This week we’re taking time out from our usual recipe posts to mark a major milestone, the tenth “blogiversary” of Memorie di Angelina.
It’s hard to believe that ten years has gone by since I published my first “welcome!” post, promising that the site would soon be filled with my favorite recipes. Well, it’s taken a while, but at this point I think I’ve made good on that promise and then some. Memorie di Angelina now brings together 530 recipes for your reading and cooking pleasure.
My grandmother Angelina’s recipes form the heart and soul of the collection, of course, but beyond that you’ll find here a strong focus on the cookery of Lazio, where I lived for ten years, and Campania, Angelina’s home region. You’ll also find a healthy collection of recipes from Tuscany, Lombardy, the Veneto, Sicily and Puglia, and at least a few from each of Italy’s other regions. Plus a smattering of Italian-American and non-Italian ones, too. Along with recipes, you’ll also find articles with essential background and techniques for making authentic Italian food, in-depth information on the Italian Pantry and food culture, and tips like how to choose the best canned tomatoes.
Has it really been 10 years?
The time has flown by, and yet it seems more like 100 years ago rather than ten. Back in 2009, Memorie di Angelina was one of the few places online you could find authentic Italian recipes and reliable information about Italian food culture in English. Maybe that’s why what started out as a modest—and I have to admit, pretty amateurish—site meant for sharing recipes with a few friends and family caught on with a wider public. Today we’re as popular as ever, and in fact, a good number of our posts have become veritable internet hits. In case you’re curious, here’s a list of our most popular posts of all time:
- Pasta con la ricotta
- Pasta e fagioli
- Homemade Potato Gnocchi
- Gelato: The Basic Recipe
- Polpo alla griglia
- Carbonara vegetariana
- Crochette di patate
- Pane caserecccio
- Homemade passata di pomodoro
- Fettuccine all’Alfredo
Hmm… Looking at this list, perhaps I should change the name of this blog to “Carb Heaven”? 😉
Why Memorie di Angelina is still worth a visit
These days, the internet is incredibly crowded with Italian food blogs. And even major food websites are offering up (more or less) real Italian recipes. And yet, I hope, there are still reasons to visit to this little site. First and foremost is the unstinting devotion to authenticity, which even today isn’t a given. Along with the worthwhile content, there’s also a lot of dreck out there. You can come to Memorie di Angelina and feel confident you’re getting the real deal and nothing but.
Another thing that sets this blog apart, I’d like to think, is the focus on technique and the actual experience of cooking, presented in a way that strives to both educate and entertain. After reading one of my recipes, I think you’ll feel confident that you can make it, too. On the other hand, you won’t get paragraphs about my day to day ups and downs in the posts. As much as I enjoy personal blogs, the focus here is on the food.
I’ve also made it a point to keep the blog entirely non-commercial. I don’t monetize Memorie di Angelina in any way, except to allow for small voluntary donations to help defray the costs of maintaining the blog. We accept no advertising, no sponsorships, no contests, no giveaways, etc., etc. despite no lack of offers over the years. Now I don’t have anything against fellow bloggers who do those things, especially the ones who are blogging full time. We all have to make a living, after all. But I do think its non-commercial character is part of this blog’s uniqueness, and my guarantee to you of its integrity.
How the site has changed
Along with the rest of the blogiverse, Memorie di Angelina has changed over the years, mostly for the better I’d like to think. When I first started blogging, not too long after I returned to the US from my years in Rome, I used to write my recipe posts the Italian way—with minimal measurements, only thrown in as and when absolutely needed. The emphasis was on telling a food story, describing the act of making the dish. To me, this made the recipes so much more friendly and accessible, the way one friend might share a favorite recipe with another.
But pretty soon I realized that many readers found this casual approach to recipes challenging. Once in a while, they would write in to say that they loved the dishes I presented, but the format made it hard to cook from the blog. So I switched my approach to a more traditional recipe format: a short intro, a list of ingredients with (mostly) exact measurements, and directions, followed with detailed notes with tips and tricks and, often, the history behind the dish. But I do hope that, along the way, I haven’t lost the story-telling character of my original posts.
A visual medium…
In the early days, I just used my cell phone to take a quick snapshot of the dish I’d made. I just wanted to give the reader an idea of what they should be aiming for. Aperture? White balance? Who knew what they were… But I soon realized that, for better or worse, blogging isn’t just about how much you knew about your subject or how well you could write about it. First and foremost, it’s a visual medium. So if I wanted to attract people to Memorie di Angelina, I had to improve my photography game.
So I turned from my cell phone to an inexpensive DLR, and then to a fancier one, and took to studying food photography. And now, although I’m still very much an amateur, to my surprise and delight I get compliments from readers and even from some professional food photographers. Who would have thought? My basic purpose hasn’t changed, though. The photos are still here to instruct and yes, attract your attention and hopefully inspire you to cook, but never just to “prettify” the post. I do minimal styling and set up, so you see the dish as it really should be. The focus is still on the food.
How blogging has changed
One of the sadder aspects of blogging for so many years is you inevitably lose touch with many of your ‘cyberfriends’ along the way. It’s not easy keeping up the blogging year in, year out, especially when you have a day job, so it doesn’t surprise me so many of my fellow bloggers have fallen by the wayside. With standards and expectations rising, the effort you need to put into blogging has gone up tremendously. While casual blogging still exists, it’s become more the exception than the rule. No wonder so many bloggers these days are dedicated full time (or close) to it, either as professionals or as at home spouses or retirees. Sometimes I wonder if I might be the last of the weekend “hobby bloggers” out there…
There was a real sense of cameraderie back in the early days. We had a “Facebook for Foodies” in the late lamented Foodbuzz. It was a website for finding like-minded bloggers and exchanging views on its discussion boards. Still, even without that platform, we bloggers still manage to find each other online, and even as I lose some cyberfriends, I keep making new ones. We keep in touch by checking in and leaving comments on each others’ blogs—one of the real joys of blogging. And the variety and quality of the blogs I see these days is truly inspiring.
Why I’m still blogging
The other real joy of blogging is, of course, you, the readers. I still get a tremendous kick out of the comments and messages from readers who are enjoying the blog and a special kick from the ones who try out the recipes. I’m delighted when I hear that one of our recipes has become a family favorite. And it warms the heart to hear from readers who are re-discovering old family recipes through Memorie di Angelina. Some say they thought that those recipes had been lost forever until they stumbled across them here. The feedback from readers is my only compensation for the blog, and it’s worth more to me than any amount of advertising revenue.
So that’s why I’m still blogging after all these years. Even with a heavy duty day job. Even as the demands of blogging have increased exponentially. Even with all the “competition” out there. Yes, I have to admit, I’ve toyed with the idea of hanging up my apron from time to time. And ten years seemed like a nice round number for doing just that. But then I thought about life without this hobby and the joy it gives me, and decided to keep at it. At least for a little while longer.
I’ve just done an anniversary interview with Paolo Rigiroli of the “Thoughts on the Table” podcast. We talk about about my approach to blogging, and how the blog and the wider blogging world has changed over the past 10 years. If you’re interested, please check it out! And while you’re there do subscribe to Paolo’s podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. There’s always something interesting cooking there!