A month or so ago, we wrote a response to Paul Levy’s Slate piece in which he decried what he called the “macho food writing movement.” In that post, we mentioned that we suspect that the reason that there aren’t so many women writing like Anthony Bourdian is that there simply aren’t that many major female food writers. Recently, we’ve been pondering that last point. Are there really so few women writing importantly about food and if so, why aren’t there more?
For our purposes here, we’re defining a major food writer as a living person (sorry MFK Fisher) who has written at least one well-hyped book about food. We’re not including cookbooks (which unfortunately eliminates Claudia Roden, one of our food heroes) or simple restaurant guides (which leaves out Jane Stern). We asked the MenuPages City Editors as well as a friend who works in cookbook publishing and here’s who we came up with: Gael Greene, Julie Powell, Ruth Reichl, Mimi Sheraton, Amanda Hesser, Molly O’Neill, and, preemptively, Phoebe Damrosch, Kathleen Flinn and Judith Jones, all of whom recently released their first books. The simple fact of the matter is that isn’t a whole lot of names and none of those women, with the possible exception of Ruth Reichl, have name recognition or, for that matter, sales numbers, on a par with Anthony Bourdain or Bill Buford.
So why are there so few major female food writers? Honestly, we don’t really know. Levy would undoubtedly say that the current trend toward bravado-filled food writing isn’t female friendly, but we don’t think that’s true. Speaking personally, we certainly have no trouble reading or writing profanity-filled exegeses of meals and neither do writers like Julie Powell. We wonder if a parallel can be found in the situation of high-level female chefs. Is it possible that women are considered authorities on cooking (there have always been many female cookbook writers) but not eating? It certainly seems possible.
What about you? Do you think there are any major female food writers we missed? Why do you think there are so few? Comments, as always, are appreciated.
[Photo: MFK Fisher]