Meet writer Roxanne Corbin

Roxanne Corbin
Roxanne Corbin (photo provided)

Roxanne Corbin is a freelance writer and senior editor at Try Backyard Farming.

Inspired by books, Roxanne began writing short stories in her late teens. At one point, she realized that she enjoyed writing just about anything and anywhere--in her volunteer ministry, to friends and family, or in desperation when she couldn’t get to the library or bookstore for something new.

"In my career as an accidental librarian, I found it necessary to write user manuals and instructional emails for staff, Roxanne says. "Based on my informative, but entertaining emails, I was invited to work on the company newsletter."

When she joined another company in 2000, she composed internal newsletters on topics such as clinical healthcare and wellness. "After discussing with the medical directors the content of the clinical newsletter, I began including value-add statements, explaining how the company’s tools could be used to address the customer’s needs," Roxanne says. "Never knowing when to stop, I drafted an article synopsis on a deliverable and was shocked when the associate medical director sent it on to the client without making any changes to it."

The project was turned over to Roxanne and she was tasked with creating intranet pages on the chronic diseases followed by the company, covering definitions, treatments, current literature, and related talks/presentations by the company’s physician executives.

When Roxanne received severance from that corporation and began job hunting, she marketed herself as a writer. "It was the most comparable position to the position I’d created in my corporate life," she says. "Although I like to promote my researcher skills, the writing aspect – creating reports, presentations, articles/blogs – is what had to be put forward."

Roxanne responded to a Craigslist ad for a blog writer; a barter arrangement in which the site owner had regular articles for his site and she was able to hone her writing skills and use the site as part of her portfolio. "Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed an eclectic writing experience, researching and writing about vertical gardens, barbecue, and the impact of endocrine disruptors on chronic diseases," she says.

Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?

I do; one cannot be a good writer without conducting thorough research on a topic. Learning about specific foods – their nutrition profile, traditional use, and growing methods inspires me to try new ways to prepare and preserve them. And, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something in the hand-eye connection that motivates doing what’s being written about.

I’m just in awe of what the earth provides, and recently heard that humans are capable of tasting 100,000 flavors! It’s mind-blowing to consider how many foods, how many combinations of foods, seasonings, and ways to prepare them there must be. As an information-hunting writer, I’m spurred on to find more foods to learn about, prepare, photograph, and taste.

Do you ever grow your own food?

I don’t have the circumstances to grow my own, but find a measure of contentment helping others do so by researching and writing for Try Backyard Farming (TBF), an urban gardening blog. Working with TBF, I tend to focus on what to do with the farm/garden’s harvest. This allows me to have fun playing with new foods or new ways to use familiar ones.

sweet potato
Roxanne shows off sweet potatoes three ways (photo provided by Roxanne).

Do you focus on healthy and/or local food?

Before I was in my teens, my family was introduced to the natural approach to health. I love the concept of food as medicine and avidly research ways to manage my health by what I eat. Over the last 20 years, discovering I had sensitivities to wheat and other foods, was gluten intolerant, and was directed to go on a low-carb diet, has propelled me into the kitchen, experimenting with alternative or grain-free baked goods.

I love to cook, but too often don’t want to eat after cooking; freezer bags are a staple when I go on cooking sprees. As part of my own behavioral modification scheme, I find gathering new recipes helps me to eat, especially if I’m going to write about it later.

Working with TBF, I advocate that food can’t get more local than one’s own backyard or basement. Second best are community gardens, farmers markets, or local produce featured in local grocery stores.

Do you have any kitchen products you love?

I guess I take for granted the Saladmaster cookware my parents bought in 1968. I learned to cook in a healthy way – no water, no/low oil – and have always loved the vibrancy of the foods, because the colors haven’t been boiled away.

Do you have any favorite food writers, chefs, food TV shows, restaurants, food travel destinations, etc.?

I’ve enjoyed the chefs on public television like Martin Yan, Lidia Bastianich, and the folks at America’s Test Kitchen. The Food Network is one of my favorite destinations on streaming channels. I love testing my imagination against the chefs on Chopped and get a kick out of Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

Where do you turn for great food or food inspiration?

I find inspiration in shows like those mentioned, from going to lunch with my friend Quan (her family travels to Montreal every year just to eat!), and from life in general. Before the Coronavirus shutdown, my mom and I had lunch with friends from Korea; it was the first time I ever saw a kimchee refrigerator! From that luncheon came inspiration to create a TBF article which should go up before the year is out.

How/What do you eat/snack when on deadline?

I often forget to eat (breathe, blink…) when I’m focused on work. When I do snack, it’s usually a protein bar/cookie (store-bought or homemade), nuts, a cup of tea, or a homemade protein smoothie.

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