In my last post, I talked about Ruth Reichl’s fiction-writing process. However, fiction only makes up a tiny portion of her career; for most of it, she wrote nonfiction pieces about food. As a restaurant reviewer, she did something that I haven’t seen any other food writers talk about: she tested the authenticity of foreign food.
In an interview with Creative Nonfiction, Reichl says, “When I was writing about Korean food, I’d never been to Korea—and I’ve still never been—but I found Korean people to go to restaurants with me so I could find out what the rules of that food were and translate that for an audience.” She often met people who were familiar with the cuisine and could testify about what was authentic and what wasn’t. In the same interview, she says she went to Thailand to learn about what the food in Thai restaurants should taste like.
I think this dedication to her work, and especially her commitment to research into her topic, is part of what sets Reichl apart from other food writers. Journalism is mostly reporting with a little bit of writing and Reichl’s dedication to her reporting is part of what earned her 6 James Beard Awards and the recognition she gets today.