Elizabeth Tettleton became an avid writer during her sophomore year of college, after an English composition course with a teacher who was focusing on food writing. “As my major was hospitality management, and I was an avid baker and cook from a young age, I was enraptured,” Elizabeth says. “Reading her assignments enthralled me, when before, I had always abhorred reading.”
Elizabeth graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management, and her internship with Oxford, Mississippi’s City Grocery Restaurant Group became a full-time position. “The new event manager and corporate office manager of The Main Event and interim PA to chef John Currence gave me unique access to a wealth of food industry trends, professionals, and events,” Elizabeth says. “John brought me along to hob nob with the likes of Emeril Lagasse, John Besh, Mike Lata, Sean Brock, Aaron Sanchez, Alon Shaya, David Wondrich, Alba Huerta, and so many more.”
Elizabeth says she was fielding correspondences between chef Currence and the James Beard Foundation, Garden and Gun magazine, and mailing Big Bad Breakfast (BBB) onesies and bottles of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve to Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel’s new baby boy. “Morgan Freeman was a regular and friend of John’s, and I’m still a little mad about the time he didn’t take me to eat with John Krasinski,” she says.
“Working for John gave me first-hand experience into the culinary world, and exploited my writing abilities,” Elizabeth says. “I began writing the copy for all of our marketing, for three new website revisions, for all new chef bios for Vishwesh Bhatt, John Currence, Dwayne Ingraham, and Austin Agent.”
When an opportunity came up for Elizabeth to work at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), she seized it. “I could get a Master’s degree for free,” says Elizabeth.
Elizabeth says that she quickly mastered all aspects of her position at Ole Miss, which freed her mental energy for writing and taking courses. “I wanted an MFA, but the unwritten rule of ‘not accepting your own’ biases the committee against alumni when applying to the program. They want us to spread our wings and learn under other faculty. But me? I had free tuition. Right here. I was frustrated.”
“Frustrated, I began writing like a mad woman after the death of my sister and breakup with my boyfriend,” says Elizabeth. “I made a goal of 50 pieces in 30 days and finished early with more than 50 pieces. I also studied for the GRE. I had a very productive post-breakup summer. This portfolio on grief became the cornerstone of what would become my MFA sample that was rejected, coldly, by six schools.”
In August 2019, Elizabeth was approached to write for The Local Voice, a local Oxford newspaper that is published twice per month. “Around the start of COVID-19 isolation in March 2020, I wanted to write more. I wanted to be paid for it, too,” says Elizabeth. “I started pitching to regional and local publications and my first pitch received an assignment, then another assignment. I was hooked.”
Elizabeth says that her portfolio has broadened since 2011 when she first caught the writing bug, and her publications have grown significantly since last August. “For me, the pay is nice, it’s motivating,” she says. “But it is the opportunity to expose others to a story of significance. Whether it is an underscored artist, impactful movement, radical opinion, or marginalized group – telling these stories is why I write.”
Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?
Absolutely! Being a writer gives you a different approach to explaining an experience with food. You have a different arsenal of words and ways to articulate the same thing, which allows for a deeper exactness. Do you have to be a writer to explain an experience with food? No. But if you were to compare two different write ups on the same pie, they would be very different. One would explain the taste, aroma, texture, the history, the passion in making the pie, and question the why of the pie. The other would most likely merely love the pie.
Where do you turn for great inspiration?
I like to travel to be inspired. Nashville, Florida, Memphis, and D.C. are regulars for me. I want to get NOLA on that list soon. Also watching movies (Hundred Foot Journey, Mostly Martha, Julie and Julia, etc. are inspiring!) and TV. Lately my garden has been an inspiration, too.
Do you have any favorite food writers, chefs, food TV shows, restaurants, food travel destinations, etc.?
Food writers: Sarah Roahen, John T. Edge
Shows: YouTube – America’s Test Kitchen
Restaurants: Snackbar (Oxford), GRIT (Taylor, MS), Beauty Shop (Memphis), Moto (Nashville), Husk (Nashville), Momofuku (D.C.)
Do you have any kitchen products you love?
I could not exist without my microplaner, a good knife and knife sharpener, and my pressure cooker.
Do you grow food and/or stick to budget-friendly meals?
Yes! I grow herbs, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and may expand! I like making my own shrubs and muddle and infused cocktails. As for budget-friendly meals, I try to keep meals to create meals that cost less than $6 per person. I also create my own cocktails and love experimenting with them. Coffee is also a passion of mine. I love touring distilleries and trying new liquors and Amari.
How/What do you snack when on deadline?
Sour gummy worms, candied pecans, sharp white English cheddar, and G&T’s.
Anything you’d like to add about being a writer who loves food?
I love finding ways to show that food is more than just sustenance or fuel. It’s more than a meal with a friend or community. Although it is those things, it is also a conduit for political, social, and racial change and expression in our country. Foodways carry traditions and cultures, they fuse them and interpret them, and they are also malleable.