463/563 Specialized Reporting: Writing About Food
Tuesday-Thursday 12-1:50, Allen 137
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The Omnivore's Dilemma by
Other articles are available online (see links in this
online syllabus) and on the class Canvas site.
The course is a broad-based exploration of
writing about food. Good food writing depends on good reporting, and
this class will focus on both reporting and writing.
The possibilities for stories are almost endless. In this region alone,
you can find fascinating trends involving farm-to-table movements,
winegrowing and winemaking, amateur and professional brewing, artisan
production of cheese, meats, and other foods, home gardening, etc. There
are trends, such as community supported agriculture (CSAs), community
gardens and food activism. There are stories about work in the food trades and
industries--profiles of chefs, cooks, innovators and growers.
can look at food from such diverse perspectives as culture, politics,
commerce and science. Food is a business for many and a career for some.
Stories about food range from quick-hit pieces about a new restaurant in
town or a new food entrepreneur to multi-part, long-form series that
examine issues involving food production, consumption and safety.
Several of these have won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism.
For example, Richard Reed of The Oregonian won a Pulitzer in 1999 for a
series called The French
Fry Connection, which looked at the journey of potatoes from fields
in the Northwest to French fries in an Asian McDonald's restaurant as an
example of the interconnected global economy.
To explore some of these areas, I'm planning to bring in visitors
and have Skype interviews with folks involved in different aspects of
food. I'm not seeing this as a class primarily about restaurant
reviewing, though that might be a small part of it. I'm expecting
students to be writing a variety of stories.
In this class you should develop:
- An appreciation for the wide range of stories about food and
practice in the reporting that makes these stories possible.
portfolio of food stories you've written.
- A sense of what
professional opportunities are available in print and online.
I've taught this class several times, but the class is always a work in progress.
Your suggestions about
what aspects of food writing you're interested in will help make the
class a success. Also, if you have ideas about interesting people to
talk with, let me know
Attendance is important. Classes will
be a mix of discussion of readings and issues, including discussions and
interviews with with visitors, and review of stories.
If you are going to miss a class, I need to know in advance. If I
do not find out before the class, it may affect your evaluation grade.
There will be a mix of assignments,
including, most likely, a short profile, a story about ethnic food and cultural connections,
a story about a food trend and a food issue-piece. Most assignments will be short (2-3
pages). The last assignment will be a longer story (4-5 pages).
Grades will primarily be based on stories written. Twenty percent of
the grade is based on class participation and attendance. Class
participation includes being prepared for discussion and taking an
active role in asking questions of visitors. One unexcused absence won't
count against you, but more than one will. Grading will be based on
criteria of publishability, similar to the criteria used in any
reporting or writing course. Examples include accuracy, completeness,
focus, grammar, punctuation, etc.
Some Important Information: Accessibility:
there are aspects of the instruction or design of this course that
result in barriers to your participation, please notify me as soon as
possible. You are also welcome to contact Disability Services in 164
Oregon Hall at (541) 346-1155 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are not a
student with a documented disability through Disability Services, but
you would like for me to know about class issues that will impact your
ability to learn, I encourage you to come visit with me during my office
hours. More information is available at the Accessible Education Center.
Here is a statement from the Dean of Students office on academic
The University Student Conduct Code (available
defines academic misconduct. Students are prohibited from committing or
attempting to commit any act that constitutes academic misconduct. By
way of example, students should not give or receive (or attempt to give
or receive) unauthorized help on assignments without express permission
from the instructor. Students should properly acknowledge and document
all sources of information (e.g. quotations, paraphrases, ideas). If
there is any question about whether an act constitutes academic
misconduct, it is the student's obligation to clarify the question with
the instructor before committing or attempting to commit the act.
Additional information about a common form of academic misconduct,
plagiarism, is available at Additional information about a common
form of academic misconduct, plagiarism, is available on the UO library website.
this class, what this means in practice is that you do your own work,
except for any assignment that I announce may be done by a group. Most,
possibly all, assignments will be done as individual projects. It also
means that you don't use other published work in your stories without
Note the word tentative
Week 1: (Sept. 29, Oct. 1) Camas Davis of the Portland Meat Collective Willamette Week
Q&A on why they teach people how to slaughter animals Duane's World Stumptown
founder opens a restaurant
What the Inuit Can Tell Us About Omega-3 Fates and 'Paleo' Diets
Global Warming From
the Economist 7 ways to plant potatoes From Organic Gardening
A watchful Eye on Farm Families' Health Text and video--Mark Bittman of NYT
The Secret to Food-Writing
Thursday: Food writing as reporting, types of food
stories, food terminology,
Several short food stories--shows some of the range:
NY Times dialect quiz Dialect Survey and Maps
Week 2: (Oct. 6, 8) Profile Interviewing, by Mike Thoele
Thursday: Skype interview with a cook, who also happens to be my daughter.
Cohen--Ninkasi's female brewer From The
Register-Guard Special Publications
Long profile of a prodigy chef From the New York Times Magazine.
Moving to Noma In the Chef's Kitchen (Hard copy--from
a student story)
A couple from Best Food Writing:
"The Cheese Artist," By Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl. p. 119-128.
"His Saving Grace," By Kevin Pang. p. 289-308. Long profile. Very
Assignment due Sunday, Oct. 9. E-mail me the short profile of
the cook we interviewed by Skype. Note, this is a new due date.
Week 3: (Oct. 13, 15) 5 Steps to Transform Meals into Writing
Experiences From Writer's Digest. This might take a while to load,
but it's worth it.
Describing food Too many adjectives, including some that might run
afoul of "Truth in
Menu Labeling Laws" Here's another explanation of
the range of those laws. Our Secret List of Banned Words Serious Eats. Pretty funny
Discuss profiles; Profiling a food, a vegetable, a fruit?
Going to the
From Best Food Writing:
A few short articles on describing food
Six Rules for Dining Out How a
frugal economist finds the perfect lunch. From The Atlantic. Jonathan Gold on reviewer anonymity
from West 12th," by Pete Wells. A not very positive review.
Food and controversy
Pete Wells' scathing
review of Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant
The NYT public editor's
take on the controversy
How One Restaurant Critic Took on the Food Fables We've all Been Fed
Week 4: (Oct. 20, 22) "Meet the Parents," By Eddie Huang, p. 330-334.
Culture Tastes of Home, ethnic foods, holidays
means to people from different cultures and places
Globe," By Francis Lam, p. 308-313.
Other articles: Po Boy--New
A few from R.W. Apple
The Glorious Summer of the
Soft-Shell Crab, p. 9-18.
In Hoagieland, They Accept No
Substitutes, p. 27-34.
The Meat that Made Sheboygan Famous, p.
The Secret Sauce of Worcester, p. 178-182.
Much Too Good for a Bagel, p. 204-208.
From the Vines of
Vesuvius, p. 281-288.
Where the Buffaloes Roam, p. 289-292.
A Trip to the Heart of Dim Sum, p.350-357
Stories mentioned in class:
The college student who turned his dorm into a restaurant
Jeong Kwan, the Philosopher Chef
Edna Lewis and the Black Roots of American Cooking
Assignment--short food review--best if it's a
food or restaurant you're already familiar with. Due Thursday, Oct. 22
at the beginning of class.
Week 5: (Oct. 27, 29) "Tyranny: It's What's for Dinner," by
Corby Kummer from the Atlantic, p. 19-31. "Confronting a
Masterpiece,"by Matt Goulding, p. 74-87.
The restaurant trade Cooking as a career, culinary
Food as a business, the shift to catering and other
Possible field trip to LCC culinary program?
From Best Food Writing:
About gastropubs From Nation's Restaurant News (now
requires registration to read) ) Who's Rocking to the Music? That's the
Chef From The New York Times A
Woman's Place Is Running the Kitchen Burger Queen very long New Yorker profile
of a chef Celebrity
baked Food Reviews? From Journal Sentinel Online
Restaurateur fights back against Yelp
review Bloggers, We Will Bury You From Restaurant Hospitality
(now requires registration to read)
Oct. 27 (Tuesday) In-class
visitors: Several faculty members from different parts of the world
talking about food from home.
Week 6: (Nov. 3, 5) Bourbons in the Cognac League, p. 57-61.
Wine, beer, etc.
A growing option, but not an easy
The science of food production--the chemistry of
beer-making, winemaking and whiskey. Trends: Home brewing and
From R.W. Apple:
A Rugged Drink for a Rugged Land, p. 198-203.
Beer Spills into
History Books--Good story about Oregon hop and brewing history.
Growler Rush By Eugene Weekly
Wine 101 Some basic
information; Some is getting a bit old. From OregonWines.com.
Visitor--Jerry Sass of Sass Winery
Assignment--research an ethnic dish, write about
it--history, what it means to people of that ethnicity, interview at
least one person who has that heritage. Due date Nov. 5 at the beginning
Week 7: (Nov. 10, 12) A race to save the orange by
altering its DNA By Amy Harmon (New York Times)
Food, science and politics, trends
crops--issues of intellectual property and lobbying power, monoculture
and disease resistance, irradiated food, the organic movement
Readings--Pollan--The Omnivore's Dilemma--Part 1
Michael Pollan and Amy Harmon 'Talk It Out' From Columbia Journalism Review
A debate between Pollan and a Missouri
farmer From Iowa Public TV
Beyond the Honeycrisp Apple From The New York Times.
From Best Food Writing:
"The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater," by Erica Strauss,
Week 8: (Nov. 17, 19) "Can You Really
Save the Planet at the Dinner Table?" A critique of The Omnivore's
Dilemma by an economist.
Local sourcing (King Estate restaurant); Artisan trends. Reaction to a
large degree to the criticisms seen in the Pollan book.
farming, raising pork, cheeses, backyard chicken-raising, organic
Reading--Pollan, (Part 2)
Another critique of Pollan focusing on world hunger
Oregon's Food Innovation Legacy
From Portland Monthly
From Best Food Writing: "Slow Cooking, Slow Eating," by
Edward Behr, p. 41-47 (note: missing from file).
"The Meaning of Local," Todd Kliman, p.
9 secrets to finding the best local food About CSAs, from
What Farm-to-Table Got Wrong
An op-ed column in NYT
Huerto de la Familia
Willamette Farm and
Food Coalition Slow Food
Eugene A student profile of Tom Barkin,
former local and regional Slow Food officer.
Week 9: (Nov. 24) The Ultimate Block Party From a Sunset Magazine
Cookbook Sales Flourish ... even though book
publishing overall is down
...Or, maybe not. A story from Britain asks if the death of the cookbook might be approaching
Who Buys Cookbooks and Why From a 2012 study
Cookbooks, food and
Issues with allergies, food intolerances, (gluten, dairy)
Cookbooks--What's in a cookbook?
Reading--Pollan, (Part 3)
R.W. Apple-Stalking the Wild Morel...p 109-17.
Assignment: What's in a cookbook? For class
discussion Nov. 24
Assignment: Trend or issue story, due Nov. 24
No class Nov. 26--Thanksgiving holiday
Week 10: (Dec. 1, 3)
Impact of the web, Yelp and other review sites, etc...
Tuesday, Dec. 1, Skype interview with Lee Dean, food editor of the
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Lee Dean's cookbook website (new site being built--old site not available)Star-Tribune's
The Lefse Instagram Story
The Unveiling of the Restaurant Critic
The United States of
Thanksgiving A Thanksgiving dish for each state
Star-Tribune story about the controversy and the social media
reaction The NYT public editor's
column on the flap
Minnesota Facebook page Another NYT attempt
About Food Writing Out of a Crowded Field, Seven Writers You Should
Know About. By Bill Daley of the Chicago Tribune An April exchange
about making a living in food writing
Maintaining a Long-Term Blog From 101 Cookbooks America's oldest brewer
Direct to consumer
Estate Building community through social media and news
Association of Food Journalists
AFJ statement of
Assignment: A longer
piece--extended profile, issue or trend story, etc., (4-5 pages) due
Tuesday, Dec. 8 by 4 p.m. This story can be an expanded version of one
of the earlier assignments--with more reporting. Note, this is a new due
date--it had been Dec. 4. You can turn it in early if you wish.