I am a big believer in the idea that one must read more than they write, and that includes other writers working in the newsletter form that has been having a boom moment this year. Of course, I read Vittles, which is often compelling even though I have never been to London and don’t understand many of the references or any of the geography, and I am also a paid subscriber to Book Post, which provides me book reviews and dispatches from independent bookstores around the world.
But who are the other mostly one-person operations driving this new form of food media, which has developed a language and style all its own, where there is the personality-driven mode of a blog combined with esoteric and niche references? In newsletters, everyone is making it all up as we go along, and I love that immediacy, that ongoingness, where we leave crumbs and threads untidied and pick them up whenever it makes sense to do so. Sensibility, not nut grafs. Here are some of my favorites—feel free to link yours in the comments, which I’ve opened up to all.
When New York Magazine asked me to recommend a newsletter, I gave Kate Ray’s Soft Leaves. She’s chronicling her career change from programming into line cooking at Dirt Candy, one of my favorite restaurants, and the behind-the-scenes glimpse at the reality of the job (along with her recipes) is indispensable, making it one of the newsletters I always make time for even though it comes out on Sunday when I’m usually reading a book.
The Snax Shot
Andrea Hernandez has been taking over the world with her insight and humor into the snack sector. Though she’s writing about things like venture capital investment in hip food products, she brings humor and the indispensable perspective of living in Honduras, which provides keen understanding of the colonization of ingredients and flavors.
Eat Gorda Eat
Illyanna Maisonet has a reputation as a rabble-rouser, which I think unfortunately overshadows the fact that her writing is absolutely gorgeous, like in this look back at the year 2001. Her work comes from a defiantly diasporic place, championing a West Coast idea of Puerto Rican cuisine distinct from its Nuyorican counterparts.
Chloe-Rose Crabtree and Anna Sulan Masing are the two brilliant minds behind this newsletter, which focuses on food origins. They are working in London as non-Brits of mixed heritage, with a deep understanding of the forces of empire and colonialism that have defined global food systems.
J’adore le Plonk
Rachel Hendry writes about wine from a wildly accessible and fun perspective, with a sense of adoration and vulnerability. “Water may give life, yet it is wine, not grape juice, that forms the blood of it,” she wrote in the May essay. Amen.
This Needs Hot Sauce
Abigail Koffler is an OG where food newsletters are concerned, and her weekly missives about what she’s been eating, cooking, and reading always inspire me. Though I no longer live in Brooklyn, I love keeping up with the restaurant scene there through her eyes (and mouth) and because she’s vegetarian, I know I can trust what she’s putting down.
Lisa Held is a brilliant food systems and policy journalist, and she maintains the stellar quality of the work she’s done for outlets like Civil Eats in her newsletter Peeled. If you’d like an easy way of keeping up with and understanding complex issues like “does local food matter?” and how cover crops work, this is the newsletter for that.
Ashley Rodriguez of Boss Barista rules and looks at the coffee world with unblinking eyes. She writes essays and puts out an essential podcast, where she interviews people like Vera Espíndola Rafael on under-discussed topics, like how little coffee actually stays in coffee-growing regions.
Day Into Night
Chef Ana Ortiz is a friend and an inspiration of mine, ever since she signed on to cook the most exquisite cazuela for a James Beard House dinner and did so with calm and aplomb in a kitchen that was literally set on fire that night. Her artful, patient, considered touch is as clear in her newsletter with dinner party menus, mood boards, and playlists as it is in her real-life soirées.
Tales From Topographic Kitchens
Writer Nicola Miller counts Nigella Lawson as a big fan, which makes me think I can stop this recommendation right here. But Miller is simply a fabulous writer, embodying rhubarb and recalling with Knausgaardian detail the act of making tamales.
The Kitchen Review of Books
Anyone who wants to be the next Bonnie Slotnick is cool with me, and Maya Meredith is certainly doing her due diligence by chronicling her cookbook and food book library with reviews. She’s writing a lot about vintage vegetarian stuff, which I am also prone to do, but mixing it up with new releases as well, making it a cookbook nerd’s deep-dive treasure trove.
It’s no secret that I love Kevin Vaughn’s bilingual project Matambre, where he writes about foodways and food workers in Argentina. He’s branching out now into publishing other writers, which makes this a good time to support the magazine.
Andrew Janjigian writes and teaches you about bread, and even though I haven’t successfully maintained a sourdough starter yet (blame the humidity and my already overflowing fridge), I love his measured and well-honed approach to tackling an intimidating topic.
The fun project of two friends who love to cook, being honest, thoughtful, and often philosophical about matters like how to use up an excess of lettuce and what cookbooks they’re cooking from (honestly one of the best sources of recommendations on those, especially because their reference points, like closed Lower East Side Sri Lankan restaurant Kottu House, are the same as mine).
Anna Jones is a blogger and cookbook author who writes about “modern vegetarian cooking,” which is frankly an important cultural perspective when most of the world deems vegetarian food passé and has moved on to whatever “plant-based” product has just come out. Her newsletter always gives me inspiration.
Recipe development is hard work, which is why I love this inside look at pastry chef Nicola Lamb’s process. Though vegan baking is my specialty, I learn so much from everything Lamb posts thanks to the intricate detail and engaging writing.
I think everyone knows the work of Folu, the mononym baker and writer behind this weekly tour through the world via limited edition snacks. It is an imaginative and always amusing way to see the world.
While we’re waiting patiently for Apoorva Sripathi to bring her excellent newsletter back from hiatus, it is a wonderful time to go through the archives if you’ve not yet done so. She writes personally and politically about the significance of eating and cooking.
This Friday’s paid-subscriber interview will feature chef and author Peter Hoffman. We discuss his book What’s Good? A Memoir in Twelve Ingredients and his time at the helm of New York City farm-to-table restaurants Savoy and Back Forty.
Annual subscriptions are $30; monthly, $5.
Nothing, though I’ve been in edits on features and am very, very tired.
If I don’t read something for pleasure soon, I will lose my mind. But duty calls and my book deadline looms!
Sweet plantain cake (recipe here) with a carambola tatin, above (how-to coming soon for paid subscribers). Chocolate-chunk cookies with lots of cinnamon. A parcha panna cotta, the recipe for which you can find in the Recipes highlight on my Instagram.