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Today’s food writing trends

May 14: In 2007, the now-defunct Gourmet magazine made mention of Edible Communities magazines on their Good Living page. A victim of the media’s continuous upheaval, the foodie-beloved Gourmet no longer exists. But Edible magazines have remained, growing in number each year in regions across North America.

Six years after its initial launch in 2002 with California-based Edible Ojai, Edible is still launching a minimum of six magazines a year, noted Edible Communities CEO and president Tracey Ryder. Since January, Edible Communities has launched Edible Columbus in Ohio; Edible White Mountains in Elkins, N.H.; Edible Reno-Tahoe in Reno, Nev.; Edible Hudson Valley in Rhinebeck, N.Y.; and Edible South Florida. This June, Edible Wasatch in Utah and Edible Madison in Wisconsin are also slated to debut. In eight years, Edible Communities has launched 65 magazines in regions across the U.S. and Canada.

Ryder partially attributes the publications’ success to its franchise model. “First, our business model is collaborative and allows success for all magazines across the community,” she said in an e-mail. Secondly, “our local publishers – all of whom own and operate their magazines – are incredibly talented and each know their local food communities very well, which allows for the high quality content, story ideas, and connection to the things that are important to their readers.”

When Gourmet, the mother of all food magazines, folded in October, an Associated Press article noted that successful food magazines in the future “will reflect the newer trends in food publishing, driven by personalities and brands.”

Ryder tends to agree with the statement, coming from a group of magazines that covers sustainable, local food sources. “Although I think that future growth in food publishing will be more towards newer AND older trends in food,” she said. “I think we’ll see more about native foods, foodways and food traditions, while at the same time will see more about new ways of home gardening and still a lot more information about local foods.”

The Huffington Post recently reported that at a panel hosted by Culintro on the future of food journalism, panelist Brian Halweil, executive editor of Edible East End, Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan, said that the trend toward food writing reflects the “current revolution in today’s food institutions.”

“In 1940, when Gourmet was founded, ethnic and exotic food, such as couscous, was considered as foreign and aspirational as the pig roasts and 14th-Century Tuscan villas that graced the pages of National Geographic. Today, people want to know how to make their own Texas beef jerky and Iberian chorizo, and also how to slaughter and quarter their humanely-raised and organically-fed cow,” wrote Huffington Post reporter Louise McCready.

Following this trend is Grow Northwest magazine, which debuted this month covering local farm and food products in the Washington State counties of Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan. Other food magazines covering different elements of the industry have launched in the past several months as well, including the California Cheese and Butter Associations’ Say Cheese magazine; Deen Brothers Good Cooking, which targets men; and ChopChop, a publication that provides nutritious recipes for kids.

Diane Jacob, author of “Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Restaurant Reviews, Articles, Memoir Fiction and More,” noted in an e-mail interview that food writing has become more popular. “Americans are obsessed with food and love to read about it, whether restaurant reviews in the local newspapers, a new cookbook, or a blog. The book and movie Julie and Julia showed food-obsessed women how to start blogs as an outlet for self-expression,” she said.

Food writing has become more relevant in multiple mediums, including newspapers, which she noted, no longer confine food articles to just the weekly food section. Instead, food articles are often featured on the front page. Meanwhile, food writing has taken the blogosphere by storm. “Bloggers who broke into food writing and built a following are now sought-after authors.” she said.

The varieties of media formats that now exist have aided in the rise of online restaurant reviews, noted Blog Appetit writer Faith Kramer. These reviews can be found not only in blogs but also on search engine/information sites like Yelp and City Search. “Part of the popularity is the accessibility of both technology (blogs for example) and the topic. Everyone has to eat and more people cook,” she said in an e-mail interview. “A larger percentage of those folks have opinions and are ready to share them.”

The central role food takes in our daily lives makes it a relatively strong niche online, as well as in the dwindling area of print. Add to that the increased interest in cooking shows in the past 10 years and reports of a rise in students attending culinary schools. “There has been a tremendous resurgence of home gardening and cooking and people have also become more aware than ever before that we are facing serious food security issues,” Ryder said. Indeed, concerns over the nutritional value of food are so in fashion that even fast food chains provide healthier alternatives.

Food writing is ultimately a survivor. No matter what the future holds, both the fancy Italian restaurant and little farmers’ market stand will both continue to make the pages of publications or screens of computers, giving readers a taste of what food trends are in the now. Like Kramer said, everyone has to eat.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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