Our Favorite Essays and Stories About Food

Too full to move? Spend some time digesting our best writing on subjects like fast food, cookbooks, and baking competition shows

Photo by Jessica Ruscello

It’s Thanksgiving, and whether you’re visiting relatives you’d rather forget you had or celebrating alone in your apartment for reasons you just don’t want to get into, stop asking, you’re probably taking this opportunity to eat a lot of food. What could take your mind off of your racist uncle, the problematic history of the holiday, and your nascent indigestion? Reading some of the best articles we’ve published about food and cooking, of course. 

For Women, the Sin of Indulgence Is the Worst Sin Imaginable” by Kristen Zory King

This personal essay opens up with a tale as old as, well, the beginning: the one about Eve and the apple. Kristen Zory King delves into her lifelong fascination with this origin story and traces back to the origin of her own eating disorder, along with the conditions that fostered it.  

“I would venture to say that the numbers of reported eating disorders are a low estimate, made up of the lucky few who are able to seek help. How could they not be? We are surrounded by conceptions of womanhood directly perpetuated by this story. It’s on the periphery of comical, overt, obvious. But whether we are a product of our culture or our culture is a product of us, it is clear that the question of the female body, of what to do with female desire, is all-consuming.”

Learning to Cook for One” by Gina Mei

Most of us have, at one point or another, eaten alone before. Gina Mei is a master at it but has a lot to learn when it comes to cooking and generally caring for herself.  Former Top Chef contestant Anita Lo’s cookbook provides much needed wisdom during a tough year.

“In many ways, I’m Solo’s target audience: I eat most of my meals alone, and I can’t afford to eat out for every meal. Unlike Chopped, Top Chef Masters, and Iron Chef America veteran Anita Lo, however, I hate cooking for myself. So, I often don’t. Instead, I stock up on frozen dinners. I make a second meal out of my work lunch. I order containers of spicy pad Thai, or boxes of thin Neapolitan pizza, and stretch them out over the week. I relish asking for a “table for one” — which has somehow always felt less depressing to me than eating alone at my tiny kitchen table.”

American Rarebit” a comic by John Leavitt

When you’re the only child of a working single mother, you’re left home alone a lot. Learning to cook for yourself becomes a necessity and the first thing you make turns into an integral part of who you are, following you to different kitchens or life stages.

“Mom worked during the day and went to school at night. Having me stay home was a big deal. The first thing I was taught was how to cook for myself…”

Osterizer Classic Series 10 Cycle Blender” by Emily Everett

If you want to believe in love again then Emily Everett’s short story is sure to convince any doubters. Told in the form of a product review on Amazon, readers watch on as a decades-spanning marriage unfolds. Who knew you could feel so emotional reading about kitchen appliances?

“But we were still young in our own quiet way: we read poetry aloud in the den, Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery, and sang Beatles covers around an acoustic guitar. Surrounded by friends, everyone swaying into the couch cushions—I always felt so pleased with us in those moments. Later when the house was quiet, arms full of cups and ashtrays, I’d tell my husband what a nice night it had been, and he’d say that every night with me was a nice night.”

This Cookbook from 1942 Is a Textbook for Making a Better World” by Abby Walthausen

There are two things Abby Walthausen is struggling to figure out in this essay: how to effectively use her old gas-guzzling stove and how to “put [herself] in the mindset of a 1942 manual for cooking during wartime.” On her journey to answers, connections between our modern living conditions and the doom of World War 2 come into focus. 

“If I feel awkward and small scraping my restaurant leftovers into an old yogurt container, or planning a meal with tofu when the meat looks so good, that is no new phenomenon. The folks we think of as bleeding heart, crunchy granola types now were once the thrifty church ladies who populate Fisher’s book. But as she reminds us on page after page, the tips she writes about in this book, some extreme, others practical, are mostly gleaned from the pages of cookbooks put out by just such dowdy church groups or ladies’ circles.”

Everything I Know About Writing a Novel I Learned from Watching British People Bake” by Becky Mandelbaum

What do reality television bakers and writers have in common? While crafting her newest novel, Becky Mandelbaum begins taking nightly writing breaks to watch the hit TV show The Great British Bake Off to de-stress. However, she soon begins to see similarities between her struggle to write and that of the bakers.

“At some point it dawned on me why I felt so connected to the show: it is, emotionally and often structurally, exactly like a writing workshop or, more loosely, like the art of writing as a whole. A cookie in place of a poem, a cake in place of a story. All day, the bakers stand at their little islands, feverishly attempting to create something that is both beautiful and tempting, that others might enjoy.”

Baking Shows Are Secretly Reality TV for Frustrated Writers” by Manuel Betancourt

So, we’ve established that baking and writing aren’t so different after all. But how does a pastry chef recreating mass-produced snacks on YouTube fit in? The art of failure, of loving the process, reveals itself to be not only the main tenet of the show but of writing in general. 

“Many of the foods Claire attempts to remake so obviously require mass-manufacturing tools and ingredients that her attempts are all but designed to fail. The writer in me is particularly tickled by such a proposition. Claire’s goal is to replicate an ideal she knows she can only ever approximate. In this pursuit she’s no different than many of us who write for a living, where every sentence can feel like an approximation of the ideal we aspire to but must understand we’ll never accomplish.”

Yelp Reviews of Fast Food Restaurants” by Mary Shyne

A funny comic that has compiled, as you can guess from the title, reviews people leave on Yelp about popular fast food chains. As creative as it is side-splitting, from regular customer complaints to conspiracies on where Taco Bell gets ideas for the menu are sure to entertain. 

“Tacos are still crunchy and tasty. Diet Sierra Mist too is a plus. I do have a theory though that everything Taco Bell makes is made out of the same thing.”


Before you go: Electric Literature is campaigning to reach 1,000 members by 2020, and you can help us meet that goal. Having 1,000 members would allow Electric Literature to always pay writers on time (without worrying about overdrafting our bank accounts), improve benefits for staff members, pay off credit card debt, and stop relying on Amazon affiliate links. Members also get store discounts and year-round submissions. If we are going to survive long-term, we need to think long-term. Please support the future of Electric Literature by joining as a member today!

0

About the Author

More Like This

Please Bless Us, Colonel Sanders

Two poems about food and family by Stine An

Oct 28 - Stine An

There’s Nothing Scarier Than a Hungry Woman

The true horror in horror films is women's unconstrained appetite

Oct 17 - Laura Maw