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The 7 deadly sins of food writing

If there were a Hippocratic Oath for food writers, you’d swear to stay away from these forbidden fruits

Tempting, but not what the doctor advised? Don’t commit sin #3 then.
Tempting, but not what the doctor advised? Don’t commit sin #3 then.

No food writer is immune from making mistakes.

They should if they want to learn and improve their skills.

But when it comes to these 7, it’s better to avoid them at all costs.

Here they are in no particular order.

Being unauthentic

People love to read your food takes because they get to learn about your unique gastronomical opinions.

So, if that crowd-favourite dal isn’t up to your taste, don’t rave about it.

By all means, appreciate the effort that goes into the cooking.

But at the end of the day, your job is to provide a factual, authentic report of your food experiences. Else, that seriously hampers your credibility.

Being authentic and genuine also means you stick to providing balanced, truthful reviews of your friends’ restaurants as well. Give a disclaimer in your story whenever this is the case, stating the nature of your equation with your pal.

If your meal has been sponsored, include that detail, too.

Remember, honesty is always the best policy, even in this business.

Eating what you’re not

Someone just told you that you can’t write food reviews because you’re vegan, vegetarian, or a teetotaller.

Screw them.

The truth is that there is a rising community of vegan, vegetarian, and teetotaller food writers worldwide.

What’s more—there is a need for vegetarian and vegan food critics, especially to do justice to plant-based offerings and restaurants without launching into the whole “I ate a meatless lunch and survived” mode.

No matter what your food lifestyle is, eat whatever you’ve been eating, stretching your limits on occasion to trying new things within your dietary restrictions.

But don’t venture into a culinary territory that doesn’t make you feel comfortable.

And yep, no judgment. (Saying this to the veggie and teetotalling ones, too.)

Deprioritising your health

I know of so many food writers who don’t mind tearing their stomach lining, puking blood, or spiking up their cholesterol levels, just because they feel they can’t properly review a restaurant without trying its rich, spicy “signature dish”.

Please don’t be that person.

If you do end up ill before your food review, stick to the safest possible fare and come up with another angle for your story.

You’ll have plenty more occasions to feast on those cheesy burgers and spice-loaded curries.

But you still have to remember that no review can be more precious than your life and health.

Overusing “tasty,” “delicious,” or “lip-smacking”

The whole idea of food writing is to paint a vivid picture of your culinary experiences in your readers’ minds, using the most visual choice of words possible.

Unfortunately, “tasty” and “delicious,” especially after a point, are not only incapable of creating that lifelike imagery.

Coupled with “lip-smacking,” they are also trite and redundant with overuse.

This one is a sin I am way too guilty of.

Here’s a list of words you (and I) could borrow from.

Check out this post on my favourite food moments in literature—I’ve also included a few lines from my book PiKu & ViRu. (Buy/download, read, and review it here; it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited.)

Biting more than you can chew

You see food writers doing a bunch of other stuff, too—videos, podcasts, writing lavishly paying cookery shows—and you want to jump on the bandwagon.

To this, I just want to say—go at your own pace.

Do whatever you’re comfortable with and have the time and energy for.

Again inserting a fable moral here, but slow and steady indeed wins the race.

An early burnout is the last thing you’d want when you haven’t even properly started out yet.

Burning holes in your pocket

You may not have freebies coming your way initially for reviews.

But you shouldn’t spend all your life’s savings on restaurant meals either.

Food writing does not always have to involve reviewing restaurant fare, you know.

You could share family recipes, food histories, even logs of your culinary day.

Here’s a list of topics and ideas to choose from. Go wild with these, minus any pocket drain.

Waiting until you bag a food-writing job

I’m not saying that it’s difficult or impossible to bag a food-writing job.

But in case you apply for one, you still need to show a few clips to prove your mettle.

That’s why starting a blog makes a lot of sense.

You could use your social media alone for the cause. But nothing beats a blog when it comes to showcasing your long-form writing skills.

Document your daily home-food experiences for starters, especially if you aren’t comfortable dining out during the pandemic.

A blog can also open up other kinds of food-writing avenues for you—think content-writing gigs, cookbook-compiling assignments, guest posts, and whatnot.

So, go ahead and live as if you already have that food-writing job of your dreams!

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