Jennifer burns bright

food educator and travel writer

Some clips from a decade of food writing:

I got my start in food writing with restaurant reviews for lunch options available in the mini-mall across from my high school. Upperclassmen with campus leave privileges were pleased to read in the school paper that I found the bread sticks and marinara sauce at Little Caesars satisfying, the avgolemono at the Greek diner even more so.

After this first sweet taste of culinary journalism, I knew I’d need to take it slow or I’d sugar-crash and burn, so I finished my education and resumed my career while I was finishing up my Ph.D.

Culinaria Eugenius tracked my seven-year adventure into the food of the Willamette Valley. It chronicles a period (2008-15) during which the movement to relocalize food seized the American collective consciousness, and our growing awareness of the unique bioregion in which Eugene and Portland lie led to new agricultural ventures in grain, beans, and winter produce.

The blog opened doors for me to write for local newspapers and magazines as I worked my day job as a professor at the University of Oregon; I eventually became the food columnist for Eugene Weekly (2008-11) and Eugene Magazine (2013-16), judged culinary literature for the International Association of Culinary Professionals for several years, achieved my life dream of being the mistress of ceremonies (as well as a judge for multiple years) of Eugene’s Iron Chef competition, and co-hosted Food for Thought (2011-13), a food news and interview radio program on Eugene’s NPR affiliate, KLCC, an opportunity that allowed me to produce content to introduce south-central Oregon to the cookbooks, chefs, farmers, and local food our team found captivating.

My greatest pleasure in writing about food is, without a doubt, conviviality and the delight in discovery — a scientific curiosity for innovation more than the trend of a particular ingredient or technique. Another was supporting the unsung people in the industry.  One of my favorite pieces is still one of my columns for EM on Ethiopian food and a local chef making a go out of a take-out business in Eugene.  I’ve written about canning tuna and butchering pigs and Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen and deviled eggs based on an ancient recipe by Apicius, and I’ve taught about mushrooms and bread and butter and the history of ketchup, and I’ve laughed with some of my favorite writers in the food world.

I now write about seafood and coastal dining delights, but occasionally I’ll get a bag of Little Caesars breadsticks and relish a taste of the old country.

For a more complete portfolio of travel and food writing samples, click here.

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I am a frequent contributor to AAA’s print and digital outlets in the West (Via and Journey magazines), reaching nearly five million readers. For travel clips, see my author page on AAA’s Via magazine’s website for links to some of my latest travel writing, including features, Weekenders, and short pieces on most of the notable towns on the Oregon coast.

For a more complete portfolio of travel and food writing samples, click here.

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My full schedule of programs can be found here

For details for each date, see Oregon Humanities’ calendar

Oregon Humanities is a Portland-based non-profit educational organization funded by the Oregon Trust and the National Endowment for the Humanities. I am one of several dozen program organizers and leaders for their Conversation Projects. My programs focus on two topics close to my heart: the DIY movement in all its glorious forms and sustainable seafood.

“Why DIY? Self-Sufficiency and American Life” allows folks to share their philosophies and projects with like-minded (and perhaps NOT like-minded) souls. We ask of each other: Are we as self-sufficient as we can be? As we should be? What are the pleasures and pitfalls of doing it yourself? This conversation investigates why we strive to be makers and doers in a world that provides more conveniences than ever before. How might the “new Industrial Revolution” of tinkerers and crafters affect American schools and workplaces? How do maker spaces or skills courses foster greater engagement and involvement? What could be left behind when we increase self-sufficiency in a community? All kinds of DIY interests are welcome: we can focus on foraging, permaculture, prepping, woodworking, or hovercraft making—or perhaps all of these at once! Through our shared stories, we will seek to understand more deeply how DIY functions in American life.

“Fish Tales: Traditions and Challenges of Seafood in Oregon” focuses on the increasingly worrisome issue of our local seafood. Oregonians love the wild beauty of our 363 miles of coastline, but finding truly local seafood can be hard, even on the coast. The US imports approximately 90 percent of its seafood and ships out nearly as much to the global market. Why aren’t we eating more local seafood, now that preserving and distribution technologies are the most sophisticated they have ever been? Why do we consider seafood more a delicacy now than it has been in the past? In this conversation, I help participants explore our relationship with the products of the sea and cultural traditions involving fishing, eating seafood, and understanding the ocean’s bounty and challenges.

The “Fish Tales” program debuted in 2016, and was one of the top CPs of the year for Oregon Humanities for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. I’ve moderated almost 40 discussions in communities all over the state, including Portland, Eugene, Newport, Corvallis, Bend, Joseph/Enterprise, and Brookings.

For inquiries, please email me at wellsuited at gmail dot com.

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