Food bloggers, take note — this is the writing advice you want to hear
Take a look through Kat Kinsman's writings, food-related or not, and you'll quickly see that when it comes to voice, she's engaging, interesting and makes you want to keep reading. As a writer (her first book, Hi, Anxiety, comes out in 2016) and editor (she's the editor-at-large and former editor-in-chief of Tasting Table), she can offer you expert insight into how to hone your own unique voice.
Whether you're new to the food blogging world or looking to sharpen your writing skills, there's plenty to learn from Kat at #BlogHerFood15, where she's speaking on the panel Capturing Your Own Voice.
Here, she gave us a glimpse of what to expect from her, with advice on writing, blogging, failing and "embracing your inner chumpitude." Plus, you'll learn the really crucial things, like her favorite dessert (spoiler: it's a cocktail), how she pairs kale with cheese grits and biscuits, and the best dinner she's ever eaten. Because when you're a food blogger, those things matter too.
The three most important things you need to do to be a successful food blogger?
- Have a distinct point of view. I always ask writers, "What's the story only you can tell?”
- Stick to your ethical guns.
- Don't worry about trends, cliques, etc. These things are changeable. Good work remains.
The thing you will probably fail at at least once when trying to nail down your voice?
It's easy to get mannered, stilted or cutesy. Happens to everyone, myself very much included. You'll get past it.
The biggest misconception about food writing/blogging?
That it's not work, just free, fancy dinners and exotic jaunts. The reality: It's butt-in-seat-at-desk WORK, and it's distinctly unglamorous, despite how it may look on Instagram.
The best piece of writing advice you've ever received, and from whom?
My friend and former colleague Lissa Townsend Rodgers told me once on the art of the interview, "Embrace your chumpitude." Basically, accept the fact that you (and they) may feel like an idiot, and it'll all go much more smoothly.
Your biggest influences in writing and cooking?
Writing: Each day that I wake up and I am not Francis Lam, Helen Rosner or Pete Wells is a day I have to work harder. Historically, Seymour Britchky, A.J. Liebling, Craig Claiborne and Clementine Paddleford.
Cooking: I use my smoker as often as humanly possible, and so much of that is an homage to Elizabeth Karmel, whose books and eventually in-person example helped me harness my love for live-fire cooking. Also the Lee Bros., Edna Lewis, Marco Canora, Mario Batali and every woman who contributed to every Junior League and church cookbook I have on my shelves.
The piece of food writing you’re most proud of and why?
Weirdly, two different times I wrote about Paula Deen. The first because it gave me an in to talk about mental health (which is a subject I write about frequently, including in my upcoming book), and the second because I had an opportunity to talk about cultural appropriation and shine a light on the cooks who I felt were due some proper acknowledgment. I actually received some threats of violence for it, but that just showed me how much further we all have to come.
Serious questions aside, here's what you really want to know about Kat...
The five most surprising things in your fridge?
- So very, very, very, very many mustards.
- Raw butter (I've got a guy...).
- Smoked turkey bones (I'll use them for stock).
- Vacuum-sealed, cured heritage pork that was given to me by a chef and of which I feel unworthy.
- At least four kinds of cocktail cherries, some of which were smoked and whiskey-soaked by me.
The favorite part of your kitchen?
I actually don't love the layout of my kitchen, but since we are renters, there's not much I can do. There's a weird table bolted into the floor, and we can't move it. I do, however, love that we have a little half-bathroom that we use as a trash room, and in it is a black velvet painting of Karl Rove just hanging out, looking over our vegetable scraps, bones, empty booze bottles and pizza boxes. Whatever a person may think of his politics (and I have many, many thoughts), I hear he's a helluva home cook.
Your current favorite...
- Cocktail: French 75
- Fast food: Popeyes' chicken
- Burger: Dry-aged burger at The Beatrice Inn
- Comfort food: Nachos
- Dessert: More French 75s
The best dinner you’ve ever had?
Alinea. It's an alchemy of food, performance, hospitality and a wonderful sense of being slightly disconcerted. It takes you out of your own reality for a few hours, and you just have to trust and go along with it. It's also the most expensive dinner I've ever had, but seeing as I have thought about it at least once a week for nearly four years, I'll say it's worth it.
The meal you would put together for guests if you had only $25 and access to 7-Eleven?
I would hand each person a 32-ounce cup and encourage them to get creative at the soda fountain, then buy Doritos and various dips with the rest of it. If a person thinks they're above that, their invitation is revoked.
Your stance on…
- Pumpkin spice lattes: As I just tweeted recently, "Other people’s enjoyment of pumpkin spice in no way impedes my life."
- Sriracha: It's great and appropriate on/in plenty of things, but it's not synonymous with "hot sauce" for me. Some things call for Tabasco, Cholula, gochujang or Frank's, and I like to season accordingly.
- Truffle oil: There is so much petroleum-tasting synthetic truffle oil out there that I'd rather have no truffle oil on Earth — even the decent stuff — than encounter that ever again.
- Ramen as a bun, pizza crust, etc.: The Downtown L.A. Ace Hotel has a ramen snack mix that made me feel at peace. If that takes some stunting, I'll deal.
- Cookie butter: I dig a Biscoff on a Delta flight, but I think this would probably send me into sugar shock.
- Nutella: It's never really done it for me. If it makes folks happy, more Nutella to 'em.
- Kale: I threw a dinner party last night and made everyone eat kale salads as a first course as an apology for the cheese grits and biscuits that followed. They cancel each other out, right? And yes, I did massage the kale.
Check back for interviews each week as we lead up to #BlogHerFood15, and head over to BlogHer to get all the information you need. Register here, see the agenda and speakers, and sign up for the newsletter for announcements and opportunities.