Pleasures of the Table and the Typewriter: Infusing Your Food Writing with Flavor

As copywriters, we’re constantly inspired by our senses—the noises on the street, the sparkle of city lights at night, the feel of soft cashmere. But the sweetest sense we work with is food writing—allowing us to hold a morsel of chocolate in our mouth before the words to describe it appear. Smooth. Rich. Buttery. Delicate

But when approaching food writing, it takes more than a few delightful words to inspire your reader. You need to make their mouth water.

As Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the eighteenth century French epicure who wrote The Pleasures of the Table, declared, “The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star.” Introducing someone to a new flavor, a new technique, or a new specialty leaves a lasting memory—so here are five copywriting tips to make sure that impression is a positive one.

Make your food writing transport the reader

Like travel writing, food writing is an incredibly intimate artform, allowing your reader to escape. They can imagine the taste of a briny oyster fresh from the Arcachon Bay, or the crisp white wine from Bordeaux that goes with it. With the right words, cooking transcends the plate and flavors come to life with stories, memories, and temptation. 

Especially in a time when traveling is limited, food—and food writing—allows people to travel all over the world in a single bite (take this Sichuan Chili Crisp or this seafood restaurant’s site copy, for example). It’s the cheapest plane ticket you’ll ever find. 

Play on memory 

No matter where your reader grew up, they have an early food memory connecting them to a time, place, person, or emotion. 

These needn’t be as formal as Proust dipping a madeleine into his tea—it could be a father and daughter shaping donuts together over the stove, the checkered tablecloths of an Italian restaurant after a funeral, or the rush of warm caramel wafting up from a bag of popcorn on the boardwalk. 

Food memories connect the reader to where they’re from and who they used to be—and perhaps who they’re searching for. Nostalgia is a powerful identity tool, one that is becoming more prevalent in kitchens and on menus (it’s almost the entire brand strategy behind Milk Bar). 

Right now—especially after months of isolation—everyone wants to be comforted, and sometimes all it takes is a reminder of lost time or lost rituals to make that happen.

Address vulnerability from the start

Cooking and dining are not level playing fields. In fact, they can often be unnecessarily snobby. While your reader may not have the same food background, training, or even zest for food that you do, no reader wants to be talked down to. However, most readers do want to learn something new, and read something that makes an unknown dish feel accessible if not coveted. 

Because food is so commonplace, food writing is your opportunity to stretch your legs a bit, and maybe have a bit of fun. A lighthearted approach levels the playing field just a pinch and makes you and your brand more relatable

Spice up your food writing vocabulary

The sensory nature of food writing invites a host of new vocabulary, and even turns meanings of more common words on their heads (think infuse, zest, and lush). There is incredible value in introducing lesser-used, food-specific words to make your reader pause and think about the meaning behind it, letting the ideas really sink in.

But not all food writing needs to be embellished with mouth-watering adjectives. Humanized, conversational writing is the perfect fit for talking about food, because it allows the reader to take a seat at the table, and just listen in. It’s your chance to pull them into your story. 

Spark temptation

Perhaps the most important takeaway for memorable food writing is to spark temptation in your reader. If your story resonates with—and tempts—them, they will be more likely to seek out your product, try your recipe, or visit your restaurant the next time they’re in town. 

Try not to crave birria tacos after reading this Eater piece, imagine doing anything other than quitting your job to be a cheesemonger after visiting this website, or maybe you just can’t take your mind off of those fresh, briny oysters I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I know I can’t. 

Is your culinary copy in need of a refresh? Whether you are looking for new packaging copy, a revamped website, or a digital cookbook, MarketSmiths has a team of hungry writers ready for you. Contact us today.

Anne Elder

Anne Elder

Anne moved to New York after spending several years living in—and writing about—France. She is an avid bookworm and freelance baker with an affinity for underused words (like "ombibulous").

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