Each week we profile a different Canadian Food Blogger who is part of the FBC community. This week we meet Amanda, the Toronto blogger behind Everyday Allergen-Free and the author of the cookbook, Everyone's Welcome. She aims to inspire confidence in people managing food allergies in their every day life.
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Name: Amanda Orlando
Blog name: Everyday Allergen-Free
Where were you born? Markham, Ontario
Where are you living now? Toronto, ON
Why did you start your blog?
Originally, I started my blog on Tumblr in 2012. I wanted to share my recipes and my newfound love of food photography. Eventually I moved to a blogging platform and focused on writing about food allergy in addition to my recipes because that is more authentic to my life and my experiences with food. I have lived with anaphylactic food allergies since I was a baby and I wanted to present my life with immune disease in a way that was positive and real. I wanted to help empower others living with immune disease.
How did you decide on your blog name?
I had several names over the years but Everyday Allergen-Free seemed to stick. I think it was more searchable and identifiable for others with food allergy. To be honest I have thought about changing it because I was never totally sold on the name, but at this point I think that would just be confusing for my readers! I chose it because I wanted to convey that food allergy is something I manage daily and is always present in my life. I am constantly avoiding foods that are dangerous for me, while appreciating and enjoying the foods that are safe for me. That’s the contradiction of living with food allergy when you’re a food lover.
What do you blog about?
I blog about my life with multiple food allergies. Most of my content is recipes, but I also blog a lot about the social and emotional side of living with this disease. I want to raise awareness about what it’s really like to live with anaphylactic food allergies. Some of my content is humorous, some informative, and some brutally honest and serious. There’s a lot of food.
Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?
At this point it has become a business, but it is not my only business. I work as a freelance creative and do consulting, brand collaborations, and other projects too.
What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why?
Bittersweet Apricot and Radicchio Salad. A little sweet, a little bitter, and plenty of salt. My family loves bitter things, so I grew up eating big chunks of raw fennel for dessert, apricots off my Nonno’s tree, and radicchio in all my salads. I find bitter flavors to be cleansing and comforting. This salad is beautiful and it packs a punch of flavor. It has so much texture, is a bit unusual for some, and is so well balanced. Almost everything on the plate was grown by a local farmer and purchased when in season. Eating seasonally and locally as much as possible is important to me.
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
I put a lot of consideration and thought into this post on Managing Food Allergies as a Retail Worker and wanted to use it to draw attention to how food allergy might affect those working in low income jobs. Often, food allergy is thought of as a bougie problem, but it’s not. It can affect anyone, regardless of whether you can afford the medications or pricey allergy foods. Everyone’s food allergy experience is unique because we all lead different lives. That’s what I wanted to convey with this post. Unfortunately, it didn’t get many reads, which was disappointing. But it’s something that will live on in my archive, and perhaps the people who are looking for content on that subject may find it.
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
When I published this post in the spring of 2019, oat milk was just becoming “a thing”. Being accustomed to dairy-free milks already (since I am dairy allergic) I had my own recipe for homemade oat milk that was far cheaper than store-bought. Oat milk was a specialty product that I often drank as a kid. I linked this post to one about making oat milk ice cream and shared it on Pinterest. It quickly became my most popular post and continued to get so many hits every month after that. I did not think it would get much action at all because people are used to buying these things ready-made. I then made a YouTube video about it and that became my most popular video so far. I guess I underestimated how much people love oat milk!
What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?
The Instagram algorithm lol.
But honestly, I would say that visibility is a challenge. Some days my content hits a home run and the various algorithms of social media put it in front of a ton of users, while other days I feel like I’m shouting into a void because barely anyone is seeing what I post. It can be frustrating because no one knows the secrets of the algorithm. It is especially frustrating when it’s a sponsored post and the performance is being monitored. Whether the post is sponsored or not, I always put a lot of attention and time into every post so I hope to share it with a wide audience. I would love to have help with engagement across the platforms but I’m not quite there as a business yet. One day!
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?
Lean hard into who you are. I used to try to emulate other bloggers because they were successful and I loved their style and aesthetic. I felt like I had to keep up with what was trendy even if it did not come naturally to me, or I didn’t love it. But ultimately that made me a mimic, and that wasn’t serving me. I switched gears at some point and just leaned into the things that I love; my cultural foods (even if they aren’t typically popular), my love for groovy fashion and vintage things, bright and saturated colours, warm tones. Even though I’ve always based my blog on my own experiences, and have always been telling my story, people are so much more receptive now because it not only sounds like me, but looks like a visual representation of me too. And I have been so surprised at how much people relate to! Also, never accept brand work for free
What has been your biggest success as a blogger so far?
Creatively I would say my second cookbook, Everyone’s Welcome. It was so special for me, and I adore how it turned out. It’s a truly fabulous book. As a blogger and food allergy awareness advocate, I would say my connections and conversations with readers over social media too. Connecting with people all over the world is an incredible feeling. It’s a sense of community.
Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?
The Zestfull is a new food allergy e-mag with a strong focus on cooking and food positivity. It was started by two amazing friends of mine who formerly had their own food blogs. I can’t wait to see what incredible content they have to share.
Nutritionally Nicole is a friend of mine. We met through the internet and eventually in real life! Her recipes feel very welcoming, and always use simple and fresh ingredients.
Hemsley and Hemsley makes me so hungry! Their photos are so bright and colourful, and I love the types of ingredients they use to create such bountiful, nourishing dishes.
Favourite food - care to share a recipe or a restaurant destination?
My blue grape focaccia is something I look forward to every year. It can only be made for a brief window in late summer, when blue grapes and concord grapes are in season in Ontario. This type of grape has a thicker skin than typical grapes, a soft, juicy interior, and a bitter wine taste. Combined with homemade focaccia, fresh rosemary, creamy roasted garlic, and plenty of sea salt and olive oil, it’s basically nirvana.
What are you working on next for your blog?
I just released a new virtual, one-on-one cooking class service that I am excited about! I’m also working on a food photography e-course that will be affordable for beginner foodies or those who want to improve their food pics for social media. I am planning to release that in Late September or Early October.
Integrating video content into my posts is a new priority for me too. I started my YouTube channel during COVID and am trying to post bi-weekly, as well as embedding how-to videos into my blog posts wherever possible. I’m not on a regular schedule yet but I am loving the process so far!
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?
I love theatrical moments, insane amounts of colour, comedy, old movies, long process cooking, fun outfits, and being out and about in the city. I enjoy acting and performance and took acting classes at a small studio for over a year prior to COVID. I like to squeeze the juice out of everything.
What makes your blog unique?
My blog takes a positive, critical, and sometimes investigative approach to sharing life as an adult with multiple food allergies. I focus on the social an emotional side mainly, but also share some tips and practical information too. In terms of recipes, they tend to be bursting with colour and flavor, and are often inspired by my Italian heritage as well as my love for eating locally grown and seasonal foods.
How do you cultivate a sense of community around your blog?
Engaging with my readers is everything. Instagram is the main platform I use for engaging with others. I not only engage on the comments left on my posts, but with as many of my peers’ posts as possible. I like to keep up to date with what everyone is talking about, sharing, cooking… I like to fully immerse myself in the community. I’ve made many close friendships over Instagram and know so many of my readers by name. It’s very important to me to have that personal connection.
What part of the FBC site do you find most useful?
Early on I found the photography posts most useful because I had no idea where to begin. I was eager and looking for quality content. These posts were incredibly useful in helping me determine my photography setup and finding my personal style. Now I find the threads about SEO on the FBC Facebook group to be very valuable. SEO is something I am not very experienced at, but know I need to improve. I need all the help I can get.
Follow Amanda on Social Media
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Here are a few of the articles Amanda has written for FBC: