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Showing 1-4 of 4 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on January 28, 2012
I bought this book for an assignment in a freelance writing class. I'm not sure what I expected, but this wasn't it. Jacob begins by admonishing her readers that food writing isn't as glorious and romantic as it might seem; it's actually a lot of hard work. This set the tone for what is to follow: a manual for complete novices. This book isn't for people who have taken writing classes and actually are, or are ready to delve into, writing as a trade. A lot of the text is given over to Writing 121 level information: show, don't tell, avoid vague adjectives, use the active voice and so forth. Some of the information, such as a rundown of the most popular platforms for blogging, is ubiquitously available anywhere and doesn't require a reference manual. The "how they got their start" bios of the big names in food writing, are somewhat interesting to read, but not really that useful to new aspirants. Molly O'Neil got lessons directly from MFK Fisher, that's not likely to happen to you.

The section on cookbook writing supposes that a reader may not know what type of cookbook they wish to write and advises that reader to "look through [their] recipe collection." I may be a novitiate to this whole business, but I'm pretty sure that if you don't know what kind of cookbook you would write, you're nowhere near ready to write a cookbook. Ironically, culinary professionals, who would seemingly be the ones with something valuable to add to the annals of instructional cooking literature, are encouraged to "hire a professional" to write their recipes for them. The insinuation being that, while a perfect neophyte might be capable of turning out a good cookbook, professional chefs are largely too daft to the needs of home cooks produce anything of value. As evidence that this is most certainly not the case I would direct readers to the "Au Pied de Cochon" cookbook written entirely by the staff at the eponymous restaurant and written in a style that the home cook may find intimidating but whose recipes are in fact perfectly suitable to the home kitchen. In contrast, many of the cookbooks coming from iconic restaurants today, whose recipes were surely written by professional writers, are entirely inappropriate for home cooking despite clear and simple instructions.

Jacob has, however, clearly done a lot of homework on this book (and she has access to some of the more illustrious names in food writing) and there are some good tips plucked from interviews, experience, and reading. These little gems of advice shine and kept this reader going, but they are too few and far between to recommend the book.
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on October 29, 2010
This is an updated edition of the book that was originally published in 2005; the important new material is about food blogging. There's plenty of information that strikes me as useful, and I've certainly picked up a few tips. Some of the information is about what makes good writing, and if you've taken writing classes, a lot of that will be familiar to you. If you haven't taken writing classes, you'll get a lot out of the suggestions for making your writing clear and inviting. Jacob has chapters about how to write a blog people will want to read, how to write a cookbook (or memoir, novel, or children's book with a food theme) that editors will want to publish, how to work with those editors, and how to break into restaurant reviewing. It's good stuff.

One of Jacob's recurring points is that you must be very careful about making sure your writing is clean. On p. 81: "Check for typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and other faux pas" because these alienate the reader and make you look unreliable. But on p. 23 we see, "Research doesn't necessarily mean spending hours in a dingy library pouring over dusty tomes" (that should be "poring," of course). On p. 154 she writes, "Good reviews are honest, fair, exercise good judgment, and are authoritative and accurate." It's hard to edit your own writing, but a good copyeditor would have fixed that list so it was parallel: "Good reviews are honest and fair, exercise good judgment, and are authoritative and accurate." A few errors like these in a first edition are excusable. Errors like these in a self-published book are expected. There are quite a few errors, though; it's the second time around for this book; and it's a book about writing by a woman who went to journalism school and has made a career as a writer. I expect Jacob and the publisher to be more careful.

I didn't buy this book. I got it from the library to see if I wanted to own it, but I can't justify buying it. Yes, there's some valuable information, but I refuse to encourage the author and publisher by giving them money for a book about writing that has so many avoidable glitches in the writing.
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on October 13, 2015
Good book
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on April 7, 2012
It was difficult writing this review because even though there is some good information, there is so much filler that it is not the food writing book I recommend to my students. I think this is because this book is written like the pop psychology books you can buy at the drugstore or at the airport. You have to read a lot of filler to get to the information like chapters such as "Characteristics of a Food Writer" (it seems obvious to me that it would be anyone interested in food and writing). There is also a lot of irrelevant anecdotes that fill up the book without giving much practical help.

If you have the time to go looking for information among statements such as "Passion is paramount" then there is good information, but my students (I teach culinary arts) want to get published right away so I got a different book for them (if you are interested in this topic the book I recommend is How to Write about Food: How to Become a Published Restaurant Critic, Food Journalist, Cookbook Author, and Food Blogger because the book gets right to the point with solid information, because it was written this year so the contact information for the food magazines and cookbook publishers is up to date, and because the author is a food critic and cookbook author so knows what works in the real world)

It may be a small issue but as a teacher it bothers me that the title is so wrong. Jacob is not writing FOR food (unless she is really paid in gravy and potatoes?), she is writing ABOUT food or for MONEY. Wouldn't a real writer know this?
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