I am a home cook who writes about food.
And as with this lemon cookies recipe, I share flavors that have the simplicity and richness of the best food I have ever tasted. The home food.
Writing about food. What food?
I have tasted the deliciously perfect food of some starred chefs and the satisfyingly ready-made food of restaurants and deliveries.
But when I think of the food I love the most, the one that nourishes and comforts me, one of memories and identity, of rituals and care, all that remains on the table are home recipes, Artusi’s cookbook, and little else. Above all old sheets written by hand.
So I write about food from a specific perspective: that of the home cook.
Over time, I realized that to share recipes and their history, stories, and memories, I had to study.
What writing about food means to me
In 2014 I started this blog, but the journey to get here, to a wooden table with a large marble cutting board, surrounded by pens and spoons, papers and ingredients, PCs and pots, the journey -I was saying- has been long.
Untile 2018, I went through many stages, studied and randomly acquired skills, read and cooked a lot. Along the way, the project changed. It was a business company founded by three people, and the blog was just a tool of the company.
After so much work, so many trains taken and lost to reach clients and events, I looked for the right direction for me in the silent quiet of my kitchen overlooking the rooftops of Bologna. When the company closed, the blog became my project.
January 2019 starts my adventure as a blogger who discovers the pleasure of storytelling as well as cooking. I realized almost immediately that writing about food doesn’t mean sharing the night before’s dinner.
Writing about food presupposes, banally, knowing how to cook and write.
I took cooking courses to make my experience of home cook more solid.
Of creative writing and photography. I learned the basics of web writing and the importance of keywords and blogpost titles (breaking almost all the rules I know).
I drew on my various skills and previous work experience as a journalist and history researcher.
Even cooking daily breakfasts and meals on-demand in my r&b for years was a central experience.
I read a lot: about food, cookbooks, food history books, biographies of food writers, on agriculture, on cooking and food preservation techniques, articles and statistics on the consumption habits of Italians and the world, on the relationship between women and food.
I like well-written newsletters and, for some time now, I have also been listening to podcasts on the subject.
But still, I couldn’t find my tone of voice. In the end, I think I understood what kind of food writer I am.
What kind of food writer I am
I am a historian food writer. I write about the historical origins of ingredients and dishes.
But I am also a food writer with a strong territorial identity, Italian and local, which I tell through the classics of Italian and Bolognese-Romagnola cuisine.
I am a food writer of memories. I’m the last generation of cooks in my house. And I feel the responsibility and the need to honor my family heritage of recipes and memories passed on to me by the previous generations. Writing about food is the way not to lose that precious treasure.
I am a home cook who has recently understood that, from my home kitchen, I can help the planet.
Now that you know that this is the food diary of an aspiring writer, what food I offer, and the reasons why I have been writing for a few years, I’ll tell you the behind-the-scenes story of a blog post.
What it means to write and publish a new recipe
Deciding what to write requires an editorial plan. When to publish, needs an editorial calendar. Although I have experience as an editor, I am not good at applying the rules of publishing.
Usually, I decide the new content on the basis of the identity of the food project (home and Italian, local cuisine); of the seasons; but it also depends on my state of mind. So it knows frequent last-minute changes.
I work with pots and pans; I still use pen and paper.
I usually write lists of recipes from which I choose those of the month, one per week. I have also to think of my weekly menu to be sure I’ll eat it.
For each recipe I choose, I write down the characteristics and events that come to mind. In this way, the introduction is born.
After deciding on the recipe, I cook making attention to the process.
Writing the text of a recipe is one of the most insidious exercises I know.
I am always afraid to forget something that I make automatically, without thinking about it. Instead, the gestures involved in making a dish are just as important as the ingredients. Above all are the recipes I better know, those I make several times before publishing them. I take a thousand notes while cooking.
When it comes to developing an original recipe, arriving at the last version can take months.
When I am ready, I cook the dish again to photograph it.
I plan the time for the set, often during the weekend; I prepare the set considering the natural light (bad weather? no set); I photograph; I store the food and things I have used.
Then I have to find time to write the text of the recipe; research and write the introduction; edit the photos.
Writing the recipe in English is not a mere translation.
I think about the needs of the foreign audience and, if necessary, I add some extra information.
I use a program to reduce the weight of the photos; then I upload the pics on the blog, then the contents, I adjust the writing for the web (google). At least, I send online and share on social networks. That means I choose the most suitable photo for each social network and write the caption (in two languages).
Historical origins of a recipe, my speciality
When it is a historical recipe, being a contemporary history researcher helps me to find the sources. I read books on history and local gastronomes; I find sources and documents (available online and visiting public and private archives).
If it is a food story, a travel post, or a post about Bologna, cooking time is replaced by site inspections.
Of course, it is possible to run a food blog in other ways.
If you are thinking of it sounds like a job, I confirm it.
To be a food writer blogger needs dedication, perseverance, and many hours spent researching, writing, and cooking. If this passion coexists with other projects and jobs, as in my case, planning is the life-saving watchword and does not save from delays and fatigue.
Over the years, I have worked on campaigns and projects with brands and agencies.
But I’ll tell you about collaborations next time.
Lemon cookies recipe
These lemon biscuits are the last recipe I have developed in collaboration with the cooking channel of the Italian news website Tgcom24. I collaborated for two years, sharing the editorial plan and deciding which recipes to send.
If you haven’t given up reading, thank you. You deserve that I come to your house and bring you a whole basket of lemon biscuits.
At the bite, they are like crispy clouds. Then you’ll taste the rustic touch given by the cornflour.
The scent and flavor of lemon are well discernible but without creating the unpleasant ‘soap’ effect.
The recipe has its natural balance between dry and liquid parts, so believe me, I recommend respecting the quantities indicated to be sure of a good result. They become crispy as they cool out of the oven, so place them on a pastry tray. Take them out of it when they start to become colored.
Buona cucina, Monica
Links to articles where I have written about home cooking and blogging.
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Lemon cookies recipe
about 40 biscuits
The list of ingredients
potato starch, 100g
fine polenta flour, 150g
0 flour, 150g
melted butter, 170g
juice and zest of one large organic lemon
teaspoon baking powder, 1
pinch of salt
grated coconut to taste
Mix the flours, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Add the melted butter and egg, filtered lemon juice, and zest.
Knead the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling film and leave it in the fridge for 10 minutes to overnight.
Turn on the oven at 200C degrees.
In the meantime, cut the dough into pieces and roll it out to a height of 6mm.
Use biscuit cutters to give it the shape you prefer and arrange it in rows on a baking tray covered with baking paper.
Lower the oven temperature to 180C degrees and bake the lemon cookies for about 12 minutes. Take out from the oven even if they are still soft in the center. They finished drying out from the oven.
To decorate the biscuits, mix ½ teaspoon of honey, or maple syrup, with little water.
Brush the surface and sprinkle with grated coconut or lemon zest as you go.
Leave to rest for a few minutes before storing in a metal box.
They will keep for several days.