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Statesman food writer Addie Broyles is hanging up the apron after 13 years

Addie Broyles
Austin 360
Addie Broyles started at the American-Statesman in 2006 as a copy editor and has been its food writer since 2008. She is leaving to pursue full-time freelancing and podcasting.

Dear readers, this is my farewell column as the American-Statesman food writer.

On June 1, I'll hang up my apron, stack up the cookbooks and pass on the test kitchen gear to the next person to take on this life-changing position at Austin’s daily newspaper.

When I say, “Dear readers,” I mean it. From my first column in 2008 to today, the fine people who read this column — in print with their coffee and via Facebook in the school pickup line — have held an incredibly special place in my heart.

I have kept your business cards, your emails and screenshots of your direct messages on social media in my digital and physical archive. I still have a physical copy of (almost) every food section I’ve published. Because of your kindness and willingness to connect, my kids will have memories of being stopped in the grocery store by someone who tells me they love trying new recipes and reading stories in the food section.

More:A decade of dishing: What I've learned in 10 years as a food writer

It is you who have been on my mind as I have weighed leaving this job to start some new writing and business projects. I don’t have a new food writing job. I will be staying in Austin, continuing my subscription to the newspaper so I can keep reading the great work of my colleagues and the new food writer.

A new writer will have a chance to put their imprint on this city. My predecessor, Kitty Crider, worked tirelessly for 28½ years covering Austin’s then-burgeoning food scene. She celebrated home cooks, sussed out food trends and came up with creative ways to write about holidays and annual events. (Remember when she covered the Minnesota State Fair, which is located on the other end of Interstate 35 from the Texas State Fair?)

With the right tools in hand, Addie Broyles finds out that shucking oysters is one way to get through a pandemic.

I still get requests for recipes that appeared in Crider’s Christmas Cookin' Contest, which ran for 20 years until 2000. In fact, such inquiries are how I originally met many of you. In 2008, I took several phone calls a week with requests for recipes and other food information. Nowadays, I get those requests mostly via email, and they are fewer and further between, but they are still coming in, and they are still evidence of a thriving readership.

It is not uncommon to get an email out of the blue from someone who hasn’t lived in Austin for 20 years and is looking for a recipe that's nearly as old as I am. It makes my day to hear from an entrepreneur who, 10 years into their company, says that one of my stories helped them make their business dreams come true. These small interactions are at the heart of why being a food writer is such a special opportunity that I’m excited to pass on to someone else. Before I hand over the proverbial and literal cookbook library (more on that below), I wanted to share a little about how this job has shaped me and how I’ve shaped it.

My first food assignment for this newspaper took me to Green Gate Farm in what was then far East Austin. 

Farmers Erin Flynn and Skip Connett were hosting a fundraiser dinner for the nearby Austin Discovery School. It was a farm-to-plate dinner. To use the late 2000s term, it was a “slow supper,” a community of people gathered together to make a special moment centered around food and their shared values. 

Sarah McIntosh, chef and owner of Épicerie, shows Statesman food writer Addie Broyles how to make a mushroom quiche for a story in 2014.

It was a perfect introduction for what the next 13 years of writing about food in Austin would include. Good food, interesting conversations and creative people using a culinary experience to bring people together. It was a scene repeated often. At local farms and restaurants. Rooftop launch parties. Large-scale tasting events. One-on-one samplings at a boutique olive oil shop or bakery.

Within weeks of starting this job, my calendar started filling up with introductory coffee meetings and media events, where I soon met longtime Austin Chronicle food editor Virginia B. Wood and a slew of established writers who welcomed me into their community. 

I always knew Kitty’s shoes would be hard to fill. Twenty-eight years in a job like this is a remarkable feat. (I would later learn about the long-tenured newspaper stints of such food journalists as Jane Nickerson, Clementine Paddleford and the late Houston Chronicle writer Ann Criswell, who spent more than 34 years in her role.) 

Addie Broyles interviews Rachael Ray at the Texas Conference for Women in 2013.

I started at the Statesman not long after graduating from college, and I worked on the newspaper’s copy desk, where a feisty group of grammarians took every fact, comma and headline as seriously as the reporters managed their sources.

I was working the evening shift when I became a mom and, a year later, when my ex-husband famously nominated me for TLC show “What Not to Wear,” an experience I chronicled in the features section in the spring of 2008. 

That was when Kitty announced her retirement and that “a new food writer would be named soon.” On May 21, 2008, I introduced myself in a column where I dished on what was then my best food story: almost starting an apartment fire when trying to roast a turkey while studying abroad in Spain. 

“Cooking is rife with opportunities to mess up,” I wrote. “Salt instead of sugar, a few too many cloves of garlic, a-little-too-black blackened tilapia, hardly legible recipes, a sink full of dirty dishes, milk that expired two days ago and a toddler pointing at the fridge and shouting ‘juice’ over and over while you've got three pots on the stove.”

That was the first of many glimpses into my kitchen over the years. That toddler is now a young man, who, at 14, is tall enough to look me straight in the eye when he says, “Mom, I’m making ramen. Want any?” 

Food writer Addie Broyles camps with her sons, Avery, 10, and Julian, 14, during a recent trip to Big Bend.

Julian is making more than ramen these days, and he’s slated to start a culinary-focused high school program this fall to learn even more about cooking. My younger son, Avery, is now 10, old enough to make a mug cake he saw on TikTok and ponder the nuances of whipped cream cheese versus a block of cream cheese when he’s toasting a bagel after school.

My kids have seen my mistakes and successes firsthand, especially during this last year of working/schooling/cooking at home. And, because I chose to tell first-person stories in this column, so have you. I wrote about becoming a single parent and losing my dad. In both my columns and stories, I turned toward uncomfortable subjects, including racism, grief, mental health and addiction. 

As the years passed, my writing got even more vulnerable, and so did your responses. You corrected me when I messed up, gave me tips on stories I would have never found and comforted me when I wrote about my divorce or my grandmother’s passing. 

For a story in 2011, Statesman food writer Addie Broyles follows Alamo Drafthouse employee Chivonn Anderson around for a shift to find out what it's like to be a server in a dark theater.

I wrote the stories, but it has always felt like we created this food section together. I called my column Relish Austin to celebrate the city as more than a place to live and food as more than calories to fill our stomachs, and I’m still learning what that means to each of us. 

Within a food beat, there are microbeats, any number of which could be a full-time job: agriculture, food policy, grocery stores, food history, home cooking, local food products, recipes and culinary education. A newspaper food writer gets to cover all of these things in an effort to chronicle how food culture at large is changing.

By telling the story of Adams Extract, one of the first food businesses in Austin, you can help tell the story of the family-run Southern Style Spices or of SKU, a food accelerator that has expanded into cities outside Texas. By interviewing Leslie Moore about the history behind his pioneering Word of Mouth Catering, you can write a story that helps new Austinites understand the economic and cultural roller coaster that led us to where we are today.

When the new Whole Foods opened in Cedar Park in 2017, food writer Addie Broyles stopped by for a tour, which included a virtual reality experience. Technology isn't the only thing that has changed in the past 13 years, Broyles writes in her farewell column.

As a white writer, it took too long for me to see the privilege that has dominated the food writing world. But once I started learning about how institutional racism presents itself through unconscious bias, I enrolled in anti-racism training and accountability groups and sought out one-on-one conversations with people across the food community. When I look back at everything that changed about food and food media in the past 13 years, addressing racism in the food world is at the top of the list. 

A good example of this was the debate over the urban farm ordinance in 2013 and 2014, which on the surface seemed like an issue of food access, but, as the months wore on, it became obvious to this food writer that I had been missing some key pieces of the puzzle, namely, that Austin's history of redlining — forcing families of color to move to certain parts of the city in 1928 — hadn't been fully rectified.

This history and unacknowledged community pain came up again in 2020 when I profiled Tiffany Washington, whose family has lived in East Austin for generations. She's a farmer and historian working triple time to maintain an urban farm and chronicle the city’s farming history in a way that centers Black and brown farmers. 

Washington is imagining a new way to be a farmer in Austin. She's highly plugged in — digitally and socially — and frequently brings conversations back to power, privilege, trauma and healing, which leads to richer conversations about food, food systems and how each of us fits into that complex ecosystem. 

Those are big ideas that don't always fit into a recipe box. 

Listen to Addie Broyles' farewell on Austin360 Radio below:

I really felt that a few weekends ago, when I returned to Green Gate to take a flower class with Erin Flynn, who I now run into at the YMCA and whose kids I’ve seen grow into young adults. 

Erin and I weren't talking about race 13 years ago when we first met. But that rainy Saturday morning, as she taught us how to make flower adornments that you can wear on your body, almost like a tattoo, we talked with greater nuance about the role of a place like Green Gate in a city like Austin. 

Flynn and Connett were relatively new farmers with young kids when we first met. They knew they wanted their farm to be a community hub, but they couldn’t have foreseen that 13 years later, it would be the centerpiece of an "agrihood" filled with tiny homes.

Erin talked about how their ability to imagine new iterations of the farm helped them succeed year after year, including adding a new farm near Bastrop and being willing to move out from the city farm while the agrihood was under development. 

Their community-supported agriculture program has carried them through the booms and the busts, and Erin’s new flower workshare is simply the latest creative way for her to engage with the neighborhood and other folks around town. 

I couldn’t have imagined that all those years after that first dinner, I’d be back at Green Gate, closing out my chapter as the Statesman food writer and talking about the power of imagination in social justice movements with some of the first people I met in the food world. 

(And if that wasn’t fitting enough, I am now two years into a relationship with a man who also happened to be at the dinner that night because his daughter attended the school being supported. I didn’t know him then, but I later met him at a book signing with our mutual photographer friend, Alberto Martinez, and Ed Crowell — two early mentors of mine at the Statesman — in 2019. Coincidence? I don’t think so.)

The Statesman Cookbook Drive has redistributed more than 1,000 cookbooks to local high school culinary students through the Austin Food & Wine Alliance's annual culinary career conference.

My kids have only known me as a food writer, which makes this transition particularly bittersweet, but I have some projects I’ve been working on that need my full-time attention, including a podcast about my upcoming high school reunion, where I’ll continue to talk about change over time and the power of imagination. 

But before I go, one last note of gratitude: Through my relationship with readers and conversations with everyone I’ve ever interviewed, I’ve learned deep in my bones that life-changing magic happens when you take a leap toward something that feels totally out of your reach. Believing in yourself is a hard first step, and it helps when other people believe in you, too. Thanks for giving me a chance. 

Be well, stay in touch and, as Austin Kleon, one of my favorite local writers, says, just keep going. Life is always changing, and so are you.

Addie Broyles has been the food writer at the Austin American-Statesman since 2008. You can reach her at broylesa@gmail.com and follow her on social media, @broylesa on Twitter and Instagram, to find out more about what's next

One more note from Addie

Since 2017, I've coordinated the Statesman Cookbook Drive, where readers donate used cookbooks that are then redistributed (along with new books that come to me as review copies) to high school culinary students or anyone else in the community who would like books.

Because of the Statesman's upcoming move to a new newsroom, the donation program is on hold, but we also have an in-house library of Lone Star State-produced cookbooks from the past 40 years, a collection that I'm hoping to donate to the library or an archival institution that would benefit from such a curated stash of books. Until then, it, too, will be passed to the next food writer. (Just like that 131-year-old piece of cake keeps getting passed down at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.)

— A.B.