Cake and beans is 1 year old!
It's been an entire year since we started this blog (technically a year and a month, but who's counting?) which means it's time to take a trip down memory lane! But before we get to that, I have to admit that it was actually Facebook that reminded me of this fact— now what would we do without the internet, our faithful servant, to remind us of important things like this? Nothing, that's what!
But enough about that, let's begin!
Our first steps!
So everything began, as you probably know, with me (Lotta) encouraging Anton to pursue his food dream. He kept saying stuff like "I'm never as happy as when I cook" and "Can someone pay me to prepare food?", so what else can a partner do but force someone who says that to start a blog, eh? I have to admit, I had my selfish motives too: I wanted a reason to photograph something else besides trees, Anton and buildings. Antons first thought was to have a monochrome colour based food blog, but happily soon realized that that wouldn't be a very long-term idea.
So we started cooking and made about 10 recipes before launching the blog in August 2016, and just like that, we were out there.
Then something that started as a nice fun hobby, quickly escalated to something serious. Even though we still didn't know anything about blogging, food styling or social media we knew we made kick ass recipes, had good taste in design and we could produce a nice picture, so we just wanted to get our product out there.
After only a few weeks, maybe a month, we got super serious about it and really started punching out recipes. We were posting three recipes a week at that point and really going all in with this whole keep your blog updated thing. And loving every minute of it!
Our biggest highlight of that fall/winter was winning best newcomer of the year in the Finnish-Swedish blog awards in November. I still get so warm and fuzzy thinking about the fact that a lot of people voted for us! (Thank you!)
The big christmas dinner
But now on to the fun stories. After all of our newfound "success" we wanted to put ourselves on the map, so we decided to make an entire Christmas menu vegetarian style. This is a thing we still talk about about once a week. It was RIDICULOUS!
Firstly, we had never made vegetarian christmas food before. Secondly, we only had one day to do it (ONE DAY!). Fine, I'll stop screaming now.
So, it was late November and we had decided to spend a whole day cooking. We wanted everything on the same table, x-mas buffet style. There were a lot of issues that we did worry about but didn't want to think about, like the fact that we didn't have a big enough surface to lay it all on; or that the sun was setting at 15:00 and we only use natural light; or that we were still unsure if all the recipes would work (being the pros that we were we hadn't tried out any of the recipes beforehand); and the fact that we didn't have enough cutlery for everything; you get it, we weren't very well prepared.
But nevertheless we started cooking, and boy did we cook. We made so many different dishes during those hours, we felt like we were running a maraton.
Halfway into the cook we noticed the sun was setting, and due to the fact that we lived on the first floor the sun was never really all that visible to begin with, we had to just start shooting before we lost all our light. So we just threw everything on the table. What table?, you ask, Didn't you just say you didn't have a table big enough for everything? Well, yes.
So we had to improvise.
In the middle of our marathon cook we ran down to the basement of our building which happened to have a tool shed and a lot of different types of wood lying around — like some old shelves or planks you were allowed to burn in your fireplace. Luckily for us, there happened to be a big old door leaning against the wall, so we grabbed that and ran back up.
We started placing all of our meals on the door, which was now covered in a tablecloth, but at the same time realizing a) We would never fit everything into one picture so it was stupid of us to even try and b) It was really dark.
So in the end we had to squeeze anything we wanted to take pictures of next to the window, and when we finally were done with shooting everything it was 3:30 pm, which meant we had shot most of our pictures in what could be described as total darkness, cranking up that ISO to about 5000. But after all that effort, we were STOKED (here I go again) when Huffington post shared one of our recipe, hallelujah!
And it almost felt worth all of the effort (it was worth it).
The publishing contract
After a short and much-needed christmas vacation the new year was upon us. And we really wanted to start getting paid for our hard work. You know, just a few nickels here and there to feel that we didn't work our asses of for free.
I had a plan to start contacting magazines, ad agencies and promoters to try and start collaborations for foodstyling or creating recipes. But firstly— I wanted to contact a publishing company.
Now, 7 months later I don't know where I got my confidence from, but I'm so happy I did it. Something I learnt along the way is that, the less you know the happier you are. Meaning, in our case, that in the beginning we were so incredibly proud of our work, we loved every single recipe. Now, a year later I'm a lot harder on myself. I know we make better food and take better pictures then a year ago, but as with every skill, the more you learn about something the more you realise how little you know and how much there is to learn.
But back to the book— So we contacted a few publishers (a few in Sweden and a few in Finland) and got positive feedback from all of them. WHAT! I was sure they weren't even going answer us, but suddenly we had booked two meetings with publishers!
It was kind of surreal to talk about publishing a book, what did we know about writing a book or cooking, or creating original recipes? Not much to be honest, and I still feel that we don't know all that much about it (but we've learned a ton already!).
But in any case, we got a deal with the fantastic Shildts & Söderströms in Finland and we celebrated hard! It might have been one of the happiest days of our lives— having recently gotten engaged and now with a publishing contract signed we were living our dream in Stockholm.
At the same time we started publishing a weekly recipe/column on a new food website, called Foodly. But after a few months we realized that juggling a cookbook, 2 full time jobs, a blog and a column was too much so sadly we had to quit that.
We also got the opportunity to create recipes for a summer barbecue spread for the biggest magazine for Swedish speaking women in Finland. I can tell you, every time you create pictures for someone other than for the readers of your blog it's terrifying. I really feel that our blog is a safe zone for us, but immediately when you step outside it's safe borders it feels "real" and you can feel the pressure. We have never gotten anything but nice feedback, but I'm sure some people don't like what we do, which is fine of course. When you put your work out there you have to welcome criticism, and everyone can't love everything. And nor should they, we all have our tastes and we're just glad that you, dear reader, like what we do!
Summer and a burnout (almost)
Both me and Anton have experienced burnouts before, so we're acutely aware of the risks and symptoms of it. This summer was really supposed to be the summer of our lives, we had time off from work for a full month where we didn't have to do anything but cook food and photograph it. Well, and create recipes. You wouldn't believe how hard it was after a year of fulltime (most times more) work and then leaving for vacation and working some more. While also living a few nights here and there, some at our parents place, some at friends places and then at a countryside cottage. We do realise how lucky we are being able to travel so freely and take time off work to write a cookbook but living out of a suitcase for almost a month was just not really all that relaxing. And feeling the symptoms of a pre-burnout setting in we had to dial it down and find some time to relax as well.
The lesson here was that we have to respect our time off from work and make room for doing nothing other than relaxing. I think we both learned from our mistakes and won't schedule an equally hectic summmer again.
So now what?
Well, we're still working on our cookbook and thats ok. We have to let it take it's time. And as long as our editor isn't stressed, we shouldn't be either. I think it's healthy to learn to lower your standards, not on the book but on yourself. Realizing that we can't keep a blog active; a social media with new and exciting content; and write a cookbook all at the same time (while also working full time "real" jobs).
During this past year we've learned to make sacrifices, to prioritize and also know when to take a break and watch 60 hours of master chef in one sitting (yes, yes we did that. Except for the "one sitting" part), and hope we can keep getting better at taking time for ourselves.
One year from now I hope we have mastered the art of balance, I hope our book has received good reviews and we're toasting our success on a beach in Barcelona! Or Stockholm, that's fine as well, as long as we're drinking something. Water is fine.
So here's to a great, albeit hectic, year of our lives and we want to thank YOU for being a part of our journey! We couldn't have done it without your encouraging comments and love. As a small thank you here is a picture of one of our first recipes. Pretty, no?
We've come a long way...