The 2015 #FoodWhore Awards

Confession: when I first thought of possible cover designs, I was inspired by Instagram. You know, all those flat lays of beautiful fruit, on a pristine white background. I pictured something super tactile, a little messy, vibrant, exotic but relatable. 

Did I think people would take that cover and create their own Instagrams, often with food? Maybe? I didn't really think about it, in the way a restaurant might create a dish that screams Instagram fodder. 

But, now, looking at readers' #FoodWhore Instagrams is one of the best surprises and rewards of publishing a book. There are so many great ones, but here are some that made me heart-eye emoji like mad. 

Best Food Pornographers

Oozey, gooey, sticky bites that hit on all our pleasure points. Food whore indeed! 

A photo posted by @foooodieee (@foooodieee) on

Best Beach-Envy Shots

Author life: sitting in leggings in Brooklyn. Reader life: lounging on a tropical beach. Hm.

A photo posted by Tracy Memoli (@tracymemoli) on

Best Flat Lays

'Grammers who make true art. 

A photo posted by Ursula (@ursula_uriarte) on

A photo posted by Liz Clayman (@lizclayman) on

Best Way to Start the Day 

Forget checking your email. Start your day with a book. 

A photo posted by A Duncan (@slamduncalot) on

Best Putting the OOO in Food Whore

Like peas and carrots (or foie and Sauternes), donuts are the most common food to be posed with Food Whore. 

A photo posted by #satisfeed (@satisfeed) on

Best Carby Delights

For the savory tooths among us... 

A photo posted by @clairesees on

A photo posted by Tom Nakanishi (@tnaka83) on

Best All-Natural Sugar High 

... And those who go a little lighter. 

A photo posted by Pichet Ong (@pichetong) on

Best Coffee Break 

I liked these a latte.

A photo posted by Krista Soriano (@kristaaa) on

Best Sweet Teeth 

Because the book *did* come out right before Halloween... 

A photo posted by @wmmorrowbks on

Best Nightcap

What's better than eating and reading? Reading then sleeping.

A photo posted by abigail (@abigailfortunee) on

Watch the #FoodWhore Q&A with Leiti Hsu at powerHouse Arena

Aagh, what an incredible, incredible night!! Thank you so much to everyone who came out. I loved seeing old friends and meeting new ones. My heart is filled with so much appreciation and love. 

For those of you who couldn't make it (or those who could and want to relive the moment), here's the entire Q&A with my friend, Leiti Hsu, host of Word of Mouth on Heritage Radio Network, plus some audience questions. I love this sort of format (as opposed to a reading) because I get to have a little fun with the crowd. 

I'll have some more stills and behind-the-scenes stuff coming soon!

I know it's pretty long, so here's a rough outline if you wanna skip and jump: 

- lowest point of writing
- how the restaurant Daniel helped me get my novel published
- how I reacted when the title FOOD WHORE was proposed to me
- how the distinctive cover art came about
- my take on the state of the restaurant review
- would I want to be the New York Times restaurant critic
- how similar am I to Tia Monroe
- how I came up with the idea of FOOD WHORE
- my background in restaurants and how I was able to get the vibe right
- have I ever dated a chef
- what the original title was
- love lessons I learned as the community director of an online dating site
- (bonus) the story of my engagement
- my writing process
- my biggest takeaways from my 3-year study under Amy Bloom
- the spectrum of insider to outsider -- where do I stand on that?

photo by  @j.k0ng

photo by @j.k0ng

Food Whore in 90 seconds

Back in July, I made my way to the HarperCollins mothership to do this video. Take a look and excuse this goofy still. Or, watch and find out why I'm making this praying motion. 

And now... Nine unnecessary questions about this ninety-second interview. 

1) Did you get the questions in advance? 
Yes, but only the day before. 

2) Did you wear red to match the color scheme of your website and social channels?
Sigh ... yes. 

3) What are you wearing?
Rozae Nichols capelet (from her original line, not Clover Canyon); Theory tank; ASOS skirt, Prada peeptoes

4) Were you nervous? 
A tiny bit, in the beginning. But members of the team were there so it was more like a conversation. It was hot under the lights though. 

5) What is with your hair? 
It's in a braid on the left side, but something about the lighting and the darkness of my hair makes it hard to tell. 

6) Are you from California?
No, but I guess I talk that way a little. 

7) Your hand gestures are so sharp. Do you normally talk like that? 
Yes. When I'm in the groove, keep fragile things away from me!  

8) Do you have an elevator pitch for your book? 
Yes and no. I have a general template, but I try to change it every time. Don't want it to be too mechanical or rote. 

9) When does the book come out again? 
October 27th! 

Index-Carding Your Way to a Finished Book

There are many strains of the dreaded Writer's Block, but typically it comes down to: what do I write next? 

Now, some writers will want to "feel out" the direction -- and I do that, too! For a couple pages or so. But after a certain point, you might feel silly or delusional -- like running on a treadmill and telling yourself you're actually getting to your destination.

I'm all for letting your characters guide you (rather than having the story guide them like pieces on a chessboard). I'm all for creating original, surprising structures. And I'm all for writing exercises and playing around the character, dialogue, pacing, whatever.

But I'm also for clear planning. Setting goals. Not wasting time. 

So I'm a huge fan of outlining. Here's a little vid that explains my index card love in some more detail...

Restaurant Critics 101: Ruth Reichl

Last week, we covered Frank Bruni, the New York Times restaurant critic from 2004 - 2009. Today, we’ll cover Ruth Reichl, the Times’ critic from 1993-1999.

Reichl has written many memoirs about her life in food, but her book Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise focuses squarely on her time as a reviewer. Here are some insider tidbits, many of which found their way in my book somehow:

  1. As a woman who used to dumpster-dive in Berkeley, Ruth made it a point to represent all types of people (rich, poor, beautiful, plain), and all types of restaurants (ethnic places that veered from the white tablecloth French, Italian, and Continental cuisine of the day).

  2. While Frank Bruni shied away from disguises because they made him look and feel silly, Ruth plunged into them, with wigs, makeup, wardrobe, manicures and entire personalities and backstories. Her first disguise was Molly, a Midwestern woman who wore an old but well-preserved Armani suit. Her mother’s friend Claudia, an acting coach, put it this way: “If you are intent on deception, you must go all the way; the restaurant critic of the New York Times can not afford to look foolish.”

  3. One of Ruth’s most famous reviews originally had two parts: one, a 4-star review when dining with her boss and his aristocratic wife, and another 1-star review when she dined as Molly. The Le Cirque review was eventually unified into one article with a 3-star rating. Ruth wavered between 2 and 3, but as her editor said, “It doesn’t really matter. The only thing that people will care about is that you’re taking the fourth star away.”

  4. Restaurants offer a bounty (~$500) to anyone who spots the New York Times critic.

  5. Though New York Times dining critics are anonymous, they wield immense power and social clout -- though is it for a limited time? You are, in a sense, a king or queen of New York.  Celebrities and visiting dignitaries call for restaurant recommendations. But once you leave the post, the offers fall off. As Carol Shaw, Ruth’s friend and the secretary of the Living desk said, “You’re just a byline. Take a good look. The minute you give up the job, you become a nobody.” (Note: Likely not really the case. Look at Ruth herself, Frank Bruni, Sam Sifton… Mimi Sheraton! -- all with vibrant, dynamic careers -- and they can show their faces now.)

  6. Ruth bought her designer disguises at various consignment stores, including Michael’s Resale, a shop on the UWS that only accepts garments that are less than two years old (unless it’s Chanel, Pucci or Hermès).

  7. Though clothes started as a way to dine unnoticed, Reichl began to see how clothes could transform how you look at the world -- and how the world sees you.

  8. Ruth often tussled with the idea of being a food critic. At one time, she was a cook and healthy-eating advocate, someone who always got the worst table and paid in cash because she didn’t have a credit card. At the New York Times was she just telling rich people where to eat and feel coddled? But in a column titled, “Why I Disapprove of What I Do”, she says:

Going out to eat used to be like going to the opera; today, it is more like going to the movies.
And so everyone has become a critic. I couldn't be happier. The more people pay attention to what and how they eat, the more attuned they become to their own senses and the world around them.

Ruth wrote that almost ten years ago… and those statements are truer than ever.