Practicing Gastronomy with Karen Solomon

by Whitney Johndro

Always keep trying. Only you and your soul will know the line between
persistence and annoyance, and I say never give up.

Words like these were among the many helpful hints given to the students of the Gastronomy program by well-known food writer Karen Solomon, who produced the cookbooks Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It. During the Practicing Gastronomy lecture series, Solomon shared the ins and outs of her trade. She was both honest and helpful in sharing the real truth about food writing, and explained the importance of both time and patience that is needed to develop and establish one’s position in the world of food writing.  Among the many tips Solomon shared, she emphasized getting an agent as well as taking and being grateful for unpaid positions and the opportunities they may lead to in the future. Additionally, she recommended finding a few people you trust to use as a sounding board for your ideas.

Karen emphasized the importance of networking and community, explaining the idea that we should create the destiny and path we wish to fulfill by knowing as many people as we can within the discipline, and by attending and partaking in all events relevant to food. Through her bubbly recollection, she shared with us the nostalgia of her first experience with homemade salad dressing at her husband’s parent’s home twenty years ago that lead to the inspiration of her creating and crafting her own food items. Karen firmly believes in the art of producing one’s own foodstuffs, from complicated to simple recipes that take away from the ruling of big corporations.  These creations include items ranging from marshmallows, fruit leathers, and cornflakes to sausages, mayonnaise, and miso.

While she described the trials and tribulations of a freelance writer with a love for food, it was easy to see that passion and dedication are both equally important for success as a writer in the modern age. Her accomplishments are seen in her two books mentioned above, as well as her many articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Magazine that focus on artisan crafts, trends in the food world, and food politics. Karen Solomon’s talk was very inspirational for all aspiring food artists and writers in and out of the Gastronomy program.

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