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foodoir

noun [countable]

a written description of someone's experiences which includes recipes or focuses on food

'Done well, memoirs about love and food go together like steak and martinis. Meals are a perfect application for the "show, don't tell" directive, from proposal soufflé to break-up pastina. These foodoirs have become a successful subset, one part chick lit mixed with one part chicken lit.'

New York Times 3rd December 2009

In January 2010 prolific actor Meryl Streep won a Golden Globe award for her role in the film Julie and Julia. The film is in part based on a bestselling book of the same name, in which author Julie Powell chronicles her attempts to execute each and every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a landmark cookbook written in 1961 by American TV chef Julia Child. Against a backdrop of the trials and tribulations of everyday life, the book follows Julie's triumphs and disasters as she grapples with the complexities of recipes such as Homard à l'Américaine (lobster simmered with wine, tomatoes, garlic and herbs) and Bifteck Sauté Bercy (pan-broiled steak with shallot and white-wine sauce). Julie and Julia, with its blend of autobiographical information and gastronomic commentary, is a high-profile example of what is now being referred to as a foodoir.

the publishing industry have also capitalised on the money-making potential of the foodoir as a synthesis of two enduringly successful book categories: autobiography and cookery

A foodoir is an account of someone's personal experiences characterised by a strong emphasis on food, either through the inclusion of recipes or using food as a mechanism for expression. Among the first examples were the works of American food writer Ruth Reichl, restaurant critic for the New York Times. In books such as Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table (1999), Reichl describes the fascinating characters who shaped her world and her tastes, punctuating her musings with recipes which could then bring the flavour of her stories directly to reader's plates. Over in Britain, among the more notable examples of a foodoir is the autobiography of food writer and TV chef Nigel Slater. In Toast: The story of a boy's hunger (2003), Slater gives a poignant description of his early childhood, using family meals and food traditions as evocative images of childhood memories. Each of his brief anecdotes are headed by subtitles such as 'sherry trifle' or 'Christmas cake'.

The recent popularity of the foodoir has in part been galvanised by blogging, which seems to act as a natural platform for the format, allowing writers to weave their personal lives into the cooking process and lay the whole thing out on screen. The publishing industry have also capitalised on the money-making potential of the foodoir as a synthesis of two enduringly successful book categories: autobiography and cookery.

Background – foodoir

Foodoir is a blend of food and memoir (= an account of someone's personal experiences, usually written by the person themselves). Memoir dates back to the 15th century, deriving from French mémoire meaning 'memory'. It bucks the conventional trend for blends in that one of the components is an obvious borrowing or loanword.

Foodoir follows other recent neologisms in the domain of literary genres, including chick/lad lit (novels written for or about young women/men) and fan fiction or fanfic (stories featuring characters from a particular series of books which are written by fans rather than the original author).

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 24th February 2010.

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