I write too!Oddly enough I have spent the last three years writing a food column for a small Alabama newspaper. I am an Alabama native and have spent the last ten years or so moving about the state with my husband’s jobs. I’m from Mobile and have been through Auburn, Daphne, Fairhope and Demopolis (where I write my column).
Last month we moved back to Fairhope and my publisher in Demopolis asked me to continue writing for her paper (The Black Belt Gazette, a weekly paper with a web site [don’t ask me the web address, I don’t know] where you can find my article) even though I no longer live in Demopolis.
Since you posted this in a professional catering category I assume you cater, or are looking here to get some good ideas for recipes and stuff to write about or both.
Sounds like there are some similarities between the “culinary attitudes” of my audience and yours. So I offer up some advice since my experience is so similar to yours.
From a professional stand point, if you are a cater: writing for the local paper can help your business. You will be considered THE local expert on cooking and hiring you for a catering job will add to the prestige of the event. This does mean that all of your recipes must be right and all of your imparted wisdom must be on the money, i.e. do your research and if you run a recipe that you have not tested let your audience know just in case it doesn’t work out. At the same time don’t give out your “secret” recipes that are your signature dishes. And boy will they ask for them.
As for naming the column, I don’t have a “name” but I usually try to have each column have a snappy title.
You’d be surprised at how many home cooks in rural Alabama are quite talented yet, generally your audience will be accustomed to cooking and eating what I call “vittles.” I found that those who are use to “vittles” as well as the more talented readers appreciate the “posh” factor if you handle it right. They love humor, make fun (lovingly) of the “Marthas” of the world and let them know that (with your help) they can be just as posh as anyone on those high-falutin’ TV shows. But, obviously, don’t talk down to them.
I don’t always run a recipe, sometimes I just impart general kitchen knowledge and I even have covered table settings, entertaining tips and local events from the food perspective. My articles run from no less than 800 words to a cap of 1500 words.
The reason why my column is well loved is I use my family and friends as fodder. I make it personal. Southern audiences love that. I have five children ranging in age from 13 years to 17 months (and four steps older than me and 9 step grandchildren) who are the stuff of legends.
I recently ran a column about how in the middle of packing up and moving with the approaching July 4th Holiday the 3 year old got into the teenager’s depilatory cream and is now sporting a bald spot in the middle of his head. The recipe I ran was for a 4th themed dessert that even with 5 kids (bald spot and all) and moving would be simple, tasty and special.
My columns are not always funny. When my goddaughter was diagnosed with anorexia I wrote about how she and her mother fought (and thankfully have now won) that battle. In that article I discussed nutrition and eating right. The recipe was for an omelet that was high in nutritional content.
Another good topic is proper kitchen tools. From stand mixers to disposable pastry bags the general public doesn’t always know what works and what doesn’t. Some people still don’t know that parchment paper is as indispensable for baking as plastic wrap is for food storage.
You get the idea.
The biggest piece of advice that I can give is: find your basic food philosophy and promote that with your own special twist and find a way to get your audience to get on your bandwagon.
Oh yeah, get a better head shot than I have. Other wise you too will get the "I thought you were a lot older, that picture isn't very good." when you meet your readers in person.