Class Report

Spice Up Your Writing Using Culinary History

Teacher: Claudia Kousoulas, writer and food historian (above). Find her at Appetite for Books and @appetitefrbooks.
Documentarian: Holly J. Morris
Location: Washington Post Express conference room
Date: Jan. 14, 2014

Take-home message: “We all eat. It’s a universal notion: We all have this thing that we share, but everybody does it differently. Find your unique thing, couple it with the universal, and then you have the basis of a good story,” Claudia says.

A few examples of what we learned:

The first known restaurant guide, “L’Almanach des gourmands” by Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de La Reynière, was a product of post-Revolutionary Paris, when fine dining moved from private homes to restaurants.

You can study the historical and cultural roles of food in society at Boston University and depart with a master’s degree in gastronomy.

Church and community cookbooks, originally created to fund Civil War hospitals and veterans, landed the women behind them on church boards, building committees, and in other positions of power. Why? The books made good money.

“Pinguid” means fatty, oily, or greasy.

When describing food or restaurants, try using words not typically applied to such topics. A. A. Gill managed to get “dung,” “froggy,” “proctological,” and “labially” into his Vanity Fair piece on L’Ami Louis — and that’s just in the first four paragraphs.

If your grandmother used Crisco in her pie crust, use Crisco. It won’t be the same otherwise.

There is such a thing as soup dumplings — dumplings with soup inside them! — and you can find them at Bob’s Noodle 66 in Rockville (316 N Washington St.; 301-315-6668).

In the workshop portion of the class, students shared family dishes they remembered fondly from childhood, then pondered how to build personal essays or feature stories around them. Read recipes submitted by students.

Resources, organizations, and further reading:





Holly J. Morris is an editor/writer from Duluth, Ga. She says “y’all” because it is the English language’s best attempt at a plural second-person pronoun, not because she is Southern. KCDC recruited her for this reason and kept her because she’s so amazing at spreadsheets. She runs on Cheerwine.