Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Blog Birthday Retrospective

My mom made me this angel food cake for Mother's Day, but
it's the cake I always had for my birthday as a kid. So it seems
fitting for today...even if it's the blog's birthday, not mine.
Happy blog birthday to ME! Today is the 11th anniversary of my first post here on Mango & Ginger.

I will be celebrating this evening with dinner at Parts & Labor and I have spent a little time today reminiscing with myself about everything I've learned and all the opportunities I've had over the past decade-plus-one thanks to this blog.

In case you don't have time to go back and actually read the thousands of posts in the blog, here's a quick recap of some of the highlights of each year. Navel-gazing, yes. But it's my blog birthday - if I can't do this today, when can I do it?

2005: In the last few months of 2005, I wrote a lot. I posted crappy food pictures and basic recipes. Wrote about excursions I took (Paris! NYC!). And babbled about how food fits into our lives. It's two of those posts (one, two), both about fashion and food, that I love most from that year. They're so typical of how I was thinking about food back then. Back then, when I was only 29!! I was a baby!

2006: Less than a year into this blog, my posting fell way, way off. Because I was pregnant...and then because I had a little baby. But looking back, what I did write was pretty interesting (to me, anyway). I got into art and food and Harry Potter and food (way before the books were over!) and the importance of regionalism in food (a subject I've revisited often). Also, apparently 2006 is the year I learned that scrapple is a regional food. I thought that was just something I always knew! Apparently not!

2007: Blogging was light again in 2007, as I juggled work, tiny baby Dixon and a massive home renovation, including a brand new kitchen. But when I did write, I was all kinds of philosophical. This is the year I started getting interested in happiness research and began exploring how happiness relates to food. Nine years on, that's still one of my favorite subjects. It's also when I started getting bored with "foodie" culture, which is also, something that has persisted.

2008: In 2008, I made a commitment to myself to post every weekday. And I did. Sometimes more than once. I wrote a lot. Not always strictly about food - there was a lot of "other stuff I love" that year, mostly about art or design. I wrote a lot that year about pop culture and celebrity chef/TV chef culture (something I am not really interested in at all anymore), but it's also when I really started to think about the food scene here in Baltimore and I started casually reviewing restaurants (here on the blog). Also that year: I started drinking rose, I learned a ton about food and I made less money working than any other year since I started freelancing. I think those things are all related.

2009: In 2009, I was writing for Houzz, so a lot of my posts here ended up being about dining rooms and tables. That year, I also started writing for Deep Glamour, so I was looking at pretty much everything through the lens of glamour, which is really a very interesting way to view the world. But if I had to pick one theme for the blog that year, it would be parties. I wrote so much about parties and drinks and wine. Still, obviously, some of my favorite topics.

2010: Looking back, 2010 was a banner year. Parties, cocktails and decor remained top blog themes, with a splash of fashion thrown in. This was also the year I really started to get into vintage cookbooks, which I still love. Our friends hit a lot of major milestones (Kyle and Mary got married, Mike and Alicia's daughter Maggie was born, Alicia and Dixon collaborated on their first birthday cake, the entire Kelly family threw the first major throwdown.) We started to go to Dogwood wine dinners. It's also the year that I "met," via the old Elizabeth Large blog on the Sun website, the son of my parents' favorite waiter ever. Around that time, I started to really understand my family's food and restaurant culture. When I first started blogging, I didn't think we had one. I was wrong. Very wrong, in fact. We had/have a fairly strong culture, really, all built around the Chesapeake, restaurant dining and casual parties. And I'm pretty lucky for that.

2011: Two big - really big - things happened to our family in 2011. First, we got a smoker. That was a game-changer. And second, I got a phone call from Sam Sessa, asking me to write a "cheap eats" piece for the Sun's Weekend LIVE section. Then I got another call from him asking me to review a restaurant. Next thing you know, I spent the next four years - until last fall - reviewing. Again, big.

2012: My New Year's resolution in 2012 was, "More mascara, more parties." And wow, did I stick to that. I'm happy to report that I'm still in the habit of wearing  mascara when I leave the house (it keeps me from looking like a corpse). But really, it was the party thing that I most successfully fulfilled. We had so many parties that year, I can't even count them all. And when we weren't having parties, I was experimenting with cocktails. I tested a lot of recipes that year, too. And I gave a talk about food and art at the BMA. Also, this is also when we probably reached Peak Southern Cuisine. But really, when I think back on 2012, I think of the parties. Man, that year was fun.

2013: My sister got married in 2013 and we, once again, went to or hosted a ton of parties. That year, we also had a fun wine-tasting trip to Keuka Lake, spent a weekend eating our way through Manhattan, and hosted one of my very favorite Pollard house dinners ever, celebrating Kyle and Mary's third wedding anniversary. I got to write a series about crabs for the Sun and, as a result, I spent a whole lot of time thinking about my personal culinary roots, continuing the train of thought that began in 2010. So we did a lot in 2013 and I was very busy. Maybe that's why the blog doesn't seem to have one overarching theme. I was constantly trying to play catch-up and trying to remember to record the stuff I was doing in my real life.

2014: In 2014, I semi-fixed the "forgetting to post it" problem from 2013, by writing a ton of summary posts rounding up stuff I'd done over the previous week or month. It was a solid year, including a short but killer trip to Paris, our tenth wedding anniversary, our first fundraising Fake St. Patrick's Day party, and an unbelievably wild Mock Thanksgiving party (our 12th). It's also the year I first learned about how Baltimore's chefs work together to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and when I started to get really excited about the way the city's chefs work together and the tight community they've formed. Have I mentioned that I love this city and the food people in it? I really do.

2015: In 2015, Cooper and I turned 40. As did many of our friends. Which means the year was pretty much one long party - there were these fall/winter trips and parties and this party in the snow and this trip to Philly to see Swifty and an Alicia-themed Keuka trip I didn't even blog about and these August parties and this wine tasting excursion and, finally, after everything else, our massive Clementine-catered blowout at Church & Company followed by a good old-fashioned McGarvey's meet-up and bar crawl. It was intense, to say the least.

2016: I started out this year with a desire to shine a light on all the cool things happening in and around Baltimore. Unfortunately, too much regular work has thrown me off my posting schedule and focus. But I have had some great experiences, including a vacation-filled summer that started at Keuka Lake, then took us to Ireland, Scotland, to the Delaware beaches and back to Keuka. (Not that I've written much about any of that!) Even with the travel, my favorite post of this year was something close to home - a roundup of what I learned from the Sun series I wrote about international grocery stores. And the year isn't over yet, of course.

Whew. It's been a good run, so far. In the moment, I always feel so busy, but when I look back, it's clear that though my to-do list might be long, it's stacked with incredible parties, memorable meals and event after event that puts me in contact with some of the greatest people around.

This little trip down memory lane has been a great reminder that I have wonderful friends, both in and out of the food world, and that I am lucky, lucky, lucky to have the opportunity to write about food, especially at this time and in this awesome, dynamic city.

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