Want to be a food writer – go on a course and practice hard
This food writing workshop weekend revived my writing skills and food passions. Turn the clock back to September 2016 thanks to All Hallows Farmhouse in Dorset. Two days expertly taught by Karen, packed with a chance to practice a range of writing styles. We also had the added bonus of the most beautiful food. Karen is the editor of Delicious Magazine, the market leader in the foodie magazine market.
As we arrived, Lisa Osman greeted us. She is the owner of All Hallows farmhouse and cookery school and also a talented cook and writer. Lisa had prepared a splendid supper, which set the tone for creative and stylish food throughout the weekend.
Karen Barnes was there on the first evening. Her warm and friendly personality made us feel at ease over supper and full of anticipation for the next two days challenges learning from her expertise and writing.
Keen to start learning and writing
As we settled down in the bright and spacious workroom and introduced ourselves, we realized that we were there for a multitude of reasons. Three of the more experienced food writers and bloggers attending to gain specialist tips were expert food blogger Eb, food stylist and photographer Maria who had come all the way from Norway to participate and John, a part-time writer and then promoter of West Dorset food. A television producer and keen foodie, a delicatessen owner, a cake orientated blogger, a student gourmet blogger and I made up the rest of the students.
So as the sun shone outside we focused on the day ahead. We were looking forward to finding out the different techniques and secrets of good food writing. We anticipated seeing a food demonstration from Lisa and writing it up, doing some personal food pieces and finding out our passions and strengths.
Karen started with a quote from Ruth Reichel ” your truth can be useful to people ” which validated the need for writers to write.
How to be an effective food writer
She reminded us that it was important to become a food writer for your own enjoyment and to work out what you believed. We looked at a variety of samples of food writers, tried to identify them and work out what it was that we liked and made their writing effective. Then we moved on to writing our own short biographical pieces that we read out and had feedback on.
Next Lisa demonstrated how to make mascarpone and we wrote this up in a strict word and time limit.
Lisa then rewarded us with lunch featuring her softly rolled Parmesan souffle filled with mascarpone and garnished with chive flowers.
The sample piece that I wrote follows:
Soft creamy curds of mascarpone are speedily simple to create with a little pre-planning. We discovered how to do this on a food-writing course in All Hallows farmhouse kitchen, with the autumn sunlight filtering through the apple trees.
The correct type of cream is important; it needs to be double cream with sufficient butterfat to separate out so use any good quality supermarket cream. Tartaric acid is the only other ingredient needed, derived from grape and banana skins – that is why they taste so bitter. Winemaking suppliers sell it, or buy online, but do not substitute with cream of tartar, as this will not work properly.
Find a saucepan without rivets or a double boiler, wash with cold then hot soapy water finally rinsing with hot water thoroughly sterilizing the pan. Organise a digital or clean cooking thermometer and a new muslin cloth, J- cloth, or a clean tea towel folded in four lining a colander or sieve over a bowl.
In the saucepan, heat the cream gently to 85°C without separating, and then use ¼ teaspoon or a two-fingered pinch of tartaric acid to spit the cream. Take off the heat and stir with a clean spatula. The curds start to separate so pour into the cloth and let it drip and cool. The creamy, soft mascarpone stores in a clean bowl in the fridge for up to three days.
Use as the basis for a mushroom, butternut squash and pine nut risotto, or for a seductive dessert.
Writing a PR piece
Next, we saw chai tea made as a demonstration with an enthusiastic description of the history and characteristics of the spices by Ross from Dorset Herbals. He is a local producer and one-time biochemist. After this, we wrote up the demonstration as an article or a PR piece which we read out and had analyzed.
A break then followed to look round the gardens and I discovered the walled kitchen garden where I found the chickens. We then had time to do some more writing before a supper of clove-studded baked ham seasoned with a wide-ranging chat about food.
Then the next day more work on recipe writing, food blogging, pitching to magazines and finding our writing and blogging voice followed plus a multitude of amazing tips.
An intense but superb weekend and well worth it.
Update: Thanks to my start with Karen and learning from other expert food writers I am now a regularly published writer. I now write a monthly food history feature for Cambridge Edition Magazine and a bi-weekly feature for The Lady – Tales from the Kitchen. I am also a member of the Guild of Food Writers.