Beyond the Book:
In An Economist Gets Lunch, Tyler Cowen frequently references writers who have shaped the way people think about the culinary arts. These writers are not chefs, but critics who look at the role food plays in modern society. The field has grown so popular that there are actually specialist courses teaching the art of food writing. Understanding a little bit about the following food critics can enhance a reader's experience of eating, dining, and food criticism in general:
- MFK Fisher: Born in Michigan in 1908, Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher explored France's culinary traditions in Dijon from 1928 through 1932. She then moved to California and over the following decades continued to work, write, teach and travel, exploring the culinary worlds of Vevey (Switzerland) and Provence (France). She wrote over two dozen books and was the founder of the Napa Valley Wine Library. Her prose is known for bringing a descriptive, sensual quality to the practice of food writing. Before her death, she gave Les Dames d'Escoffier, an international organization of women in the food industry, permission to use her name for a prestigious annual award that recognizes excellence in culinary writing.
- Mark Bittman:
Like Britain's Nigella Lawson, Mark Bittman is a prolific food writer who proudly proclaims that he is not a chef and has no formal training in culinary traditions. "None of which," he says, "has gotten in the way of my mission to get people cooking simply, comfortably, and well." He's been an "avid home cook" since 1968 and a professional food writer since 1980. His dedication to furthering our common understanding of food and how to grow it, handle it, and cook it is far from amateur. His How To Cook cookbooks and columns in the New York Times have educated a generation on how to make simple, tasty food.
- Marion Nestle: One of the leaders in the academic field of food studies, nutrition, and public health, Marion Nestle (whose last name is pronounced like the verb "to nestle," not like the Swiss food company) writes about the issues surrounding food politics, food safety, and also food for animals and pets. Recently, Michael Pollan acknowledged Nestle as the second most powerful "foodie" in America (after Michelle Obama). She writes the very popular blog, http://www.foodpolitics.com.
- Craig Claiborne:
Generally acknowledged as having invented the modern starred restaurant review, Craig Claiborne's career in food journalism began in the 1960s in New York. Betty Fussell, a noted food writer herself, describes Craig Claiborne as "more accessible than Julia Child and more objective than James Beard." His dining experiences are the stuff of legends: in 1975, he and French chef Pierre Franey ran up a $4,000 tab at Chez Denis on a 31-course Parisian dinner. (Incidentally, he won the meal at a charity auction and American Express picked up the tab). According to Saveur Magazine, "His unflagging candor earned him credibility and armed him with the power to make or break the careers of countless chefs and restaurateurs." (For more information on Craig Claiborne, check out The Man Who Changed The Way We Eat by Thomas McNamee
This article was originally published in May 2012, and has been updated for the
February 2013 paperback release.
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