squabs with thin slices of back fat and tie securely. Put them in a pre-heated 400 degree oven."

Back fat in Paris, fat back in Carolina.

Though never mentioned in this ink-on-pulp, it may be that Julia Child became a sincere advocate for cooking only with butter from her associations with Alice and Gertrude, Toklas never heard of the word oleo or margarine. Thankfully.

Believe it. Vegetable oil / margarine is not butter. Toklas rules.


Bonus 10:
Paul Bocuse: The Complete Recipes
by Paul Bocuse
Editions Flammarion
© 2012

Content Pending

Wellness Letter
University of California, Berkeley
News and Expert Advice from the School of Public Health
Managing Editor Dale Anne Ogar
Published Monthly

Of the dozen university-based health, nutrition and fitness newsletters considered for this syllabus, WellnessLetter, University of California, Berkeley, best fits the needs of a food reporter. It is a monthly subscription fact-loaded narrative touching on a score-plus talking points of current interest.

Example: About once each decade some fitness guru thinks he has discovered the bottle of youth. Water. Eight glasses daily, he announces not knowing such was advised about the time Ford marketed the Edsel. Credit: WellnessLetter in November, 2011.

The Wellness Fountainhead...

Food and restaurant writers should never suffer writer's block. There is a solution, the monthly arrival of Wellness Letter, an adjunct between UC Berkeley's Wellness Foods and Wellness Kitchen. It is the wellspring of nutrition, fitness and self-care information... an up-to-date match fitting today's headlines... as if to say... here's your inspiration when an unkind editor expects a story on his deadline...

The Wellness letter
Information: 386-447-6328

Bonus 11:
The Doctors Book of Food Remedies
by Selene Yeager and the Editors of Prevention magazine
Rodale Books

Why? Content Pending

The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink
With More Than 500 Recipes for American Classics
by John F. Mariani
Lebhar-Friedman Books, New York
© 1999

Dream beyond the conventual bam-bam chefs. There is foodie fare other than gorging food competitons or fading Hollywood fatties puffing ghost-written books on how they lost half a hundred pounds is six weeks... usually the second or third time around the guest circuit. Meet Mariani and Spitzer.

Media Studes: If holding this book in some quiet contemplative setting, you have in your hands one half of a food talk show waiting to happen. Think creatively. Writer John Mariani on the tube, on a restaurant-like set with this 380-page script, taking questions about rock fish muddle in some remote southern town. The caller is upset about Mariani's recipe that calls for shell fish...and the call board's red lights are all blinking.

Seated at the same restaurant-type table... Eliot Spitzer, former New York governor with a high test persona of both a prosecutor and provocateur. His script is an issues related website... food recalls, salmonella scares packers being closed for dirty products... the list is endless. Co-host Spitzer is the on-air prosecutor.

Meet Mariani. Food historian. Food writer, Restaurant reviewer and critic for three decades. Controversial? Yes. Here's a load of new content angles when it comes to food television.

Consider a use for these selective definitions...

Sex on the beach. A spiked drink far beyond watery beer favored by college students on spring breaks... a cocktail of vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry and orange juice popularized in the 1980s. And then we have one Mariani missed, possibly because he is of a more recent generation. Purple Jesus, favored from the 1940s to 1960s along the Atlantic coastal beaches from Virginia south to Florida, a plugged watermelon spiked with as much cheap Gordon's gin as possible.

Pupu or pu pu. It is a platter of Hawaiian appetizers, nuts, fruits, barbecued meats, coconut chips, at times served with a Sterno flame to heat the morsels. (This treat is being highlighted for writers who may not have copy editors familiar with the works of a Mariani or Sharon Tyler Herbst. (Simple explanation: Bible Belt copy editors will edit out pupu.)

Fluffernutter. It may never appear on a menu, but has study interest. Look it up... page 130.

Fish muddle. Do not call it fish boil. Muddle means mucho, in the south a muddle of fish is a mess of stuff. Fish muddle may be hard to find in restaurants, but it is a pot waiting to be found. Fish muddles are rites of passage in fish camps. Cooks mix their pot ingredients (look it up, page 127) with rather long simmering and boiling times. Mariani mentions cod, haddock, clams and scallops. Southern cooks stick with what they pull out of the water, one species at a time. But at the top of Mariani copy... diced salt pork. Cousin, salt pork is the key ingredient when cooking up a mess along North Carolina's Roanoke River when rock fish are in season. And another fish camp suggestion: stick with fin fish caught 75 feet away in midstream.

(*). Yes, slang. Noah Webster made it legit. Mariani gives it currency. He's traced the origins to 1982 (page 131). A foodie is a person reading through this 96-book food syllabus. Foodies (plural) are intense when it comes to food, the growing, harvesting, cleaning and cooking, serving and savoring. A working foodie is a person who starts with the Associated Press Style Book and graduates to the Mariani College of Food and Drink, graduate level.

(*) SpellCheck missed class the day foodie came to life...

Tip for the Mariani rewrite: Include a rather new word... locavore... although a collective of sorts and not a recipe, locavores use this book's content.


Bonus 12:
The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky
Riverhead Books

Content Pending


Bonus 13:
A Century of America's Favorite Foods
by Sue Dawson
Rodale Books

Content Pending

Star Bonus 1:
Unforgettable: 100 Years of Timeless American Recipes
by Sue Dawson
CQ Products
© 2009

Review Pending