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Introduction to Journalistic Writing: Writing About Food

ENGL 157.301
Tuesday 1:30-4:30pm

Some of the worst writing in the world is passed off as "food writing." And some of the finest, most moving, most joyful prose, as well. This course aims to push the needle -- your needle -- closer to the latter. We'll move smartly through various forms -- profiles (of guest chefs, farmers, turnips), reviews (of the likes of Han Dynasty, local tacquerias, Penn's food trucks), columns (on why avocados once cost less in Canada than Philadelphia, how the Amish may be killing blue crabs in the Chesapeake, the downsides of eating local). Finally, we'll tackle a longer piece that will serve as a final exam. The possibilities are as endless as the cornfields of Iowa (or the snack shelves at Acme). But in the end, the object is to write engagingly, be the subject feast or famine. To write with meaning. That means learning to report well, live and in person. To test conventional wisdom and to dish up what you have to say fresh and tasty. That's not an easy job. We'll look to Dickens for guidance, and the masters, M.F.K. Fisher, Joseph Mitchell, A. J. Liebling, Upton Sinclair and, maybe, Swift and Malthus. And newer voices -- Gopnik, Pollan, Trillin, Reichl, Bittman, Kurlansky. There will be field trips. There will be discussions of how immigration and war and technology (the stove! GMOs!) and transportation have shaped what's on our plate; or short-changed whole populations. Talking about this is a piece of cake. Writing about it -- and in a way that grabs, and holds the reader (of a website, newspaper, magazine, pitch for a best-selling book) -- is a different matter. It is what this course is all about. And, yes, there will be light refreshments!

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