Are you new here? Welcome. And if you haven’t come over in a while, then welcome back.
Our renovated site will LAUNCH VERY SOON. To be included in the launch festivities, sign in above right.
Yes, there have been some changes made. The Rambling Epicure has shifted its focus from featuring food writers to forming a community for food writers. You’ll still find the calibre of writing we’ve been identified with since 2009, but, if you write as well as read about food, then you’ll find more here than ever before.
Starting in the summer of 2014, we — Jonell Galloway and Elatia Harris — envisioned a resource-rich hub, unlike any other site on the Internet, for food writers at all levels. Where inspiration was in ample free supply. Where fast, palatable units of education and topnotch services to writers were custom designed and delivered at truly attractive prices. Where virtual and actual events for writers, including one free event every month, opened the door to connections and opportunities.
Want to publish on our platform, or enter our competition for beginning food writers? We’ll showcase you beautifully. Want to teach here? Tell us what you’d bring to the table. And if you need to go deeper, as we have done, into the changing world of ebooks, then come with us on the ride.
The first of a series of articles for an upcoming book on writing about food
Pretend for a moment that this is you.
Over lunch, you and a friend discuss an important event. “I’ll have to go shopping,” you tell her. “My only outfit that’s perfect for the occasion has been seen too many times.” Your friend’s eyes sparkle as she replies, “Be sure to find something that expresses your personality and taste, and that sends the right vibe at a glance.” She’s kidding, of course – she knows that’s the only kind of shopping you ever do.
Is branding yourself as a writer this easy? Let’s anatomize the process.
Everyone is unerring about something — the can’t-fail baked pasta dish, the elevator pitch that always lands a meeting, the only words in the world that will comfort a desolate child. If you look closely at areas of your life where high competence and pure instinct lead you again and again to distinctiveness and success, then you will come face to face with your personal brand – nothing more or less than the way other people know you to be in the world, the keynote behavior they have come to expect of you.
Your personal brand does not deny the breadth or depth of your individuality. Rather, it introduces you to others in a way you can control – until you decide when and how to let them know you even better.
Good branding as a writer leads to your being enough of a known quantity that editors and publishers think of you when they have a certain type of assignment to hand out, and to your being counted on by a readership to deliver a certain kind of experience it craves. Your sense of your brand increases your writing efficiency, too, by making it faster and easier for you to know the difference between projects that are right for you and projects that are merely interesting to you. The difference between being appreciated as a versatile writer and being dismissed as “all over the map” is often a matter of branding, and this is a crucial consideration when you first set out to create a coherent body of work.
It’s never too soon to establish your brand as a writer. Here are 7 high-yield prompts to tighten your focus on branding, even before you begin to organize your writing life or choose the topic of your first piece.
Would you rather tell a story, or convey information in a non-narrative way?
Are you writing from expertise or as a generalist who can do the research?
Do you write for a specific readership, and know exactly what you offer it?
Which of these word counts is the most “you” – up to 750, 1000 to 1500, or 1500+?
Is your voice intimate and conversational, or do you favor a professional distance?
What’s unusual or even unique about you that will come through in your writing?
Once readers begin to know you a bit, which three words should come to their minds when they see your name?
Remember, a brand is not a label. Rather, it’s powerful knowledge that you have about yourself as a writer, and that you want others to recognize you by. They shouldn’t have to hunt for a label to do that. And the best thing about branding yourself as a writer is that it prevents others from labeling you first.
Expanding Your Brand
The time will come when you want to expand your brand. Life will deliver you a compelling new interest that becomes intrinsic to the writer you are. Or, after some time, your readers will know you well enough to welcome what they don’t necessarily expect from you, as you selectively introduce it to them. Journalists who know the secrets of telling a great story may turn to fiction, for instance, without losing readers. Food writers may move to another country, where food culture is different from what their readers usually seek information about, yet this new focus is an addition to their portfolio, not a departure from it. The key to expanding your brand is to do it mindfully and not all at once – just as you might include one unfamiliar dish, not five, in a party menu that already works beautifully.
If you are a writer shifting your focus to food and travel writing, but that’s not how people think of you yet, well – first, congratulations on already having readers who think of you a certain way. The chances are that you have written about food and travel before, even if tangentially, so this change is not coming out of left field. To be true to themselves, many artists and writers have had to redefine their mission, and do a lot of letting go in order to move faster in their new direction. This is risky and it takes courage, because a readership is a priceless asset, and no writer wants it to melt away.
Unlike brand expansion, rebranding is official business that a writer needs to take charge of unambiguously, if not with fanfare. You might start with the story of an experience you found irresistible, that led you straight to a new commitment as a writer. You are the same, only different – can you share the excitement about that? You have new vistas for your readers – you want nothing more than to pull back the curtain. If you suspect or know that your readers are not – particularly — gastronomes, then start with the story of how you came to develop this interest, one they can follow with pleasure even if they are not yet there. Readers may not care as much as you do about food, but they may be led to care tremendously about the cultures and the communities that food writing can open to them.
Owing to your new subject matter, you are hardly a different person as a writer – you are a writer whom readers already know, throwing open a new window onto the world for them. Aim, if you are rebranding, for the kind of continuity that underlies all shifts in subject matter – the continuity found in voice, tone and in the mission to connect.
To sum up –
If you are consistent over time, then you already have a personal brand that is very real to others. Do you know what it is?
Your brand as a writer enables readers to choose to read you, and editors to choose you for assignments. Now – what is it?
A sure sense of your brand will save you time as a writer by quickly steering you away from subjects that are “not you.” Now — can you see that body of work that is you in sharper focus yet?
Developing a strong brand as a writer will make it harder for others to either label you themselves or draw a blank when they see your name. Is there an image management problem for you to solve here?
Tread carefully and strategically when you expand your brand, or rebrand. If this is what’s next for you, have you crafted a plan?
This stage set at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza truly makes the viewer feel they can walk into the set.
Andrea Palladio built this theatre, the first indoor theatre in masonry, between 1580 and 1585, when it was inaugurated. The interior is decorated with elaborate wood, stucco and plaster, and the building is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It is open for visits, and theatre and musical productions are still held there.
Spices and Corruption: Spices were so expensive that they could be given as gifts. Custom was to give them to judges during trials as thanks…or to corrupt them. In the 14th century, the term “spices” designated a mandatory tax which was added to the subtotal of a bill.–Le Viandier, credited to Guillaume Tirel, alias Taillevent
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
3-DAY TASTE AWAKENING COURSE 19-21 JUNE,
DURING CHARTRES SUMMER SOLSTICE MUSIC FESTIVAL
Award-winning wine writer, James Flewellen, and Cordon Bleu-educated chef and food journalist, Jonell Galloway, present wine and food tasting masterclasses in the historic French city of Chartres. Compromised dedicated wine tastings, sumptuous meals made from local ingredients paired with regional Loire Valley wines and a unique, ‘sense-awakening’ taste experience, our food and wine holiday courses will help unlock your taste buds and introduce the richness of aromas, flavours and textures present in food and wine. A music festival, with live music in the streets, restaurants, theatres, churches and bars, is held to celebrate the Summer Solstice. If you’re interested in signing up, please click here.
Can minor masters be too cruel? Let’s take a look at that.
For even apparent cruelty, in painting, can be far less, far greater, and far different than it appears. A recent conversation about the small differences between gluttony and gourmandise made me want to find out if painting itself offered some answers.
Boris Kustodiev, The Merchants’ Wife, 1898
The Glutton, by Ludwig Knaus, 1897
Boris Kustodiev was a Russian artist and set designer who died in the 1920s. He confessed to being dedicated to expressing cheerfulness and love of life in his painting. His childhood was one of terrible hardship. His widowed mother rented tiny quarters for the family in a rich merchant’s home. Ever after, he would figure forth the bounty of that way of life, that he amply observed, but could not touch. “It was right under my nose,” he would say. “Like something out of an Ostrovsky play.”
The merchant’s wife, above, lacks for nothing, certainly not for the excess flesh that was then a sign of class, wealth and health. Is there satire in his depiction of the merchant’s wife? Sleek as an otter, idle as a carp in a Medici pond, she is surely being sent up by the artist, we might think. But click the image to enlarge it, and look at her face. She appears intelligent and discerning, as if she were truly tasting her tea. She is one of many such women in his body of work, living the good life among radiant colors and exquisite foods. Maxim Gorky had a great fondness for this type of work by Kustodiev, and Ilya Repin, a Tolstoyan figure among Russian painters, was his early mentor. Russians who love his work and know his life story, which ended in years of illness and disability, sense only a mood of radiant optimism in his themes and their treatment.
Ludwig Knaus was one of the best loved, best paid, busiest, and finally, most decorated artists in 19th century Germany. As a portrait artist, he was spoken of in the same breath as Lenbach and Winterhalter. As a genre painter, all Europe knew him through engravings of his rural scenes. He died famous, in 1910. In our own era, he’s a case study of an artist whose message need not be heard.
The glutton, above, has a nicer title in German — Die Naschkatze, or, The Sweet Tooth. The very slender brunette of middle years is caught out enjoying a sweet from a paper cone, and not very decorously. One leg is thrown over the other, her mouth is full, and she’s in a condition of undress. Does the painter mean us to find this charming? The woman is pretty, and she’s enjoying herself, after all. But, we like her better than he does — don’t you think?
In 1878, Knaus participated in an important Paris expo with a painting with an unambiguously anti-Semitic theme, not his first. This is another. It’s in a private collection. I wish I knew whose. Suddenly, in this image of a perhaps hungry woman greedily sneaking sweets, there is cruelty too deep, lasting and harmful for words.
Every Thanksgiving I make a list of the 10 books about food and cooking that made the greatest impact on me that year. My criteria? I have to have bought them, read them through, loved them and cooked from them if they include recipes. Not all do. Food writing is changing — one glance at the list below will show you how much. What about your own Top Ten?
1.) The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber
A visionary book. Can we make this future? Will we?
2.) The Culinary Imagination: From Myth to Modernity, by Sandra M. Gilbert
The subject as considered by one of the great minds of our time. Endlessly rewarding.
3.) The Food History Reader: Primary Sources, by Ken Albala
Magnificent choices. Now everyone can be a student of the dazzling Ken Albala.
4.) Cumin, Camels and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey, by Gary Paul Nabhan
Nobody knows the desert and its potential like professor and farmer Gary Paul Nabhan. An exceptionally moving book.
5.) Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, by Aglaia Kremezi
To simplify, to exalt real flavor, to live lightly on the earth — this is the book.
6.) Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition, by David Sterling
Deep insight into a marvelous, highly local cuisine with unique features.
7.) Heritage, by Sean Brock
A chef of passionate dedication works to preserve the heritage foodways of the American South. Certain people who shall be nameless have given Southern cooking a bad name lately. THIS helps!
8.) The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, by Dan Jurafsky
Hilarious and erudite. If you don’t really know if you like language better than food, or vice versa, read this. Zero conflict.
9.) Porta Palazzo: The Anthropology of an Italian Market, by Rachel Black (paperback edition 2014)
The largest open market in Europe holds up the mirror to Italian society.
10) Simple French Food, by Richard Olney (40th Anniversary Edition)
Were you trying, as a teenager, to master the art of French cooking? Then of course you went to Julia, but you might have gone to Richard, too. Matchless instruction, such beautiful prose that you can read it aloud for pleasure, and recipes that cannot disappoint.