On May 1, my friend Christine Gilbert (a National Geographic Traveler of the Year!) and I are launching Cultures & Cuisines, a website that we’re referring to as a place for longform writing and multimedia that represents the intersection of food, travel, and anthropology.
We are a paying outlet, and we are now accepting pitches. Please read the specs below completely. If you have questions or you’re ready to send us a pitch, please email me: julie[at]culturesandcuisines[dot]com.
We started Cultures & Cuisines because, despite the abundance of websites about food, travel, and food and travel, we weren’t seeing the kind of writing we wanted to be doing, nor the kind we wanted to be reading: informed, intelligent, well-written narratives about the places, both literal and imaginary, where food and travel meet, narratives that allowed a luxurious word count, while keeping in mind that every word matters and shouldn’t be wasted, narratives that resulted not from in-and-out “parachute reporting,” but from a deep interest in and love of a particular place, and the desire to learn more about it and share that with others.
We also weren’t seeing bylines by writers we knew were capable of such writing, writers who had, quite possibly, squirreled away in a desk drawer or, more likely, a digital drive, that piece they never sold because they couldn’t find the right outlet for it. Or writers who didn’t have the publication history that an editor expected. Or writers from any one of the many communities of identity that are marginalized by traditional media. And, most of all, people who were traditionally the subjects of stories, but who were never given the opportunity to construct a narrative from their own point of view, in their own voice.
We’re looking for pieces that fill that space.
They can be first-person or third-person, 800 words or 3,000, and can push the boundaries of the non-fiction genre in terms of style and form (we are not, however, looking for fiction). They cannot be superficial and in most cases, should have some degree of research and reporting involved in their making (and if this is the case, we’ll require materials for fact-checking). They can be about “exotic” places or spots near your own home turf–we interpret “travel” quite broadly–, but you must know them intimately and be able to convey a very clear sense of place.
It’s a great big world filled with more than seven billion people, all of us sharing in common, if nothing else, the fact that we must eat, that food, whether abundant or scarce, is one of the most essential elements of our culture. This means there are at least seven billion stories just waiting to be told. We can’t tell you which ones we want until we read them, but a very partial list of subjects we’d love to see in longform, when hung on the frame of a story (as opposed to just an idea) and written by the right person, is below.
The family-run salt farms of Peru: Introduce readers to a family who has passed their salt farm down across multiple generations.
Eating in the midst of war: Whether from the point-of-view of someone in the military or someone who is eating in a home or restaurant in a place that is besieged by war, what is it like to try to satisfy this most basic need, and is it ever possible to enjoy food in this context?
Procuring for paladares in Cuba: Who are the people who are procuring ingredients—especially illicit ingredients—for Cuba’s paladares? What are their stories? We are especially interested in stories outside Havana.
“The Family Meal”: Meals in specific places/contexts, shared among a group of people who have a particular bond or identity in common. A few examples include: Miners in Chile or Canada; deep sea fishermen on a boat (and how their meals change over the course of the season); night-shift ER doctors, nurses, and staff; people on the set of a TV show or movie; archaeologists working on an active dig; stormchasers following a tornado; air traffic controllers on lunch break; hotel housekeepers snacking during break. They could also include historical examples: the meals shared by protesters during the Civil Rights Movement, for instance.
Cooking in the face of climate change: How are cooking and eating changing in places that are under immediate threat due to climate change?
The Afro-Latin Kitchen: When looking at Afro-Latin communities (keeping their diversity in mind), what are the characteristics of place that gave rise to a certain type of cuisine, and how are foods and food traditions changing as these communities become less geographically isolated?
Work for Women’s Hands: All around the world, there are agricultural, food production, and culinary traditions that were reserved for women because it was said that women’s hands were more delicate than men’s and, therefore, more appropriate for a certain type of work, such as picking delicate flowers or harvesting salt. Tell us the backstories of one of these types of work and the places in which it happened… or still happens.
And we’re not only interested in “serious” subjects! We want to read unforgettable essays and longform about holidays, celebrations, festivals, and other food-related traditions, preferably those that aren’t as well-known among U.S. readers. These don’t, however, necessarily need to be outside the United States.
Do you pay?
We believe strongly that writers should be compensated for their work. Initially, rates are set at $200/article. This rate is non-negotiable.
2. Where does your funding come from?
During pre-launch and during the initial months of the site, we’re paying for your work out of our own pockets. No, we’re not trust fund kids; we’re just committed to building the kind of literary environment and market we want to exist. We have multiple monetization streams in place; as these start generating revenue, we intend to increase payments and will provide updates here.
3. Do you accept works in another language and/or works in translation?
We’re very open to the idea of works in other languages and in translation, so reach out to us with your query. Acceptance will depend, as always, on the story idea itself, as well as the resources we’ll need to invest in bringing that piece to its best form.
4. Can I pitch or should I send a complete piece?
You’re welcome to pitch, though if we are interested in the subject you query, we will likely request a completed piece on spec.
5. Do I need to send clips?
You can if you’d like, but they’re not necessary.
6. Do you accept stories that originate from a press trip?
No. We are not looking for stories that originate from press trips. We are looking for pieces that have a depth that requires long-term engagement with and interest in a place.
7. Can I send you previously published work?
Yes, as long as you hold the rights to it.
8. Can I republish my work that you publish on Cultures & Cuisines?
Yes, after 90 days. We ask that any future publications mention that the piece was first published on Cultures & Cuisines.
9. How often do you publish articles?
Two to five times a week. We are not a clickbait site.
10. Will you give me feedback? What will the editing process be like?
If we are not interested in your piece or it’s just not a good fit, we will probably not offer much feedback. For one thing, we’re a two-person team; for another, just because it doesn’t work for us, doesn’t mean the idea isn’t good and/or that it won’t be a great fit somewhere else.
As for editing, your piece will certainly be copy-edited and may also receive some developmental editing, which we will discuss with you. You will receive a review copy of your article before it is published, and you will be required to “sign off” on the final edit prior to publication. We will also ask you to “sign off” on the photography and other visuals that are paired with your piece.
11. How long will it take before I hear from you?
It depends. We’re writers ourselves and we’re juggling a number of other projects, including five kids between us. We’ll do the best we can to respond to you within two weeks; if, after that time, you haven’t heard from us, please feel free to email again to check on the status of your query. It would be ever so helpful if you include your original query cut and paste into the body of your email.
12. Who are you, anyway?
The people behind this site are Christine Gilbert and Julie Schwietert Collazo, two writers
and travelers. We get lots of support from Christine’s husband, Drew Gilbert, too. You can read more about Christine here, Julie here, and Drew here.
13. Anything else I should know?
Yes. We are not looking for: chef profiles, restaurant reviews, or trend pieces. The Internet
has that covered already.