Food Reporting Syllabus
Assignments 85 through 96

Zen in minds of peaceful folk conjures contemplation, thinking, meditation, all applicable for a time to pause and read in quiet solitude. Zen represents deep tenents of a peaceful religion, Buddhism. Considering that a serious writer puts more emphasis on thinking than on entertainment as do so many gothic readers, this final 12-pack deviates from the book count norm. In this set the count goes something like this, a Rodale 10-pack set of unique and informative books published by Rodale, the brand series titled Eat This, Not That. For a shot across the reviewing bow, you learn this country's popular high-end eatery, Cheesecake Factory, received a somewhat harsh appraisal from two writer-researchers. They keyboarded the Cheesecake Factory "may be America's Unhealthiest Restaurant..." Then a tinge of praise came for the Peach Smoothie mainly for its 199 calories when compared to the menu-offering of Frozen Iced Mango with 346 calories. Rodale writers David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, required in this format, play heavily to the good-bad approach in food studies. Example: Their worst breakfast burrito, 1,101 calories, Bob Evans Restaurants; but their balance shows in rating this Ohio-based chain, they suggest eat this instead, the Border Scramble Omelet with Bob Evans Egg Lites, 493 calories. (Excerpts from columnist Joe Blundo, The Columbus Dispatch.)

Permit a brief editorial: Rodale's Eat This, Not That set should be classroom studies in every public school in the nation.

For peaceful thoughts: To reach Nirvana, savor this extended count... through to No. 96, also off the beaten-eatin' track, the MMXI edition of The Almanac For Farmers & City Folk (not to be confused with 1940's Old Farmers Almanac sold as fund raisers by Boy Scouts).


Eat This, Not That


If ever there was a textbook for the battle against obesity, here are 10 of them... advised for all with ADD... suggested for middle school mentalities who need shock treatment when it comes to making food choices... stodgy boards of education, race to be the first, create a classroom course on how to avoid dietary disasters... with pictures, no less...

Eat This, Not That
The Best (& Worst) Foods in America
Brand name for 10-count series
by David Zinczenko
with Matt Goulding
© 2009

For anyone writing about restaurants and/or food, to lift a trite goodie, this is icing on the cake. It is style for today's pop writers. It is tightly edited with quick-read brevity. It is brilliantly, graphically designed... all that for writers-in-training. For all others, this notice atop the publisher's page: This book is intended as a reference volume only, not as a medical manual.

Then, this understated intent...information in the 10 books is designed to help readers make informed decisions about their health. Be assured, these books are the ultimate weapons in the fat wars,


Bonus 120:
The Rodale Cookbook Presented by Rodale Press, Pioneer in Natural Foods
by Nancy Albright
Rodale Press
© 1973

Review Pending

Assignments 73-84
Julie & Julia

Review Pending


Bonus 121:
When Harry Met Sally
by Nora Ephron
Knopf Publishing
© 1990

Review Pending

Bonus 122:
Wallflower At the Orgy
by Nora Ephron
Bantam Books
© 2007

Review Pending

Bonus 123:
Here, Home, Hope
by Kaira Rouda
Greenleaf Book Group Press
© 2011

Why is a novel, a work of fiction appearing on this otherwise food-related syllabus for writers and reviewers? Simply put, people of interest gather at public food trough. That is where action happens.

In this debut novel Rouda used the actual names of restaurants she frequented in her Ohio hometown. "To me, restaurants are the perfect places to set a scene, for intimacy, for conflict, for life," she said. In another example of a writer using personal proximity for keyboard inspiration, Marcia Clark, the losing prosecutor when O. J. beat the double murder rap, is on shelves with her first 356 pages of mystery fiction, Guilt by Association. One reviewer explained it this way... Clark knows Los Angeles, adding that "her affection for its bars, restaurants and even its run-down jails and seedy streetscapes... make for lively reading..."

Both new novelists walk similiar keyboard paths. Both loaded their storylines with dialogue, suitable, one might add, for a TV or movie writer to do the shooting script. Both Rouda and Clark are today writers. Both must have had film script shorthand... POV... in mind as they took the reader from one scene to the next.

As with many novels by fresh and new writers, this legal note appears in Rouda's book long before getting into the meaty storyline: Her book is a work of fiction... and goes on to notify "names, characters, business organizations... places" they need not fret. However, in this new work the writer has to use names of restaurants and storyline settings in her real life. All is well with this approach because there is nothing negative, in this case, Rouda sets a scene in one of the nation's finest fine dining restaurants, The Refectory in Columbus, her hometown.

New writers, reviewers-turned novelists, be advised that setting scenes over dinner plates or at the bar is quite common even for best selling writers. Restaurants are used because they offer action. The human factor swells when in mixed company setting. Novelists write about and around food being served in a public trough.

Novelists are not alone. Example: Scan read any double truck of comic strips and note how many settings are in eateries or kitchens. Recall one of America's favorite strips, Blondie. The entire life of Blondie centered around husband Dagwood Bumstead, so endearing that today around the free world diner-menus offer sandwiches called a Dagwood. Add a five-minute fun game to your on-going research. Pick up any major daily newspaper. Count the number of comic strips with food references or scenes in the storyline.

Here Home Hope by Kaira Rouda
Guilt by Association
Bonus 124:
The Sin Eaters
by Andrew Beahrs
The Toby Press
© 2008

Review Pending

Bonus 125:
The Belly of Paris (Modern Library Classics)
by Emile Zola (Author) , Mark Kurlansky (Translator)
Modern Library
© 2009

Review Pending

Inside The Red Mansion
On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man
by Oliver August
Houghton Mifflin Company
© 2007

This book should be entitled The Hunt For Lai Changxing with a subtitle relating to the author's travels across China and scene-change continuity meshed together by food mentions.

As a food-restaurant writing text, it is among the best for novelists or non-fiction authors. In this case it is the work of a highly skilled pad-and-pencil reporter.

Savor this... "you had to be careful with these dumplings... they were scalding hot... however, if you bit into one to let the insides cool, precious drops of soup might spill... yes, the soup was inside..."

Page 102: "The woman in the buttoned jacket peeled vegetables while we talked... Lai's brother smoked silently..."

Page 107: "One evening I was sitting in a restaurant with neon strip-lighting ...(listening to conversations at an adjoining table where two men were discussing wedding gifts) ...they were sitting at a small plastic table heaped with shrimp tails..."

Are we talking movie script yet?

Page 233: Table 12, Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant, 355 Burrard Street, Vancouver. The hunt storyline has moved from China to Canada. Lai Changxing meets the author for dinner. Lai does the ordering but not from the menu in a scene that could go down in movie history outgrossing the 1963 film Tom Jones. Oliver August politely observes. Oliver August paid the check. The tab: About $150.

For what a waiter may consider a Maalox Moment, August details a word picture of his guest taking command while ordering their dinner. Details? Go to

Opinion Sought: Is there a movie script here?

Oliver August
Oliver August

Bonus 126:
The Dinner
by Herman Koch
Hogarth Books
© 2013

Review Pending

Kitchen Confidential (Hardcover)
Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
by Anthony Bourdain
Harper Collins
© 2007

Dammit, buy the hardcover. This is one book read that should never be interrupted by a dead battery...or recharge if that is what Kindle rides on. Up front, Bourdain is a writer with blood line creds. His mother was a staff editor for The New York Times. That single influence was sufficient to point him toward a heavy-duty computer to record a life centered around commercial food. For writing grist he paid his dues along hot and high volume cooking lines, many of them daylight shifts stretching from pre-dawn hours to late evenings. To make sure he would have the professional currency to write-prepare-critique-praise-damn foods in the public trough, he went through the trade grinder called Culinary Institute of America. He graduated at age 22 in 1978.

A Bourdain Sidebar: Avoid transplanting hemorrhoids...

Bourdain is taking food reporting from a scattering of cable closets to the big room...CNN. He has top flight management...

Zero Point Zero Productions, make a note.

Please, no more Bam Bam chefs. Please, no more speed competitions between fry cooks. Oh, and please again, no more obese and fading B movie stars with a diet book on how they dropped fifty pounds. Again.

Kitchen Confidential should become a text book in all enlightened hospitality teaching programs. It won't. Instead Bourdain's vast and varied media background will finally reach an audience, one not segmented between travel dreamers and folks trying to cook at home.

Bourdain's long time video producers, Zero Point Zero Productions, packaged his talent and persona for a real opinionated audience. CNN is for news junkies. Food, all facets of the stuff we grow, all field and stream product today has life and death issues. Recalls. Tainted imports. USDA and FDA failures. Phony diets. Deadly drugs from China. Water worries. Cruise line scurvy reports. Food gossip and fact. Zero Point, so...

The back-of-the-house expose is what made Bourdain. The best of Bourdain is yet to come. That will be early in 2013 when he becomes a weekend regular on CNN. First info on plans for his TV show say he has one Sunday prime time hour with a Saturday night repeat. Prediction: CNN will find out this gent's talent / commentary should be a nightly newscast, a la Anderson Cooper. Initial plans call for Bourdain to make "guest" appearances on other CNN shows.

Bourdain has served his apprenticeship. His reporting for a decade has been limited to viewers on Travel Network and TV Food Network. He's now moving to the big leagues when it comes to news...hard news. Bet your boutonniere CNN will find out food reporting in all the forms today is 24 / 7 / 365. Time has come for a food show to go beyond the star chef syndrome. Enough. Enough before we choke.

The real food show today...noodle this with Anthony Bourdain as ring master:

Austin Clarke


Bonus 127:
A Cook's Tour:
In Search of the Perfect Meal
by Anthony Bourdain
Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks
© 2002

This one reads like the content script for Bourdain’s television shows on the Travel Channel. Time magazine described the shows as Bourdain's guilty pleasure. Make that plural pleasures around the world. His purpose was to experience all the hard-to-swallow foods...those food stuffs in this Syllabus repository known as Urp Foods.

Time tagged him with this goodie: "In a restaurant in Haiti, there are pots of stew bubbling and, on every table, hand sanitizer to ward off cholera."

One oft-missed plus in this text is Bourdain’s research trips where he had to avoid wars, rebellions, combat strife, dictators and minders or government-assigned guards. In Egypt, for example, his minders sought to keep him away from a bakery. The government did not want him to know that some 70 percent of the Egyptian diet was bread.

Most food travel books take readers to London, Paris and Milan. Bourdain took readers to world trouble spots. In Nicaragua he wrote about families who scavenge a grabage dump. When that Platter of Fame list is compiled for restaurant and food writers, look for sure under the Bs...Bourdain, Anthony, writer, reporter, reviewer, critic, provocateur in that order.

The Content Starter Kit:

Austin Clarke

The Zen of Food
A Philosophy of Nourishment
by Sallyann J. Murphey
A Berkley Book, member of Penguin Putnam
© 1998

NOTE: Ms. Murphey authored Bean Blossom Dreams. The spine of The Zen of Food notes that Berkley has a kindred link to spirituality cooking. She is a former BBC television producer now residing in Indiana on Bean Blossom Farm with husband, daughter and 48 assorted animal friends.

The word Zen has different meanings, the most common relates to meditation in a spiritual sense. This book reflects on life in the 1990s using our then attitudes toward food as a metaphor for all of what goes on in the consumption field. And food in all forms may be the most important single entity for humankind. Zen seeks truth through meditation so say old practioneers. Writers/reviewers-to-be-critics will find a delightful approach for appraising stuff on a plate. While this collection of essay-like stories is not a cook book, she does position recipes throughout as each fits into the chapter theme. Along the way you are treated to the construction of a cucumber sandwich, a procedure that has franchise potential in the mind of an aficionado, depending...

Read Murphey's Zen and you move about the world of a reporter with a passport loaded with stamped destinations. It reads as though she hit each country as a food critic. Not the case, but she kept interesting mental notes. Example: Her experiences with authentic Chinese dining. Entering a Chinese restaurant one late evening, so late the owner-and-family were just finishing their meal, she spotted a huge bowl of snails being served. She and husband had to have the same.

When her ordered meal arrived there was an even larger bowl. Reliving such from France, she did the reviewer's tableside dance. She leaned toward the bowl expecting a fragrance of garlic, and, possibly she wrote, ginger.

Delight in her review: "My heart froze. These weren't the innocuous French invertebrates, raised on some pristine farm; these were street-snails in all their slimy reality, so robust that they still seemed to be wriggling in their shells." That, class, is first person criticism.


New Yorker

Colonel Sanders and the American Dream
(Discovering America)
by Josh Ozersky
University of Texas Press
© 2012

Review Pending


Bonus 128:
Secret Recipe
Why KFC is Still Cookin' after 50 Years
by Robert Darden
Tapestry Press
© 2002
An old southern tintype, Harland Sanders, taught me how to make a mint julep in the middle 1950s. In years following I took delight in writing that he could have made it big if he had continued to teach with a bourbon and mint recipe. That short 80-proof course was the last time Sanders ever revealed a recipe. As a travel writer for The Columbus Citizen, one of my assignments was to tour Kentucky's state parks for a full week.

As a guest of Kentucky's tourism department it was a bus tour for writers representing more than 30 major newspapers and slick magazines. While I remember little about the state's impressive lakes and lodges, I recall in detail that Friday afternoon stop at a Corbin, KY, gas station converted to be a small restaurant. The proprietor, Colonel Sanders, the rank as a Kentucky Colonel, was to cook and serve us platters of his heavily-floured-peppered and fat fried chicken parts. There was no mention of his later marketing tool of "11 herbs and spices."  That would come years afterward.

I have a picture of the writers sitting under a huge shade tree on the lawn of his eatery. He gave each of us a tall julep glass and a long-stemmed tea spoon. Each of us had  proximity to recipe ingredients: Sugar, fresh mint leaves, shaved ice, Bourbon.

"First you put a few mint leaves at the bottom of the glass..." he said. Next a covering of granulated sugar to compress into the mint making it pulpy.  Next fill the glass to the rim with crushed ice. Do not stir. Pour Kentucky bourbon, no substitutes, to the brim. Again, do not stir. Take one sip immediately. Tilting the glass will be the gravity mix for future slower sips.

It should be noted: Colonel Sanders was a teetotaler, at least by that time. Years later when we crossed paths, we never discussed those marketed 11 herbs and spices. Comics and food nutritionalists delighted in questioning his secret recipe. One wag said his recipe was salt, pepper and nine shakes of MSG. Cruel. As a total fan of Harland Sanders, I can assure all that he deserves his position as an icon in the restaurant industry and the culinary cultural fabric of a nation.

Secret Recipe does not itemize those 11 herbs and spices. Author Robert Darden clears up that issue in the first paragraph of his text:

"The title Secret Recipe may suggest that I've uncovered the highly guarded secret ingredients to KFC's food.  I wish I had, but the folks at KFC can rest easy - the secret remains (*) secret."

Why suggest Secret Recipe in a food-restaurant writing syllabus? It is the touching story of an elder gentleman who reaches Social Security status and finds himself living on $100 a month. He has a chicken recipe in his mind, an old car with tired shocks and the refined talents of a salesman. The read is his early failure to sell a franchise and the later ability to strike a franchising formula.

Even the business aspect of the text is a study...he gives deep thought to selling his name and those spices. Eventually with family as advisors, he sells. KFC prevails. Harland Sanders's life after age 65... but... wait for the movie.

(*) Others still speculate, but the Sanders family and KFC never confirm or discuss such.
  ...Kentucky Fried before he was a Secret Recipe with 11 herbs and spices...
  Harland Sanders
  ...that old tin type, Colonel Sanders before he was KFC founder, annually entertained the nation's travel writers on behalf of the State of Kentucky tourist commission... after serving his broasted chicken to the reporters in his Corbin, KY, eatery, he would demonstrate his recipe for the proper mint julep... using only Kentucky Bourbon, of course. On wag wrote that he could have made a mint if he had stuck to serving juleps.
Bonus 129:
By the Sackful
A Scrapbook with Recipes from 85 years
of White Castle Craving
by 160 Recipe Authors
Publisher: White Castle Co.
Imprint: Favorite Recipes Press
© 2005 by Gourmet Specialties, Inc.

Understand this up front: Of the 96 books in this collection, this poke-load (pohk]) n. a sack or bag) of culinary creativity has to be my favorite. I contributed. I am one of the 160 recipe creators in 144 packed pages... therefore...

A bit of history: A White Castle, also known as a Slyder™, is a steamed, not fried beef patty seasoned with steamed onions. It does have cult appeal, if for no other reason than it has been the same for 85-plus years. Note the scrapbook title mention. Food writers/historians will find a burger story line dating from years of prohibition, depression, wars, good times and bad. This is a story of an important food item dating back years before the term fast food entered the lexicon. For a start-up business writer, By the Sackful will be a companion and inspirational resource shelved next to Colonel Sanders Secret Recipe.

In my lectures the Slyder has always been blessed. Do not toss it aside as fast food. I defend the Slyder by breaking it down: Is the steamed beef square unhealthy? No more so than a 27-ounce Porterhouse. Is a Porterhouse unhealthy? Yes, if size is factored into reasoning. Steamed onions? Each to his own. Am I the only food writer who has a fixation with an evening of four Slyders ordered take-out with a triple load of steamed onions? Maybe. With this caveat: They must be served out of the bag onto a china plate, with a 2005 Bordeaux pour if available. A heavy Burgundy also enhances a platter of Slyders. (*)

Oh, about the 160 recipes. Think about that: Each writer submitted their recipe using 10 White Castles, er, Slyders. They showcase what Americans can do to create turkey stuffing, casseroles, enhanced muffins, pizzas beyond pepperoni... even dips and spreads. All were winners or finalists over the decades in a White Castle-sponsored recipe contest. Winners from across the nation were brought to Columbus, Ohio, to sup with company brass... and legit food judges. I was always eager to a judge.

Now you know...

(*) Slyders™. Do not expect Noah Webster or Wikipedia to be up-to-date. Slyder is a trademark to protect from the generic sliders. All fast fooders selling traditional hamburgers try to capitalize using slider to described their attempts to peddle smaller cuts of meat coming off their greasy grills.

-- Doral Chenoweth

Judging White Castle Recipes, 2002Doral Chenoweth Grumpy Gourmet

Philip Vaughn/Photo





Bonus 130:
Sourdough Jack's Cookery
& Other Things & More
by Sourdough Jack Mabee
Self Published
First Printing 1959
© 1977 by Gourmet Specialties, Inc.

Sourdough bread is a mystery to most people. The real stuff is seldom found in public eateries. And like chili, the recipe for any sourdough bread is indigenous to the beholder. Always, all recipes for sourdough are considered secret. Sourdough Jack's recipe is as good as any researchers will find. Writers-in-residence herein will get an excellent background on the topic. The bread is made with a starter, meaning a slow coming together of flour, water, yeast, soda... that, sorta, ages or ferments or takes on some form ready for baking. What results is a coarse bread with that finest of aromas, yeast. This little book is loaded with history. The one copy in this syllabus stack is under guard. It is one of those food books worthy of being called a night stand read.Again, this is not a lending library. Hopefully, might come up with one of the 900,000 sold copies floating around... and forgotten in some grandmother's cupboard.

Bonus 131:
Butter Busters, The Cookbook
by Pam Mycoskie
Butter Busters Publishing, Arlington, TX
© 1991

Review Pending