In conversation with

Miranda York

Food Writer, Editor, founder of At The Table

Introduction

Introduction

Once upon a time, food writing was either a dry review from an ageing critic or a recipe citing a list of instructions. Now, our connection to food – and the stories it tells – has grown, transforming food writing into a vibrant and colourful landscape.

Miranda York, a writer, editor and founder of creative food platform At The Table, is a champion of this movement. At The Table explores and celebrates British food culture, providing an online and offline space for writers, readers, cooks and eaters alike to devour stories about food with a fresh perspective.

Her advice for aspiring food writers? “Drawing inspiration from your own experiences can elevate a piece but it’s far too easy to romanticise food memories. Remember that food has a darker side – it’s not just madeleine moments”

With her own debut food compendium, The Food Almanac, out in October, we spoke to Miranda about her appetite for good food stories.

Question and Answer

When did you first start engaging with the stories around food?

I worked at an indie food magazine when I first left university and it unexpectedly drew me into the food world. But it wasn’t until I launched my own company in 2013 that I started to delve deeper, exploring the stories around food and looking at the subject through a cultural prism.

What’s the concept behind At The Table?

At The Table is a creative platform that explores and celebrates food culture. We’re interested in the stories, ideas and people behind what we eat and drink, exploring the gastronomic world through events, print, digital and film. By bringing people together from different industries and backgrounds – chefs, producers, writers, historians, scientists, artists, filmmakers – we aim to look at food from a fresh perspective.

miranda york

What are some of your favourite stories you’ve told through the magazine?

I love the eclectic mix of stories and how open we are to how those stories are told, whether it’s a historical piece, memoir, short story, poem or photo essay. In issue two, there’s a beautiful short story about love and loss and Caribbean Christmas cake by novelist Kit de Waal next to a piece on elaborate ice cream sundaes in English seaside towns. Diana Henry rhapsodises about her love of menus, Rachel Roddy explores the connections between the honest northern food she knew as a girl and the gutsy cooking she discovered in her adopted city of Rome, and Alexander Lobrano recalls the British food he came to love as a hungry American student in 1970s London. Online you’ll find a piece about Wetherspoons by Irish writer Megan Nolan, a short story about intimacy, desire and revulsion by novelist Jessica Andrews, and a poem about growing up in two worlds by Nigerian poet Yomi Sode. Nothing is off limits.

How have you elevated the magazine with IRL events and why have they been important?

It’s about connection. There’s something almost magical about gathering people together to share food and stories. Food can be a banal, everyday necessity, but it can also inspire and bring people together. Our happiest moments are often created sitting round a table, sharing food and stories with people we love, people we admire, or even people we’ve just met.

London is full of competing stories and the food scene can feel like a crowded space. How do you sift through the noise and find the important ones?

When I first started the company, it was about telling the stories that mainstream media wasn’t interested in. That’s changed a little. Food has become fashionable and you can read brilliant food writing in the most unlikely of places. For me, it starts with great writing. A good writer can write about anything. I often commission writers from other disciplines so as to step outside the food media bubble, and I rarely commission from pitches. Instead I approach a writer I admire, talk to them, find out their quirks and obsessions, then give them the freedom to write in their own style and edit with a light touch.

“Drawing inspiration from your own experiences can elevate a piece but it’s far too easy to romanticise food memories. Remember that food has a darker side – it’s not just madeleine moments.”

How does At The Table create food content which stands out?

By connecting food to the world around us, not just talking about what’s on the plate.

If you could give aspiring food writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Explore beyond food, find deeper connections and most importantly, tell a story. Perhaps the last point sounds obvious, but it’s far too easy to forget when writing about food, a subject that seems to encourage people to skim along the surface of an issue. Make sure the piece has a thread running through that gets tied up in a neat knot at the end. Drawing inspiration from your own experiences can elevate a piece but it’s far too easy to romanticise food memories. Remember that food has a darker side – it’s not just madeleine moments.

Who is your favourite food writer, and can you name a specific quote?

I often look to the great food writers of the past, in particular Jane Grigson, MFK Fisher, Richard Olney, Elizabeth David and Margaret Costa, their wise and witty words a constant companion as I write. I admire their attitude to cooking and eating, their appetite for both food and knowledge. They have written books to live with and learn from, books to keep among the pots and pans, or scatter across the kitchen table, well-thumbed and reassuringly familiar. The American novelist Laurie Colwin, who also turned her talents to food, wrote: “No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past.”

What recipe book would you give as a gift?

Diana Henry’s How to Eat a Peach. It’s perfect. It’s a book of menus and recipes drawing inspiration from Diana’s life and travels, and a reminder that food can transport you to anywhere in the world. Plus it has a fuzzy cover.

Miranda's Storylist

Food Books

  1. Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
  2. How To Eat A Peach by Diana Henry
  3. The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher
  4. Jane Grigson's Fruit Book
  5. Longthroat Memoirs by Yemisi Aribisala
  6. An Everlasting Meal by Tamara Adler

Novels

  1. Ask The Dusk by John Fante
  2. Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
  3. Tin Man by Sarah Winman
  4. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  6. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Non-Fiction

  1. Things I Don't Want To Know by Deborah Levy
  2. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
  3. The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown
  4. Stet: An Editor's Life by Diana Athill

Magazines

  1. The Happy Reader
  2. Above Sea Level
  3. Lodestar Anthology
  4. British Vogue
  5. The New Yorker
  6. The Gentlewoman
Previous Story
Lawrence Stafford

Community Brand Manager at Finisterre

Next Story
JP Watson
JP Watson

Writer & Founder of The Pound Project

Articles

Featured storytellers

View all

Sign up to our newsletter