Ronald Holden is out with his newest book: Forking Seattle. Subtitled “Tales of Local Food and Drink, from Farm to Table to Landfill,” this book follows up his Home Grown Seattle: 101 True Tales of Local Food & Drink. Both are good reads for anyone who wants to know more about the key players in Seattle’s past and present food worlds.
Tales are what Holden likes to tell, both in his books and as a freelancer for various outlets in the area, including Eater Seattle and Crosscut. He’s one of those “they don’t make them like they used to” reporters, old-school in actually pulling out a pen and writing pad and interviewing his subjects. Holden’s style is unique—quirky and opinionated, provoking thought and conversation. He can also be self-deprecating. That starts up-front on his personal Cornichon blog, where he defines the word as a French pickle (appropriately sour), but also French slang for “a bumbler, sometimes cranky & annoying but basically harmless.”
Forking Seattle is a no-holds-barred look at Seattle’s culinary scene. Holden describes what (or more specifically who) makes us a great food city, from gurus like Jon Rowley to market makers like Victor Steinbrueck to artisans like Maria Coassin to chefs and restaurateurs like Tom Douglas. At the same time, he takes a pitchfork to some interesting targets, like a restaurant review site, a coupon system, and a big-time coffee company. He’s also got thoughts about other food writers in town. (Disclosure: Holden even profiles me in his book; you’ll have to check out whether his words are sweet or sour.)
Rebekah Denn is another local writer I admire, though her coming contribution to the food world takes a different form. Denn is a two-time James Beard Award winner for her writing, and has garnered similar accolades from the Association of Food Journalists. She was a food writer and restaurant reviewer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer starting in 1998, and after a decade of work there, began her freelancing career. Her well-researched and thoughtful writing has a regular home in publications like The Seattle Times and Sunset magazine. She’s also an adept editor, contributing to places like the groundbreaking Modernist Cuisine cookbook.
What I’ve especially appreciated are Denn’s articles relevant to everyday life and social/political consciousness, be it school lunch programs, nutrition, or the importance of language in items like kaffir lime leaves. Such writing is typically accessible, engaging, and important. (Another disclosure: Denn once profiled my desire to rename inauthentic ramen as “wramen.”)
Starting November 19, Denn enlightens us a different way, as she is curating a ten-month exhibit entitled Edible City: A Delicious Journey at the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI). This exhibit will spotlight the cultural influences and natural resources that have shaped our culinary experience in Seattle. Visitors will learn about the ingredients, institutions, and ideas that have influenced how and what we have been eating for the past two centuries. In addition to the exhibit itself, keep an eye on MOHAI’s calendar for other related events.