The continuing popularity of books about food and cookery is well demonstrated by the vast range available – just look along the cookery and food shelves in any bookshop or at the long lists available online. Many are collections of recipes by well-known chefs and bakers but there is also another genre which combines memoir writing with recipes or food-related experiences – a foodoir.
In the publishing industry publishers are busy cashing in on the huge marketing potential of these two very successful genres – memoir writing and food writing.
The foodoir was made popular by writers such as US poet, gourmet cook and travel writer Frances Mayes with her book Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy and English food writer and TV chef Nigel Slater with his book Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger.
Frances Mayes combined her experiences of restoring an abandoned Tuscan villa with the seasonal recipes she created in her traditional kitchen using produce from her simple garden while Nigel Slater used his memories of food to tell his story of growing up in suburban England in the 1960s.
In his book The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious- And Perplexing – City, David Lebovitz has created ‘a deliciously funny, offbeat, and irreverent look at the city of lights, cheese, chocolate, and other confections’. The book also includes over 50 savoury and sweet original recipes which ‘will have readers running to the kitchen once they stop laughing’.
Could you write a foodoir?
Even though anyone can write a foodoir, if any of the following describe you, you should seriously consider writing one:
- Are you a budding chef or baker?
- Did you study at a cookery school at home or abroad or have you been on some specialist courses?
- Have you been to other countries to learn about their food and food traditions?
- Have you an interest in or done any research on diets or the origins of specific foods?
- Have you any experience of working in the food industry?
Your foodoir memory list
Just like a memoir, a foodoir focus on a specific period, experience, aspect or event in your life but with the added ingredient of food. If you are not sure if you have a foodoir in you, then start a food memory list by scribbling down some memories of:
- the food you loved or hated as a child
- cooking and eating outdoors or on camping trips
- new or exotic dishes you discovered while travelling
- traditional family dishes served at Christmas, Thanksgiving or other special occasions
- memorable restaurant meals
- holiday food and treats
- special family recipes
- dinner parties with friends
How to start writing a foodoir
Once you have collected some ideas you can start to think about how you want to write or construct your foodoir.
- If you have a collection of recipes which have some special memories or have been been handed down through your family you could create a book which not only includes the recipes but also tells the stories and historical setting behind them.
- Or you could choose a theme for your book such as family holidays, al fresco cooking, school meals, travel, Christmas, special occasions, living in a different country and culture or any other food-related memories.
A foodoir is not just about food
Whatever theme or subject you choose, don’t forget that a fooodoir is not just about food. Your food memories do provide a focus and structure for your book, but a good foodoir is also about people, conflicts, triumphs, relationships and all the other aspects of life which are vital for a good story.
In 2009 Christine Muhlke (writer and executive editor of the US magazine Bon Appétit ) wrote:
“Done well, memoirs about love and food go together like steak and martinis. Meals are the perfect “show, don’t tell” directive, from proposal soufflé to break-up pastina. These foodoirs have become a subset, one part chick lit mixed with one part chicken lit.”