Food Reporting Syllabus
Assignments 91 through 96

"Zen" series continues on this page...

A Portrait of American Cooking
by Molly O'Neill
Simon & Schuster
© 2010

The dust jacket sums up the content in this 864-page, 5.4 pounds of what is happening in this country's food world: 600 Recipes From the Nation's Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Fishermen, Pit-Masters, and Chefs.

Why this heavyweight entry: It was collected, compiled and written by a real journalist. Molly O'Neill has been a newspaper dining critic, a food columnist for The New York Times Magazine. She has authored cookbooks. She has been an editor of a food writing anthology. See Book 32, American Food Writing.

A Promise: A more fetching review is forthcoming when the leaves begin to fall and a cushioned chair
is near the hearth.

Study Note: This is a textbook for all students of food and food research. There are discounts for bulk purchases. Call Simon & Schuster Special Sales, 1-866-248-3049.


Bonus 132:
The Cook's Alphabet of Quotations
edited by Maria Polushkin Robbins
© 1992

Beef is the soul of cooking, Marie Antoine Careme.

In the ancient movie, Monkey Business, Chico Marx said "mustard's no good without roast beef." And Shakespeare is credited as asking, "what say you to a piece of beef and mustard?" And thus we depart her collection relating to Carnivorous Fare, a section title.

A favorite oft-heard, but never sourced... "cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." Mark Twain. How many food writers have lifted that gem sans credit? So, noting credits to authors in this little tote-sized volume, collector of this cornucopia of quotations, the Maria Robbins index names some 665 persons of food interest, plus the page numbers to make for easier research. Page 20, in her extensive research for quotes about that first meal of the day..."Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast," Oscar Wilde.

Note: Many of the suggested studies in this 96-count syllabus have added value. They have been autographed by the author or, in this case, the editor, Ms. Robbins. Her note quote to me, D.P.C., "To my favorite curmudgeon. Best regards, Maria." That is one reason this is not a lending library.

Bonus 133:
We Are What We Eat:
Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans
by Donna R. Gabaccia
Harvard University Press
© 2000

Review Pending

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home
by Jeni Britton Bauer
Artisan Books
© 2011

Bet your boutonniere: In this decade Jeni's ice cream will be a national scoop across the United States and, possibly, Canada, too. Jeni Britton Bauer is IPO material.

Beyond the fact Jeni's ice cream, very much a very local product in her Columbus, Ohio, and already with a stack of favorable print reviews, this book has several textbook qualities. It was written by the woman with her name on the cover. What a concept.

It is a business story. Jeni Britton Bauer went through a prep course of opening a small public market stand. She personally churned out her first recipes and sold over the counter to a strolling crowd. Unhappy with her first business venture, she closed down, retooled and reopened with her name on the space. As Jeni's she had 400 square feet of manufacturing and sell. Her second shop quickly needed space. Today the original Jeni's is in 729 square feet and a half dozen other locations in and around Columbus.

Bauer, nee Britton in her home territory, is very liberal in sharing recipes. But, recipes are not the reason for including this text as a study course. She includes a chapter on the science of ice cream. Stepping beyond the recipe factor and product history, she includes business profiles of her key suppliers, all Ohioans. Summation: Writers have an opportunity to study a writer, a fresh one in the market.

Jeni's Ice Creams

Bonus 134:
Everybody Loves Ice Cream:
The Whole Scoop on America's Favorite Treat
by Shannon Jackson Arnold
Emmis Books
© 2004

Jeni's is very much a local treat. Central Ohio is blessed. Now, here's an oldie but very much a topical reference when it comes to what is America's universal treat. This well-researched travel book tours ice cream lovers across the country – more than 500 locations. Unlike Jeni's approach, writer Arnold loads her book with boxed brights relating to ice cream... fun facts, most popular flavors, fame names who worked as soda jerks, slang relating to a soda fountain... and did you know that in Newark, New Jersey, it is illegal to eat ice cream after 6 p.m. without a doctor's note?

There's good reason for reading this text: The author is a working journalist. She's an award winning magazine writer, a former editor of Ohio Magazine. And when studying her writing in this assignment, consider that you have become a virtual student in her writing class. Ms. Arnold offers workshops and retreats for writers through her business, The Inspired Writer.

Did you know? In Italy, Viagra ice cream is popular.
(Page 58, Everybody Loves Ice Cream.)

Bonus 135:
The Donut Book:
The Whole Story in Words, Pictures & Outrageous Tales
by Sally Levitt Steinberg
Storey Publishing, LLC
© 2004

Review Pending

Diet For a Small Planet
The Book That Started a Revolution in the Way Americans Eat
by Frances Moore Lappé
Ballantine Books
© 1971, 1975, 1982, 1991

In compiling any syllabus it is customary to position subjects, names and references in some exacting order. Not to be herein. While the suggested 12-pack starter kit was selected in a numbered order intended to fit organized study, the rest are posted in a varied mix to keep student interest. Assuming such, meet the author with 18 books clicking from her keyboard.

Diet For a Small Planet has sold more than three million copies. It is positioned herein near the finish line for good reason: Of all those suggested in the bookcase, this is the most scholarly approach to food and food writing. Proof: She has received 17 honorary doctorates from such institutions as Grinnell College in Iowa, Kenyon College in Ohio and University of Michigan. She is on the advisory board of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

As for her lasting influence in changing for the good how America eats, Gourmet Magazine named her one of the 25 noteworthy, among others such as Thomas Jefferson, Upton Sinclair and Julia Child.

The book is considered ground-breaking for all the decades since...note the copyright years above. When it first hit the shelves, all elements of the food writing world took notice. Lappe basically explained that getting enough protein without eating meat is easier than she originally thought.

Her theory: If we eat whole, non-junk foods --- good news for those on low or non-meat diets --- it is great news for not having to keep track of amino-acid combinations.

For a fun aside: While her book moved many readers toward vegetarianism, Lappe herself is not a vegetarian.

For serious writers: Savor as a reference for your career.
Frances Moore Lappé on Wikipedia

The Omnivore's Dilemma
A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan
Penguin Press
© 2006

Quick Review: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is so 1906. For this new 21st Century get to know Michael Pollan's omnivore, fact, not fiction.

Part of the dilemma could be the weight of this suggestion: 450 pages, 13.6 ounces. Approach it this way: Consider the author's multiple occupations, all serving him well in bringing a researched up-to-date meaning to hunter-gatherer, circa 21st Century. Pollan is a journalist first, then an author of more than a dozen books and New York Times on food issues, not recipes.

In most food minds hunter-gatherer equates with tribal hunting. Native Americans were great hunters using clubs and bows long before they had gun powder. The American Indian gathered his game kill to sustain life. Their hunting and gathering went far beyond hunts for meat and fish. Gathering wild fruits and vegetables, usually nomadic having been forced to keep moving across this country by the white man, actually had a good diet. Consider the flip reasoning. What they gathered was organic. What Pollan does is explain how we reached a time when we depend upon manufactured foods.

Pollan's entry into the literary world of food issues was secured when his 2007 New York Times essay, Our Decrepit Food Factories, hit the streets. The title tells the story of pesticides and antibiotics used in our factory farm products. Our farm soils are losing fertility. We have resistant strains of bacteria. Science is fighting a battle merely to define and recoginize lethal new microbes in our animal feeding operations.

Summation and sustenance: Sinclair wrote in novel form to cover his 1906 tracks; Pollan is opinion based on fact, circa 2006 and counting.

The Pollan books are still coming. Stay tuned.

Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan

Bonus 136:
Food Rules:
An Eater's Manual
by Michael Pollan
Penguin Press
© 2009

Pollan's dedication says it all: For my mother, who always knew butter was better for you than margarine.

Pollan addresses a food issue that has always been out there in plain sight. Too many diets. Even too many doctor books intended to make money for docs. Just eating today has complexities. And Pollan says, "needlessly so... in my opinion." He writes that we always hear those warnings and advisories when we order from a menu or walk among aisles of packaged foods.

Advisory for food writing students: When scanning for names relating to food writing, pay close attenton to the Pollan name. The food supply chain from soil to plate is a mess. Uncle Sam's good intentions to purify, make safe, what we buy to eat, are not working. Therefore, put your faith and trust in people who study what is taking place out there in food stuffs, farming and manufactoring. We commend to you the name Michael Pollan. He has all the needed cred: Journalist first with the voice and intent of a food activist. He writes with total freedom from a campus that gives him such a platform. He's a professor, University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.'

Read about Michael Pollan on Wikipedia

Bonus 137:
In Defense of Food,
An Eater's Manifesto
by Michael Pollan
Penguin Press
© 2008
The Almanac For Farmers & City Folk
edited by Lucas McFadden
Greentree Publishing, Inc
© 2010

Food in this tome? Recipes? Yes, some food, a few recipes. But, there are other reasons for writers-hoping-to-sell-in-the-future may want to consider this Great Depression-era brand. For exact year of origin for this history of survival, go to Google's 3,340,000 hits. This is a grand pop of all almanacs. In decades of depression living in this country, this Almanac was as important to surviving, always in the south, as the Bible and pictures on the walls as FDR. Goggle that.

Beyond the fishing, planting, frost and weather tables appearing each year, the fun reads this year may be some of the paid ads. Some Ohio outfit has a full page on vinegar... 1,001 new vinegar home health secrets. Sample about food poisoning: "Some doctors suggest that regular vinegar use can prevent it!" Exclamation point their's. And then, an advertisement of the times, a full page for a vacuum device for ED male problems, no blue pills mentioned. But the food stories are many and varied. A full page on parsnips; the good side for dandelions, "the most hated weed."

Such simple food facts may be known to all, but reminders are interesting when it comes to this old Almanac... page titled Corn Is King tells us Italy likes its tomatoes red and hot, Hungary is for peppers, France likes potatoes... and in North America corn is king.

My well for new food-related information was updated with this oldie made current: Leeches are still legal. In 2003 the Food and Drug Administration classified leeches as live medical devices. Mr. Almanac quotes USA Today as saying leeches are at work today in many hospitals and doctors' offices. With that we depart this package of information still printed with ink on pulp. Of all the 96 books hereon, the Farmers Almanac is the one that has an extended life use... read a page, put it down for the night, pick it up again in the a.m. Morning newspapers are for coffee. Keep the Almanac in the bathroom.


Bonus 138:
Joys of Jello
by General Foods Kitchens
General Foods Corporation
© 1962

Review Pending

Bonus 139:
Dainty Desserts, Salads, Candies
Charles B. Knox
Charles B. Knox Gelatine Company, Inc.
© 1927

Review Pending


Water water ???

... is this a problem for a congested part of the world? ...the Jukskei River in a Johannesburg slum, South Africa ...

Photo: Doral Chenoweth III

The Ripple Effect
The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century
by Alex Prud'homme
© 2011

Water water no more...

The world's most pressing problem for this century is not wars created by religious conficts. America and most of Europe have some control over disease. Food for the human race is reaching a concerned stage, mostly the logistics of getting it to remote or war-ravaged nations. The major problem that is known but getting almost no attention -- water, the depletion thereof.

Investigative journalist Alex Prud'homme documents this worldwide issue, citing poisoned wells, flooding rivers, failed levees, drought and wars. Read that sentence again and it sounds like something off the front pages of today's major newspapers.

Why is this book included in a syllabus relating to cookbooks and food histories? As a writer-to-be relating to serious food and survival issues, best to consider a concern involving every living element - the human race, every living plant and every living animal. While not stated in any of the 95 previous suggestions in this stack, ask yourself about the single most important ingredient for life, and, for that matter, cooking.


The author takes us around a world in peril. It is a grim picture.

NOTE: This is the one topic in this collection that merits a periodic posting. It is a daily changing bad news story. Upkeep alerts, hypers from newspaper headlines keep the Prud'homme story alive. For starters, click into this alert:

Star Bonus 10:
The Big Thirst:
The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water (Paperback)
by Charles Fishman
Free Press
© 2011

Amazon's description best explains this fascinating journey of
all water that is so vital to everything living and surviving on the
planet as we know it today: "The water coming out of your kitchen
tap is four billion years old and might well have been sipped by a
Tyrannosaurus rex."

Fishman is a three-time winner of the Gerald Loeb Award for
business journalism. Entry into this syllabus is for both clarity of
writing and the brutal clarity of message. In my classroom days
The Big Thirst would have been assigned reading. The book
is not for anyone with a short attention span. D.P.C.

Star Bonus 11:
Silent Spring 1st Edition
by Rachel Carson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
© 1962

Rachel Louise Carson (1907-1964) an American marine biologist who was born on a Pennsylvania farm and spent her childhood years exploring the plant and animal life on the 65 family acres. Even in childhood she wrote stories. At age 11 she had her first story published. In her bio she is described as an environmentalist specializing in nature writing. Her early books centered on the oceans, described as "from the shores to the depths. "

Carson's bell ringer was to be Silent Spring, the 1962 edition the first of scores to follow. She became a fame name with the American public and the educated population. Not the case with America's chemical companies. Beyond the message of Silent Spring, the stylized writing of Carson is to be studied. When reading her text, always remember she was composing from detailed and exacting research notes. Briefly put, Carson was meant to be a full bore writer... never one on a newsroom deadline typewriter.

Noodle This...
In parting...
Always get two sources...

The Jukskei River as it flows today...

Photo: Doral Chenoweth III

How Wikipedia shows the Jukskei River, Today...


... Consider your sources, this is a tourist pitch for the picture above...


Fresh Fabricant: The New York Times Dining Section

Cookbooks are forever — However...

  • Where do you go for daily doses of food / restaurant news?
  • Other than Wednesday's issue of the New York Times' Dining section, our choices are:

The Florence Fabricant Food Studies

In the New York Times' Wednesday Dining is a starting point for all serious foodies. She is one of the most experienced food writers in the nation and her name is on a full dozen cookbooks. The Times wisely gives her a full broadsheet page some weeks, titled "Front Burner." Most weeks it's filled with six-to-eight news bits, each with a teaser to get attention — to sip, to serve, to sear, to go, to fill — and possibly everyone's favorite: to savor. Florence's column at times includes her "Off The Menu" collection of bar changes, openings and re-openings, and what's taking place in the restaurant scene. She has the city covered.

The second reason you should read Fabricant is one of her best books: The New York Restaurant Cookbook. The Great Potato Book is another great work, which you should buy and keep. When that one hit the stalls in 2000, a reviewer wrote "for the spud there is life beyond fries ... even the pictures are edible." Want one? Amazon has a ton, for pennies plus postage.

Now for the star name reasons for directing all writers...not just foodies to the huge Times food history loaded with writers. Praise to the past, James Beard and Craig Claiborne. The name that added luster to those black ink pages in the 1980s was Mimi Sheraton. She was the point person in the 80s when restaurant reviewers gathered to discuss trends and needed a contemporary example.

This decade's Dining galaxy includes Mark Bittman, also in the Times' Sunday magazine, Frank Bruni, since moved to the Op-Ed pages, Pete Wells, and Julia Moskin, best-known as the nation's leading ghost writer for star chefs seeking fame by writing their own cookbooks. She cleans up lots of scribbles and installs something called good grammar. What a concept?

Unlike other major dailies, including The Wall Street Journal, the Times builds star writers. Food writing/reviewing readers relate to ink names. They are familiar with Eric Asimov for his Wines Of The Times. The Times keys a name to a repetitious factor: Melissa Clark to A Good Appetite; David Tanis to City Kitchen; Ligaya Mishan to Hungry City. In the Times format, familiarity breeds readership. The triple plus for The Times, editors believe in long form writing. And reporting. Best of all, reviewing with opinions.

The Seattle Times

Visit writer, reviewer, cookbook collector Nancy Leson. She covers her city like a stew pot cover.

The San Francisco Chronicle

As long as Michael Bauer is the most clicked-upon food expert and reviewer, thus bypassing management efforts to dilute food content into something called Lifestyles.

The Wall Street Journal

Under Rupert Murdock's ownership, The WSJ has become a major source for food and wine content — no longer known for lack of images keyed to stories. One big minus is failure to retain roving restaurant reviewer Raymond Sokolov after his brilliant work collected a huge following among educators. As this is written...the paper does not review eateries.

The Washington Post

This paper is presently in a state of recovery. Once, it was ranked among national leaders with Phyllis Richman who for three decades as restaurant reviewer and critic held the paper's star status. With home cooking making a slow return, Post food writers are smaller in number from the glory 1980s to ownership with big bucks will add punch.

Food Arts

This is all a student writer needs when it comes to periodical magazine slicks. If you missed the 11 o'clock news, Gourmet is not with us anymore.

New Orleans Times-Picayune

All such food references with this list, New Orleans must be noted. However, the famed New Orleans Times-Picayune under chain ownership of confused Advance Publications stockholders, is no longer a prime source for the city's acclaimed cuisine. Meanwhile, search out The New Orleans MENU, in which veteran food authority Tom Fitzmorris covers NOLA's 1,393 restaurants. The Times-Pic needs a dose of Warren Buffett.

Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report

It's the one true travel newsletter. Search for it under the pseudonym of Andrew Harper, who travels incognito and pays all full rate expenses.

The "Weak Sister" Collection

These publications are still "weak sisters" when it comes to food content:

  • Parade Magazine: Most content appears to be rewrites of news.
  • USA Today: Food content is written to fill space.

Unfortunately, TIME Magazine never replaced Josh Ozersky, and is no longer viable for food content.

Sine die...fade out...
Google This...

Teaser: Assuming you have plowed through all 96 serious approaches to writing about food, starting with that great lexicographer Noah Webster, a closet atheist, revolutionary and Yale grad, Pause. Breathe deeply. What else does a striving writer-reporter-critic need? Humor. Quiet. A jounce (*) of Black Label Jack, well water ice cubes, an easy chair away from a downed Internet connection and this book, circa 1970.

Food content in all the nuances, 96,001 count in this detailed compilation, is needed for an interesting career. All ages delight in reading about food. Real writers read other food writers. Gothic novelists write for age brackets befitting their content. Airport paperback writers have only seven sex scenes and then they are flacid. Crime writers churn out pulp as long as they have a list of nom de plumes. Once one tires of calorie counts, condiment measurements with bibliographies of the ancients, gather in the humorous garden of Marina and John Bear. They fit the bill for that wise old eat-for-pay wag who opined that the two most important things for humankind are sex and food. In his case he was too old for one and just wrote about the other.

(*) Jounce, Bootleggerese for a jigger and an ounce, yet to appear cookbook measurements.

This is a wrap for my food reporting syllabus. A closing suggestion: John Bear should permit a new printing of what I tell my about 96,001 temping recipes for leftover okra...and the Bear version of an index.
--- Doral Chenoweth.
Peaceful Thoughts.
Praise Goggle.
Class Dismissed.