The New York Times had a great visual piece in its Sunday Review of Books by illustrator Wendy MacNaughton that charted the favorite snacks of many authors. Best-selling writer Mark Kurlansky, author of two of my favorite books — Salt and Cod, likes to write under the influence of espresso, “as black as possible.” Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma likes tea out of a glass with a side of roasted almonds.
It made me think. What do I eat while writing? Do I have such a habit? I looked around at the stacks of food piled in my writing office and realized that when on book deadline, this is what I eat and drink:
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- ak-Mak sesame whole wheat crackers
- Iced coffee with milk
- Ramen in miso soup
It’s a short list, but I mix it up. Sometimes, I put peanut butter and jelly directly on crackers. Sometimes I pair the ak-Mak crackers with cheese and white wine if I am writing in the afternoon. The appeal of PB&Js on deadline is two-fold. One, it’s a comfort food that reminds me of my kid life. Second, it’s easy to make and won’t distract my train of thought to make one at noon or 3 a.m. When I get sick of PB&Js, I eat ramen noodles. But I throw out the flavor pack and settle the noodles into a bowl of steaming miso soup with tofu and seafood.
(At this point, Mike insists that I tell everyone rather than let me subsist on these items, he frequently cooks me dinner when I’m in serious crunch mode.)
I asked a few of my favorite food writers what they eat while writing:
- Amanda Hesser, author of The Essential New York Times Cookbook, co-founder Food 52): “Depends on the time of day, but I’m generally more interested in drinking than eating. (I prefer to eat when I read and drink when I write.) At night I like to sip on something like Lillet on ice with a slice of citrus, or a bourbon. Sometimes with roasted, salted nuts, or good potato chips. Or I will have cookies and milk, like a five-year-old.
- Kim O’Donnell, The Meat Lovers Meatless Cookbook, founder of Canning Across America: “Cereal, often without milk.”
- David Leite, The New Portugese Table, founder of Leite’s Culinaria: “My go-to is cheese. Stinky, stinky cheese.”
- Nicole Aloni, Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen, founder A Conscious Feast: “Always something Mexican”
- Cynthia Nims,Game Night Gourmet, blogs at Mon Appetit: “Coffee and a bowl of bing cherries … and PB&Js!”
- Jaden Hair, founder SteamyKitchen: “I come up with the best ideas when my body is in motion, unfortunately, that sometimes means walking en route to kitchen. Crushed, plain potato chips eaten out of a bag with a massive Chinese soup spoon so that I can eat while walking and my hands stay clean. It’s not pretty.”
- Joe Yonan, food editor at The Washington Post, author of Serve Yourself: “I don’t have one thing I turn to, but, and this might sound a little silly, but I always try to eat something related to what I’m writing about. You know, so i can be in the mood, use the tastes to inspire memory, etc. So I wrote a memory piece about learning to make chicken fried steak while eating… chicken fried steak. Helps make it feel immediate. “
Originally published in 2010. Updated August 2018.