Looking Back and Looking Forward

So here it is — the last blog post of 2020.  What a crazy year it has been.  2020 has certainly had its challenges.  It is the ‘hardest’ year in my memories.  It is unfair to 2020, though, to say that it has all been bad.  This year has also created new opportunities and for me, one of the biggest has been around this blog.  

I began this blog back in 2018, but didn’t really dedicate the time to it that I needed.  When I first started, I had the idea that it would be a snap.  Just do what I love doing — cook — and the rest will come.  How wrong I was.  There are lots of different skills involved in getting a blog going. 

Turns out are a lot of big and little things you need to do to blog about food.  Here is a list of some of big things that you have do be good at to blogging.  Cooking.  Writing. Editing. Food Styling. Photography. Photo Editing. Web Publishing. Social Media. And there are lots of ‘little’ things that make a difference too.  Search Engine Optimization.  Planning.  Research.  Creating ‘pins’.  Developing recipes.  And the biggest of all is finding a way to develop and listen to your audience!

In The Beginning

When I started in 2018, I had no idea, and the work quickly got ahead of me.  I have never had a problem with the cooking.  The writing was ‘ok’ since I have lots of background with that.  But I was naive to the realities of the rest.  I’m not of the generation where ‘social media’ is an extension of one’s self, so I was lost.  I struggled with the hosting platform I had (not WordPress).  And we were in the middle of moving.  I just was not easy.  After a little bit I kind of gave up.  I never abandoned the blog, but I wasn’t a consistent poster. 

Despite the craziness of 2020, it has given me the opportunity to resurrect and refocus on mezze & tapas.  The kitchen I was managing closed down on March 14, and hasn’t re-opened.  I have been out of ‘work’ since then.  But I seized on the opportunity to re-launch mezze & tapas.

In the past year, I rebuilt my  blog from the ground up.  I moved to a WordPress environment (this isn’t an ad, but SOOOOOO much easier).  The writing has become easier as I’ve gotten into a habit of writing.  I have taught myself the rudiments of photography, photo editing and social media.   There is still a lot to learn, but I’ve got enough now to keep moving forward.  I have begun to understand things like food styling, SEO and Canva.  There are tools that I found that makes some of this easier.  

I started the year with zero readers.  None.  I don’t have a ton now, but I do have regular, daily traffic.  A significant portion of it is returning visitors.  There is still room to grow, but I am humbled none the less but the growing support for mezze & tapas.  

Thank You

Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible the a lot of help.  There are many people who have shared their time, effort and caring with me.  I’m going to take a few moments to offer a handful of shout outs to those that have been most helpful to me.

Inspiring Bloggers 

First up is a list of fellow bloggers who have , supported, coached, and shared their content with me this past year.  It is truly encouraging to me that my peers (and in some sense competitors) would be willing to share and support a fledgling blogger.  

Specifically, I want to thank these bloggers that shared some of their recipes with me for this post back in May.  I appreciate the support of Lisa Goldfinger from Panning the Globe; Cara Krentz of Homemade Italian Cooking; Elizabeth Minchilli and Eleni Saltas of their respective self titled blogs;  new mom Giulia Scarpaleggia from Jul’s Kitchen; Nada Kiffa author of A La Marocaine; Frank Fariello from Memorie di Angelina; Noha who writes Sugar and Garlic; Albert Bevia the creative mind at  Spain on a Fork; Rosemary Molloy who writes An Italian In My Kitchen; and the wonderful Ozlem Warren from Ozlem’s Turkish Table.

A couple of other bloggers stand out to me for their continued inspiration.  Samantha of Little Ferraro Kitchen and Carlota from Cuore di Pane are both exceptional at what they do.  Perhaps they don’t know it, but both routinely inspire me to be better.  Both have amazing blogs with consistently excellent food.  And both are great people who I have ‘met’ through the virtual world.  They have offered insight and encouragement both directly and indirectly.  It is my hope to someday be able to take food photographs that like Carlota or have the vibrance and joy of Samantha.  Thank you to both for your inspriation.  

Fabulous Producers

Clearly it is impossible to write a food blog without food, and for that we all need to be thankful to our food producers.  But for me specifically, several producers have contributed directly to mezze & tapas and I want to take a moment to say Thank You. 

For over ten years, I have spent my summers getting some of the best produce in the Boston area from Grant Family Farm.  I have developed a relationship with farmers Chris and Alice over the years that is professionally and personally rewarding. The Elegant Baker and I look forward to our weekly visits to their farm, walking the fields with them, and generally catching up.  This year, they were active supporters of my blog.  Always curious about what I had planned, they offered ideas, suggestions, and in some cases challenges.  I enjoyed getting a new crop they may be trying out and hearing them ask me to ‘see what I can do with it’.  I am grateful for their support. 

Less close to home, but no less important to the blog is Arianna de Marco from Cantasole Olive Oils. There is no more Mediterranean ingredient than olive oil and knowing a great producer is a big help!  Before travel to Italy from the US was closed, I had the opportunity to spend time in the fields of Cantasole and learn about their olive oil production.  They produce a fabulous oil, and pretty much every single recipe published on the blog starts with Arianna’s oils. Beyond that, Arianna shared her time for my Meet the Producer story just before her busy harvest season.   I am very thankful for my friendship with Arianna. 

My Family 

It would be wrong if I didn’t mention my family and friends, a continual source of support and encouragement. They are my regular readers, food testers, food critics and general moral support.  mezze & tapas wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of Jillian, Jonathan, Margaret, Eric, Jim and Kelly.   Thank you all for your care and support!

B is a constant source of inspiration and education.  I know that when I have a technical question no matter how simple (‘how do I tag in instagram?’) or complex he is willing to help.   He has been my sherpa as I navigate things like social media, photo editing, and the new (to me) Mac OS environment.  Always ready with a suggestion, a tip or insight, he has become an important part of the blog.  

Most importantly, the Elegant Baker.  She is my biggest cheerleader and inspiration.  Scully to my Mulder, she is always willing for a food adventure.  She helps me discover new foods and restaurants when we travel, and unless she is allergic to it, will try just about anything I make.  She is the image of patience as she waits for dinner while I take ‘one more shot’ for the blog.  I appreciate that she has been open to trying all the foods I’ve made for blog posts. 

In fact, the Elegant Baker has shared in every bit of food made for the blog.  Anything I make for the blog, first we ask “is it blog worthy” and if we both don’t say yes, it doesn’t make it.  (Yes, there are things that don’t make it to the blog).  There is nothing that happens on this blog that she isn’t a part of in some way. To paraphrase Tennyson, if I had a flower for everything she did for me, I could walk through my garden forever.  

Top Posts

Looking back over the year, I guess it is ‘customary’ to share your ‘top posts’ for the year. I started the year with about a dozen posts put up over since 2018.  This year, I had over 60 posts.  In general, I’ve been posting weekly, with a few ‘bonus’ posts this summer.  Looking back, here are the Top 7 posts from the blog for 2020!  

  1. Chicken Lemon and Olives
  2. Braciole, Puglian Style
  3. Turkish Rice and Spinach-Pirinçli Ispanak
  4. Red Snapper Salad
  5. Roasted Eggplant with Sumac and Pickled Red Onions
  6. Steamed Mussels with Chorizo and Tomato Broth (my New Years Eve Meal this year!)
  7. All About Olive Oil; Meet the Producer Arianna DeMarco
On to 2021

So that’s looking back.  Now time to turn my attention to looking forward.  Of course, we have no real idea what 2021 will bring.  Will be able to get back to traveling? Will restaurants (the ones that survived)  be able to welcome guests again?  What are the long term health and economic impacts of the crazy 2020?  So much is out of our control.  What is in my control is my plans for mezze & tapas.

More fully embrace and use social media.  I have the scantest understanding of Pinterest.  I barely use stories on Instagram.  I’ve never made a Reel.  And although there is a mezze & tapas Facebook account, I really have no idea what I’m doing there.  As I said, I’m not of the generation where it is all ‘native’ to me.  But 2021 will be different.

In addition to social media, I want to explore video.  I will be looking to add some video contentt to the blog.  There is a natural fit, of course, for sharing food methods and tips.  That will also weave nicely with trying stories or reels on IG. 

I want to explore some of the less known cuisines of the Mediterranean.  Countries like Croatia, Albania and Malta and regions like L’Occitaine in France and Catalunya in Spain all lie on the Mediterranean.  I know enough to know that the foods their will largely be similar to their more well known neighbors. But I also know that there are always local and seasonal twists on foods that can make it unique.  I want to discover more of that this year.  

Wrap Up

As I wrap up, I don’t want to forget to thank the most important members of the messe & tapas community.  You!  Without you coming here, and taking in what I have to offer, there would be no mezze & tapas.  So thank you.  And may your 2021 be WAY better that 2020!  Happy New Year and see you next year!!

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