On a very exciting application I just turned in I was asked the following question: Which food writers to you admire and why?
If you can’t tell from that it’s for a position I would absolutely ADORE. Also, my contract ended yesterday at 5pm and I have yet to be called up to HR to sign the next one so I’m technically unemployed and feel absolutely not guilty at all whatsoever about the fact that I haven’t opened a single work document or email since I got in early at 8am. And by now, Foodie Nation, you should know me well enough to know I wasn’t going to write some fluff piece on my much I love… well whoever it is I love. I’m not telling! But you know I would want this job like no other that I have applied for yet and that means I’m going to go as far out towards the deep end as I see fit (which wasn’t quite as serious as the Marianas Trench, I know how to be professional). If I get a job like this my life would be like this poster: Awesome!
Here’s my response:
I admire honest food writers who come across as genuine people. This includes a lot of bloggers but it also includes those who have “moved up” (for example “White on Rice Couple” and “Joy the Baker”). But selecting a group from the numerous blogs, sites, and publications that I browse and subscribe to would be a rather herculean task. So instead I’ll recognize a group of food writers that are often overlooked: Translators of Chinese take-out menus.
Unlike what I consider to be one of my ultimate gastrogasming spots in the world (the noodle dish dan dan mien at A & J restaurant, Rockville, MD), Chinese take-out joints that are strewn far and wide across American are incredibly un-Chinese. And yet there is a formula to their menus that we all recognize and sometimes (even to our own shame) we crave. The photos are awful and the places are small and I’m still confused as to why “r” and “l” are consistently switched when I know both sounds exist in both Mandarin and Cantonese (my own grandmother still can’t get it right after all these years).
I admire that somehow the writers and “translators” of these menus have managed to appeal to something that has become a part of American culture and make us want their food even though we know it’s bad for us and that it isn’t even “authentic”. It’s almost a comfort food for many people that live in urban areas that don’t have time to cook and I know for a fact that the entire IT department across the campus where I work has Beijing Delight programmed into their phones.
There’s nothing fancy but there is still something that appeals to us. Knowing that we get free egg rolls with an order of more that $12.99 (even though they’re really bad egg rolls) makes us want to order that extra side of “flied lice” and do group orders and to us it makes sense. That’s the essence of good food writing. Making you want to get out there and be active about in-taking food rather than just taking vitamin supplements and eating Army-type rations.
I don’t know who these people are who came up with the “standard” Chinese Take-Out Menu but I would really like to meet them because they did what I think almost any promotional food writer has ever tried to do and it’s amazing.