For the first 10 years of Carolyn Roark’s career, she was an academic, teaching analysis, theory, and composition to theatre students.
After 2008, she says that she reinvented herself as an independent writer and editor. She's now known as The Writing Texan. “Like everybody else, I wrote a lot of web copy, SEO content, and listicles, before settling into my natural literary habitat in ghostwriting and developmental editing,” Carolyn says. “Now I help people write books, and still do a little travel and food writing, because that’s what a bon vivant does to keep the cocktails flowing.”
Do you ever travel for food?
Sometimes I plan trips specifically to sample something I’ve read about, but more often I try to create opportunities for culinary discovery once I get to a destination.
I can remember once, while studying in Guanajuato for a summer, my student group traveled into Mexico City. Everyone else made a beeline for the Pizza Hut. I was baffled.
Why on earth would you waste that opportunity? Why go for corporate fast food when you could explore, discover, and expand your palate?
Food is culture. Food is history. Food is hospitality. Why would you refuse those gifts?
Do you focus on healthy food or grow your own food?
All of the trend diets and nutrition influencer BS comes down to one simple truth: humans are healthier when our eating habits center on fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains, with a little animal protein mixed in.
Fortunately, those things are also delicious, and a delight to cook with. When you commit to that approach, I think it naturally leads you toward local providers, home preservation, and DIY growing.
Growing up, my family had a kitchen garden, so I’ve always found a way to keep herbs and vegetables in the yard—bliss is a home-grown tomato (just ask Guy Clark). I can’t wait to add a backyard chicken coop and maybe a beehive to the mix…but that’ll have to wait until we find a proper house.
I also recognize that, in this cultural moment, buying local and fresh, or growing your own, are hallmarks of privilege. Too many people live in food deserts, where the only affordable option is heavily processed food. Not only does it impact our health and longevity, it takes all the joy out of eating!
Anyone who loves food ought to be advocating for community gardens, small farmers, and freeholders: it’s more just, better for the local economy, and better for ourselves and our neighbors.
Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?
For me, the opposite is true. I want to be able to express the joy I find in a well-crafted Aviation cocktail or a perfect Rainier cherry. Good meals, great wine, even a fresh plum off the tree—these are such sensual things. They create deeply physical and emotional sensations. I think that eating and drinking well drives me to be a better writer, so I can capture those experiences.
Do you have any favorite food books/cookbooks or kitchen products you love?
Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything is an invaluable primer; we are on our third copy, and we often give it as a graduation or wedding gift.
I love my Vitamix blender and my countertop citrus juicer so much that I gave them names: Vittorio and Julius Squeezer, respectively.
Do you have any favorite food writers, chefs, food TV shows, restaurants or food travel destinations?
Mark Bittman’s book has been a constant friend and kitchen helper.
I’m grateful to Alton Brown for teaching me that the only unitasker in a kitchen should be the fire extinguisher.
Alex Ainouz, the YouTuber with the “French Guy Cooking” channel, set me on the right path to making sourdough bread.
I want to be like Samin Nosrat when I grow up (if I ever do decide to grow up).
I wish I could combine great talent and great compassion the way José Andrés has.
If I could be invited into anyone’s home kitchen for a meal, I’d like it to be Santa Fe chefs Ahmed Obo or Paulraj Karuppasamy.
If I could teleport, I would go to the Boqueria food market in Barcelona at least once a week.
The Netflix series “Street Food” makes me hungry and weepy all at once.
And LiZiQi’s (李子柒)YouTube channel is mesmerizing.
Where do you turn for great food inspiration?
I think I must subscribe to the e-newsletter for every major food and beverage magazine in the English language. I really like “Gastro Obscura,” published by Atlas Obscura.
Did you like meeting Carolyn? We profile three writers per week, so visit often. If you're a writer who loves food, email firstname.lastname@example.org.