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Food Writers and Their Fans Mingle at The Mount

Rural Intelligence Parties and OpeningsEminent food writers, editors and about a hundred of their ardent readers gathered in the Stable at The Mount in Lenox on Saturday, October 3rd, for a panel discussion on food writing in the digital age. Everyone agreed that food is part of the national conversation as never before, as evidenced by cookbook sales (up 4% last year), increased attention in the press to agricultural practice and policy, the number and popularity of websites devoted to restaurant news and home cooking, and, of course, the Food Network, with its roster of celebrity, cookbook-writing chefs.  No danger of that disappearing. What is in peril are newspapers and magazines, trusted authorities with sufficient budgets to support in-depth reporting and good writing.

So, is there more good writing about food or just more writing about it?, asked the panel’s moderator, The New York Times Magazine editor and writer Christine Muhlke.  Julia Child’s former editor, the cookbook author Judith Jones, replied, “More writing.”  In response, Eater.com editor Amanda Kludt bemoaned her inability, due to workload, to take the time to write really well.  But Oliver Strand, a freelance writer who does the “$25 and Under” restaurant reviews for The Times, pointed out that, unlike the carefully-written pieces he does for the print edition of the paper, his blog on the Times website ignites lots of healthy dialogue. “Readers and chefs are talking back,” he says.  “They rebut and refute.”  The Times Kim Severson, who covers agriculture and the locavore movement, spoke of the difficulty she has switching off her reporter’s remove and revealing her own personality when she blogs.  Once she gets the hang of it, it will be a great day for the rest of us, judging from her lively contributions to the debate.

So what are the lingering strengths of print?  Amanda Hesser, who just left The Times to start her own web enterprise, Food52, offered, “You get paid.”



The New York TimesKim Severson, Ann Herbst, Berkshire Food Journal‘s Caroline Alexander, and freelance food writer Judith Lerner


Eating From the Ground Up blogger Alana Chernila, Mitchell Smilowitz, and Audrey Sussman; Food52.com‘s Amanda Hesser and Kathy Chrisman.


Rural Intelligence Cultural Correspondant Bess Hochstein, The Mount Board Chairman Gordon Travers, and Amy Cotler, author of The Locavore Way;  Berkshire Grown board chair Julie Michaels and executive director Barbara Zheutlin


Madeline Despres-Chen and Stephanie Iverson; author Tad Friend (aka Mr. Latte) and Peter Herbst


Pablo Douzoglou and Eater.com editor Amanda Kludt; Peter Turner, Julie Bourbeau and Diane Bourbeau

Rural Intelligence Parties and Openings
Maria Nation, Roberto Flores, Anne Fredericks, and Marc Fasteau

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 10/07/09 at 04:10 AM • Permalink