At the Crossroads of Venice and London, a Food Writer Finds Her Voice

Photos courtesy of Skye McAlpine

To say Skye McAlpine is a wanderer is putting it mildly. The blogger behind From My Dining Table began life in London, then moved with her family at age 6 to Venice, Italy. But what her parents intended to be a year-long flirtation with spaghetti Bolognese and gelato wound up being more permanent than expected — they couldn’t have anticipated completely falling in love with Venetian culture. McAlpine spent the remainder of her childhood in Venice.

As an adult, McAlpine studied ancient literature at Oxford University and married an Englishman. These days, she splits her time between London and Venice, spending about six months in each a year.

“It’s kind of perfect for me,” McAlpine said of her nomadic lifestyle. “My home is a bit of a moveable feast, I guess. I love Venice — it feels like my true home. It’s peaceful and quaint. But I love that London is such a contrast. It’s such a vibrant, trendy city.”

Chocolate, blackberry, and thyme cake.

McAlpine’s culinary identity is a fusion of the two cities. The English sausages, sponge cake, and hearty roasts of her parents hold a special place in her heart, although Italian fare speaks straight to her soul: fluffy panettone at Christmas, creamy saffron risotto, grilled baby artichokes drizzled with olive oil, and endless plates of fresh pasta.

McAlpine didn’t start cooking much herself until college, when circumstance demanded it. “The cafeteria in college I found to be quite soulless,” she explained. She began “obsessively reading cookbooks,” particularly titles by cooks of Italian fare Marcella Hazan and Anna Del Conte, and experimented with the recipes she found. Even more than cooking itself, she loved way the people responded to her food. “I found it was such a great way to forge friendships,” she said. “And I think that’s where I really learned how to cook.”

Sweet rosemary and dark chocolate tart.

After college, McAlpine earned a master’s degree (she studied the influence of Greek and Roman literature on Shakespeare) and a Ph.D (on the 17th century translations of Latin love poetry). Publishers came knocking, asking her to write a book. But McAlpine suffered a severe case of writer’s block. “Where to start?” she wondered. As an exercise, a friend suggested she begin with a subject she loved, to help find her voice. Her chosen subject? Food.

“I just stuck with that!” McAlpine said with a laugh. “The book kind of fell by the wayside, but I knew it was the right way to go.”

Her blog, From My Dining Table, which began in 2014, features recipes that draw on the many influences in McAlpine’s life. Treacly mince pies and hot cross buns recall her life in England, while mint and vegetable risotto and maccheroni al forno con tartufo gianco (truffled macaroni and cheese) speak to her Italian side. The site has exploded in popularity — to date, she boasts nearly 85,000 followers on Instagram.

"I’m loving the direction of From My Dining Table,” she said, adding that she has major designs on the future. A cookbook is in the works, and she’s taking on more and more freelance writing assignments. She’s also begun hosting cooking workshops in Venice, which help students explore the secret, real side of the city.

But for McAlpine, the focus will always be on capturing beautiful moments.

“The thing about food is that you put all this effort into cooking something, and it’s really beautiful and special, and then it’s gone,” she said. “If you can capture that memory in some way, that’s really special.”

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