Happy Birthday, Memorie di Angelina!

In news by Frank37 Comments

Hard to believe, but it’s been one whole year since I started this blog with a short welcome message and a promise to fill it with my favorite recipes. Well, I’d like to think that I’ve made good on that promise with the nearly 200 recipes I’ve posted since then. In fact, I’ve covered most of my personal favorite dishes and provided what I might immodestly call an in-depth, if hardly exhaustive, overview of cuisines of the two regional Italian cuisines I know best, those of Naples and Rome. If I do say so myself, if you are looking for an overview of  these cuisines, you could do worse than look here.

Over time, as I have learned more about this odd pastime called food blogging, I’ve come to realize that Memorie di Angelina is actually very different in both intent and content from what a lot of my fellow bloggers are up to. For one thing, the primary—almost exclusive—focus is on the food and how to cook it, described not in traditional recipe format but in what I like to call ‘food stories’, with a focus on the experience of cooking rather than exact measurements and cooking times. Whenever my knowledge and time allow, these stories include a little historical and cultural context to help the reader understand the origins of a particular dish, its evolution over time, and the possible variations in preparation and ingredients. Luckily, my chosen subject, Italian cuisine, provides fertile ground to this sort of culinary tilling.

The result, I hope, is both informative and entertaining, but perhaps less personalized than other food blogs you are likely to encounter. I’ll tell you about the experiences that have shaped my cooking and thinking about food, but you’ll rarely if ever read here about my personal problems, or how much my guests or family may have liked or disliked a dish, or any of those little personal touches that can make a blog so charming. Yes, I would like to charm you, dear reader, not with the compelling but false sense of intimacy that the internet can encourage, but with passion for my subject and attention to all the little details that makes for truly good cooking.

The fruits of my labor on our kitchen table. This is what good food means to me!

Memorie di Angelina does not try to be innovative, creative or original. It’s not about ‘fancy’ food. It’s not about the newest ‘fad’—have you seen any cupcakes on this blog?—or simply about what we’ve been eating at home, although, yes, everything you see here is what’s been for dinner at home. In fact, I’ve been systematic about trying to cover the most classic, iconic home dishes of each region of the peninsula, first and foremost my nonna Angelina’s home cooking from Campania and the lusty cooking of Rome, where I lived for so many years, but also classics from other regions, from the Venetian classic risi e bisi to Sicily’s pasta alla Norma. In short, more than a blog, this website aspires to be an online cookbook, a resource for learning about and preparing the best of Italian home cooking.

Happy Birthday, Memorie di Angelina!
One rude awakening that has shaken me a bit over the past year is  the extent to which blogging—like the internet itself—is a visual medium. That’s been a real challenge. I’ve never been much for food styling. You’ll hardly ever see any garnish on my dinner plate other than the occasional lemon wedge for fish. And I’ll be the first to admit, you will not find the best food photography on the web here at Memorie di Angelina. And yet photography is the thing that is supposed to attract readers and separate the truly ‘big’ blogs from the myriad others. I’ve wanted to improve the photos here for quite a while, even went out and bought myself a fancy dSRL camera and some lighting equipment. But this blog being a labor of love that I squeeze in—mostly on the weekends—whenever my day job allows, it has been a struggle to find the time to master an art that is as complex as cooking itself.

But even if I did become the next Lou Manna, sometimes I wonder whether this blogging business isn’t, at bottom, an exercise in futility. For me, food is fundamentally about taste and texture. But, ironically, those are the two sensations that are hardest to convey in words or pictures. Neither writing nor photography will ever be a substitute for actually experiencing the taste and ‘mouth feel’ of a dish. And some of the best eating, especially when it comes to home cooking which is the focus of this blog, does not make for a pretty picture. Nor can it really be captured in words—the English language, its huge vocabulary notwithstanding, fails when it comes to these sensations. (Think, for example, of all the sublime and ridiculous terms of art that wine connoisseurs resort to.) Sometimes frustration with this basic limitation of the medium can drive me almost to despair.

And yet, this quirky blog, with its odd, unpronounceable ‘foreign’ name, ‘plain Jane’ graphics, too much text and mediocre photography has, seemingly against all odds, met with a modicum of success. As I’ve proudly pointed out before, the regular readership of Memorie di Angelina has been growing steadily into the thousands and its online traffic comes, quite literally, from all over the world: about one third from here in North America and the rest from large contingents from Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. It’s the second most popular blog under cooking and recipes, and the third most popular under food, on NetworkedBlogs, the biggest blog directory on the web.

Well, now that I’m off my soapbox and done with my bragging and belly-aching, let me say it again: thank you all for your loyal readership and support. It means a lot. It’s what keeps me at it, even when I’m feeling frustrated, even when I’m tired from a long week and would rather just veg’ in front of the television and throw back a cold beer. That, and the love of cooking.

So what next for Memorie di Angelina? I’m lucky that my chosen subject is vast. I may have covered most of the ‘greatest hits’ of Rome and Naples, but there is much more out there to explore. And other regions to cover as well, in particular the other cuisines of central Italy that I love so much: Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo and the area of northern Lazio known as the ‘Tuscia’. And I have always wanted to learn more about the cooking of the rest of southern Italy, in particular Puglia, the region of Italy that my paternal grandfather Lorenzo—Angelina’s husband—hailed from. And then there’s Sicily, a region of Italy that I have always found rather mysterious, with its fascinating and colorful history which has produced a cuisine with unique blend of influences. But then, we mustn’t forget about the refined cuisine of Piemonte, the Germanic-influenced cuisines of Alto Adige, Friuli or Trieste… In short, there’s still a lot of ground to cover. Some of the more encyclopedic Italian cookbooks have literally thousands of recipes.

In the near future, I also want to make the growing collection of recipes that make up this website more easily accessible. I am tinkering with different strategies for allowing users to browse recipes more easily, perhaps through the use of indexes, so you can see the full gamut of dishes featured here by region, type of dish and so on.

And, finally, one of these days I want to get back to a project that has been on my ‘to do’ list ever since I began blogging—to introduce you to my grandmother Angelina, the lady whose wonderful home cooking inspired this blog. That, I hope, will be a post worth waiting for.

Thanks for your readership and happy cooking!

Frank

Happy Birthday, Memorie di Angelina!

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Comments

  1. Congratulations on your one year blogaversary!!! I am so very delighted to have stumbled across your blog and have thus become your newest follower/fan – I am a new blogger myself, just 8 posts, but heartfelt posts indeed, mostly a combination of inspirational thoughts with some delicious food weaved in.come visit me at mangia-bella.blogspot.com – I so look forward to digging in to your blog and reading through your recipes – my grandmother is from Naples, she came to America in the 40's. I still have yet to visit my family in Italy, but plan to do so as soon as possible. Thank you for allowing me to share in your adventure and perhaps you will share in some of mine – have a glorious weekend, ciao

  2. Dear Frank, thank you for persevering. Your blog is a joy to read, your pictures show what needs to be shown and don't distract from the food content. Everything is just right. Thank you so much for your time and enthusiasm.

  3. I have recently discovered your blog and I love it! I would truly appreciate it if you add some kind of an index to your blog, although I know it will be a lot of work. Congratulations on your first year. And, yes, I would like to learn more about Angelina!

  4. Frankly Frank, it would not surprise me one iota if you were not the tops in the highest blogs of cooking or recipes … your methodical approach and nature of focus is what draws the audience as well as the knowledge and the passion of your subject.
    Each read to me is like spending an afternoon doing what I like best, you know, like sitting in a rocker and slowing absorbing the Sunday papers. And afterwards, folding it, being able to take away something cherished, something appreciated knowing how carefully each word had been well chosen and the recipe itself, tried and true. Thank you Frank for being loyal to your readers, may you continue on your journey through Italy and may we discover more pleasures on those Sunday afternoons.

  5. Hey Big Brother
    Had to add my congrats to your blog. As one who has benefited from your food for …well let's just say a long time….let me just assure your readers that it tastes as good as it looks and looks as good as it taste. Keep up the great work. We are all very proud of you!
    Your baby sister
    ps..I would however be willing to have a meatball cook off 😉

  6. I come to your blog for the content – food photography is notoriously difficult and I don't need glitzy pix if the content is there. I've learned a lot by reading your blog, looking forward to another year. Love your garden!

  7. Happy birthday, has it really only been a year. I feel like I've been following for at least 13 months now.

    I always look forward to your posts because of your focus on ingredients and cooking technique. That and the fact I feel I should have been born Italian I love the food so much.

  8. Oh, I love this blog. It's refreshing, after my love of Italian cooking(and even better that it's focused on Napoli and Rome) The pic of Vesuvio brought back so many memories. Thank you for sharing and congrats! Oh! and I love your garden! wonderful.

  9. Congratulations! I love your blog, all the recipes and your posts… It's great that you take inspiration from your roots and share it with us.

  10. It's been a year already ? WOW! I've been reading your blog since the beginning and have always loved it. I know how to cook so the measurements and cook times were not important to me. It's about the ingrediants and history that I have always enjoyed reading about. The little side stories and tips are what make this such a great blog. Keep up the good work!

  11. Happy birthday! I read your blog with pleasure, even if I don't comment. I like your recipes and the way you put so much love in making them. I wish to your blog many other years.

  12. Happy Anniversary and keep up the good work. I love your blog for all the ways that it is not a typical food blog.

  13. The reason I love your blog is b/c it is real. I would hate to see a fancy garnish on your dish, or a photoshop photo of angelina one day. The blog is a reminder that I love being italian, and there are others like me. (1st generation from napoli, but 100% none the less:) It is the simple, yet flavorful italian dishes that fill not only my belly, but my soul.
    Keep up the great work!
    -Elena from NY

  14. hello,frank!happy blogoversary and a lot of wonderful posts in the future!you have a special blog!

  15. Hi Frank – it continues to be a great pleasure to read your unique blog. Congratulations on one year and best wishes for continued success.
    LL

  16. CONGRATS for first succesfull writing year,you are so inspiring keep writing and sharing

  17. Congratulations on this first anniversary! and what a beautiful garden you have! It's one of the very few american blogs that do feature traditional Italian recipes and that always make me feel closer to home. Angelina would be so proud of you!

  18. Congrats on your anniversary and please keep doing what you're doing. I can never get enough of learning about traditional Italian food. So glad you're inspired to continue sharing what you know.

    Thanks!

  19. happy bloganniversary ! it's been a long time I have been looing at your blog and found it fill with a lot of charm ! thanks ! Pierre de Paris

  20. Congratulations, Frank-your story is lovely the photos are perfect and you've made me very nostalgic….

  21. Congratulations Frank!! I cannot believe it's been a whole year. Your blog has been an inspritation and you've been such a rock to all of us here in the blogging community. I totally understand what you're saying about photography…Alan is working to take appetizing pictures for me, and it's hard to take pictures of food when one;s hungry!
    As someone who writes for a living if someone had told me a year ago that after writing all day I'd be writing in my free time for fun…well, I'd have been surprised to say the least. We all appreciate all that you do in the food community and all your success is well deserved.
    Congratulations and I look forward to what you will do in the next year!

  22. Happy Birthday! You have a wonderful blog and I loved this post a lot. Hope you have another wonderful blogging year!

  23. HAppy Birthday and Congrats, your heritage is one to be proud of and this blog shows it in every step if way with your love and dedication to family and food. I absolutley love that picture of the zukes, love frying the flowers, and those leaves are humongous(is that a word)? wow, you are going to have fabulous zucchnni's~! Looking forward to another year of fine dining with you and your family history!

  24. Congrats on your one year anniversary. I go to blogs for different reasons. Some wow me with photos. Some with recipes, others with their unique twist on food as central to how one lives a life. I host a blog for very specific reasons. Everyone has their own style and I appreciate the variety and knowledge out there that is given freely and graciously. The history and knowledge of what your present is paramount for my visits here. And yes, I would very much like to meet Angelina.

  25. Congratulations on your first year! Thanks for inspiring me to try new Italian dishes and more traditional ways to make them. Your blog is one of the few that I truly enjoy reading and I look forward to each post.

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