Writing, Food, & Pleasure with Saveur Editor, Gabriella Gershenson
For most people who write about food, the love for doing so goes beyond the desire to bring to light what’s good.
For most people who write about food, and in my opinion, the best food writers, are those who write about food from a place that is so personal and so intimately real that at times their hands shiver at the keyboard as they try to find the words, or their mouth salivates as they remember the experience, and sometimes, their eyes even get a little teary from the memories that a dish evokes.
Sometimes, it feels something like this:
Those few who can bring a dish to life not only in the kitchen but in words, in a way that can trigger emotions of joy, curiosity, and nostalgia are my favorite food writers of all.
I have consistently found an abundance of all of these feelings when I look through the glossy pages of Saveur Magazine. I stack them up at home, a display of culinary literacy that has taken me on journeys across the world with its images and stories of every day people who understand the importance of food for community, heart and soul.
Whether it be touring kitchens in Sicily , Mexico, Tokyo or Puerto Rico, I am often left with a hungry sense of wanderlust.
It takes a team of people who understand and believe to their core how impactful a great food story can be. I recently made my way to the Saveur headquarters in New York City to find out more about how these stories come to life each month.
I met with Gabriella Gershenson, Senior Editor at Saveur Magazine, who explained the main considerations for their features.
Ms. Gershenson explains, “There are components that we are looking for: a story, an authentic connection to the food, home-cooking – which is a really big emphasis when we are not writing about restaurants.”
And yet, even when restaurants are featured in the magazine they are done in a way that gives the reader a real sense of the person wearing the apron.
“If you look at our stories,” added Ms. Gershenson, “most of the time there’s a really big emphasis with just being in the kitchen with the person, seeing what it is that they would be eating on a day-to-day basis. We’re seeing how they celebrate the big events in their lives.”
For Ms. Gershenson this understanding came early. Her mother, Anna Gershenson, runs the gourmet catering business under the same name and Ms. Gershenson recounted the memories of spending time in the kitchen with her mother and sister, and how peaceful just watching her mother cook was for her.
Even after years of working as a food editor, Ms. Gershenson remains non-jaded and in love with the opportunity to translate the food memories and tales through her work and that of the many great food writers she previews and edits. She remains in awe of the fact that many of those writers are ones that she has long admired and respects, such as Jane and Michael Stern and Alexander Lobrano. To Ms. Gershenson, like many of the people in the Saveur team, the career of food storytelling is more of a dream come true than a job. “It’s a real privilege to be able to contemplate food for your ‘job’, it’s like a piece of cake,” she says. “I have these moments that I feel are little gifts throughout the day.'”
But beyond her editorial responsibilities, she has also been able to contribute her own very personal stories in travel and food. One of her most memorable experiences on the job was a trip she took to Latvia as her first contributor’s assignment for Saveur. Because her parents immigrated from there and had not had a chance to go back since, bringing them with her and witnessing their delight added to the emotions of the piece which was featured along with beautiful photography of family and food. (You can read the full article at Riga Revisited: A Latvian Homecoming)
When it comes to the business of food, one can not rely on passion and feelings alone. However, when these are what guides the farmer, the distributor, the chef, the writer, the photographer, the publisher and everyone in between, it is almost a guarantee that what will be delivered will be nothing less than beautiful.
My hope is that the time never comes when I won’t be able to run my fingers through the pages and pages of images and stories I have so grown to love and have served to inspire many late night activity in my own kitchen in an effort to recreate a dish.
There’s a shift in how we think of food, so many of us are becoming more aware, more scared, more worried. So many messages and warnings, restrictions and limitations enforced. And with this shift people are going back to their first memories of food, when food was simple and good.
For me, those memories are filled of walks to the beach with friends, picking off guava fruit from trees and eating them till we couldn’t anymore. Or watching my abuela roll out dough for the pastelitos – a treat we only had during the holidays – marking the kitchen as an exciting place to be during the season. Or a bowl of sancocho that helped to tell a sick friend that I care. Or passing down of my culture to my bi-cultural family.
And when we lack in inspiration or ability to recall, we can count on the incredible food writers, like the ones I read in Saveur, to help us remember and guide us along.
Because good food is happiness, and happiness is life.
As Ms. Gershenson states, “When it comes to food, it’s all about pleasure. There’s more to it of course, but at the end of the day, there’s a huge element that has to do with pleasuring people.”
Making people happy. I can’t think of a better purpose to have in life.
For more food inspiration online (or to sign up for a print subscription) check out Saveur.com. You can read more from Gabriella Gershenson at her blog GabiWrites.com, and catch her as a judge on the Food Network’s 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. You can also follow her on Twitter at @GabiWrites