It was such a thrill to travel to Palm Springs October 23 to accept the MFK Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing from Les Dames d’Escoffier International! I was touched by the support and warmth of the members that evening at the dinner ceremony. I was also moved by the outpouring of support on Twitter, Facebook and good old-fashioned e-mail: the real win was in sharing it with food-and-wine-loving friends!
Here’s the press release from Les Dames d’Escoffier International. Thanks again guys!
Les Dames d’Escoffier International Announces Winner of the M.F.K. Fisher Award
LOUISVILLE, KY–(Marketwire – November 02, 2010) – Natalie MacLean, an award-winning wine writer, won first prize in the M.F.K. Fisher Awards for Excellence in Culinary Writing competition, sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier International. In addition to a $1,000 cash prize, MacLean won a trip to the LDEI Annual Conference in Palm Springs to accept the award at the October 23 gala banquet honoring M.F.K. Fisher.
Second prize of $500 went to The Washington Post staff writer Jane Black. And T. Susan Chang of Leverett, Mass., a food writer and regular cookbook reviewer for the Boston Globe, won third prize and $250.
MacLean won with an Internet entry, "Flying High," on her website www.nataliemaclean.com. Her story, about Featherstone Winery chronicles the winery’s battle to protect the vineyards from airborne predators and weeds without using synthetic chemicals. It’s also the story of a husband and wife team who dream of creating a benchmark wine despite a harsh climate.
"Winning this award is something you must live up to rather than something you deserve. The point is to remember and honor M.F.K. Fisher and her gloriously sensuous prose," MacLean said, in accepting her award.
Black’s award was for "Snob Appeal. Won’t Someone Knock Heirloom Tomatoes off their Pedestal?" Black writes, "The best tomato I ate last summer was not an heirloom tomato. If those don’t seem like fighting words, then clearly you do not take tomatoes seriously." She adds, "’Heirloom’ is not synonymous with ‘good.’ The key to a great tomato is how it is grown."
T. Susan Chang’s award was for "Gather Ye Squash Blossoms While Ye May," a feature on National Public Radio’s website, www.npr.org. The article details the handling and cooking of squash blossoms that "on the vine… unfurl like a Kleenex crumpling in reverse." Chang writes that picking the blossoms is "a highly effective form of zucchini birth control."
About LDEI’s 2010 M.F.K. Fisher Awards
M.F.K. Fisher, one of America’s finest food writers, was described by the poet W.H. Auden as the best prose writer of her time. She wrote more than 20 books before her death in 1992.
The 2010 contest in her memory drew 78 entries. "This is the best contest I’ve ever judged. Very difficult," a veteran food editor and judge commented. "All three of the winning stories are right in sync with the spirit of M.F.K.," noted another judge.
New to this year’s competition was the inclusion of works from Internet websites and blogs. Judges did not know the source of the entries, which included 24 stories from newspapers, 22 articles from magazines, 15 excerpts from books and 14 from the Internet.
Representing seven states, the eight judges are food editors at Better Homes and Gardens Magazine (Iowa), Houston Chronicle, New Orleans Times Picayune, Desert News (Salt Lake City), San Francisco Chronicle, and Indianapolis Star. A writing coach from Charlottesville, Va., and a newspaper columnist also judged. None of the judges was a member of LDEI. The 2010 M.F.K. Fisher Awards chair was CiCi Williamson, of LDEI.
To read more about the winners and the prize-winning articles, go to www.ldei.org
Profile: Natalie MacLean, First Prize Winner
"I was shocked," Natalie MacLean said in response to being told that she had won the 2010 MFK Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing. "In fact, I’m still convinced there’s been a tabulation error in the results, so I’m hoping to collect the award quickly before anyone discovers the mistake.
"On a serious note, winning this award is something you must live up to rather than something you deserve. The point is to remember and honor M.F.K. Fisher and her gloriously sensuous prose."
At the World Food Media Awards in Australia in 2005, MacLean was named the World’s Best Drink Writer. She has also won four James Beard awards and six IACP Bert Greene Awards. MacLean is a leader in social media for the wine industry. You can find her at www.twitter.com/nataliemaclean and www.facebook.com/natdecants. More than 10,000 websites and blogs have posted her Drinks Matcher tool (www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher). In 2008 MacLean won third prize in LDEI’s contest for a story about women Champagne makers in France.
Her columns have appeared in more than 60 newspapers and magazines; more than 115,000 subscribers get her free monthly newsletter. In her book "Red, White and Drunk All Over," Natalie chronicles three years of sipping, spitting and slogging her way through the international wine world. The book was chosen the Best Wine Literature Book in the English language at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, says that MacLean "writes about wine with a sensuous obsession," and is "laugh-out-loud funny."
A Rhodes Scholarship finalist, she studied 19th-century English literature at Oxford University in England and earned an MBA at UWO, London. However, for her current preoccupation, she credits the long Scottish line of hard drinkers from whom she descends for her ability to drink like a fish — and for the motivation to write about it — in a transparent attempt to make it look respectable.
Profile: Jane Black, Second Prize Winner
"As a former judge of LDEI’s M.F.K. Fisher Award (in 2008), I know how stiff the competition is. So it is an honor to be one of the winners," said Jane Black. "I was also thrilled to win for an essay, a blend of personal experience and real reporting, which I think can be so effective when writing about food."
Jane is a food writer at The Washington Post where she covers food politics, trends and sustainability issues. Her reporting has taken her from Immokalee, Fla., where she wrote about tomato pickers’ struggle for better working conditions, to Monterey Bay, where she attended a "secret meeting" of the "Sardinistas," a group of environmentalists who advocate the culinary joys of small, sustainable fish.
Black began her career as a business and political reporter. In 2003, she switched directions and attended culinary school in London. Before moving to Washington, she served as food editor at Boston Magazine. Jane’s writing has received many awards including two James Beard Awards for The Washington Post Food section. Her work has also been featured in the collections of Best Food Writing in 2008 and 2009.
Profile: T. Susan Chang, Third Prize Winner
"I’m more pleased than I can say to be recognized by Les Dames d’Escoffier and the judges for third prize in the M.F.K. Fisher Award," said T. Susan Chang. "I think that when we write about food, we share something both intimate and exposed. I don’t know if it’s hard for everybody, but it’s certainly hard for me. In my experience the food writer lives, absurdly, by the following set of axioms: ‘We think, therefore we are. We think about what we eat. Therefore, we are what we eat.’
"It’s the easiest thing in the world to fall victim to a jaded palate and start over-intellectualizing the act of eating. What I always love about M.F.K. Fisher is that she knew you could fall for what was right there on the plate before you. You could fall simply and forever, and you could live to tell about it. I never dreamed I would have the chance to share just a bit in her legacy. Thank you so much for giving me that chance."
Chang has been a food writer since 2000, when she first began writing for the Boston Globe. Prior to that, she had worked in academic publishing as an acquisitions editor specializing in literary studies.
Currently, Chang is a frequent contributor to the Kitchen Window series on NPR, where she also appears twice yearly with a comprehensive list of seasonal cookbook recommendations. She is the regular cookbook reviewer for the Boston Globe, where her reviews appear about once a month. At the cookbook indexing website www.eatyourbooks.com, Susan is the host of the Community page and resident cookbook reviewer. She’s also the cookbook reviewer for AOL’s new website, Kitchen Daily. Links to her newest pieces can be found at www.tsusanchang.com, along with a complete list of publications.
In 2004, Chang was named a Food and Society Policy Fellow by the Kellogg Foundation and began work advocating for food sustainability. During her fellowship, she wrote federally mandated wellness policies for her regional school district and started a teaching garden at her children’s elementary school. She continues to advocate for kids’ nutrition and bringing fresh, local foods to the school lunchroom. Susan lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and her two children. She enjoys gardening and sewing, and is excessively fond of apples.