May 102015


On this date in 2013 I posted on this blog for the first time. Happy 2nd birthday my brain child, and thanks to all my readers for the support over the past 2 years. First month it was up, I got a whopping 47 readers; now I average around 9,000 per month. I’ve also received nearly 500,000 SPAM “comments” that, happily, are almost always caught by my filter. A few (very few) sneak through by using extra-crafty techniques, but my second layer of defense, the need for new comments to be moderated by me, collars them.

Reviewing my past posts is a fun experience. They were a lot shorter at the beginning, and have steadily grown in length and complexity. Here’s the first:

We’ve come a long way since then.

I spend around 3 hours a day on them now. Does not eat into my social life because I write them between 4 and 7 am when my internet functions reliably here in China, and just before the WordPress server (on GMT) turns over to the next day. This does mean that readers in parts of the West are still working on “yesterday” when I post. I am 12 hours ahead of the east coast of the U.S., for example. The opposite was true when I was living in Buenos Aires. There the server turned over at 9 pm my time, so I had to get a move on to get the post up in time some days.

The most popular posts are a bit baffling to me. This one easily comes in at number 1:

Not a clue why. Cleopatra and the Asp also had a long run, but has since faded. Mondrian ( ) and Arthur Rackham ( ) pop back in the picture now and again. No clue why either.

I don’t typically pick the daily anniversaries for their potential popularity; it’s more about my own tastes. There are a number of factors in play when choosing:

  1. I avoid battles because I don’t like to celebrate wars. But some battles have had a major impact on local or global history, so I include them.
  2. I also have trouble with unpleasant people who are famous. You won’t ever see a post on Hitler, not even on the day he killed himself (although he got a (dis)honorable mention two days ago on V-E Day).
  3. I’ve softened my stance on not celebrating countries with poor Human Rights records ever since a friend noted that this is not usually the people’s fault, and they deserve to be recognized despite what their leaders are up to. Good food trumps politics. In any case, as my friend pointed out, I can spotlight the abuses so that my readers know.
  4. Getting wide global coverage can be tricky, but I work on it. It’s nice to have a variety of recipes from far-flung places. My sources for dates to use are more than a little centered on Europe and the U.S. One major problem with sources is that they are sometimes wrong. I spend a certain amount of time daily cross-checking and I’m sure that I still make mistakes. I was sad to see the demise of Wilson’s Almanac which was a treasure trove (although also a major source of errors).
  5. I try to vary the topics as much as I can. Not always easy because I am hobbled by the vagaries of what happened when. You have no idea how much I pummel my brain on certain days to find a topic that works.

In light of #5 I will also note that this coming year is going to be a challenge. There are some dates I could probably post on, without repetition, for the next 10 years. Others were difficult the first time around, never mind the second. I’ll manage. But when the next birthday rolls around I may have to have a serious rethink. I have three major choices when the third birthday arrives. One is to simply end posting, but I hate to do that. I enjoy daily posting too much. The second is to move to posting less often. That’s dangerous though. That may lead me to get lazy. Although I have occasionally taken time off because of illness or travel or whatnot, being regular in daily posts keeps up interest. I don’t want that to slide. My third idea is to change the focus slightly. Right now I am strict about reporting on things that happened on a specific date. This leaves out all kinds of celebrations that shift about, such as those that are based on a lunar calendar (Easter, Chinese New Year, etc.), or those that are pegged to a certain day of the week (Thanksgiving, Mother’s day etc.). There’s a ton of them. Not sure if I could post that kind of celebration every day of the year, though. I’ll ponder. What do you think?

Eventually I want to turn the blog into a book, but that’s a bit in the future and will require a lot of work. I’ll also have to build up a bigger readership to assure a publisher of a ready market. A book was my intention long before I started the blog. I sketched it out over 10 years ago and then shelved the idea for other more pressing matters. The trouble with a book is that it would have to be mostly a cookbook with the historical and cultural material drastically cut and used simply as a short preamble to each recipe. Still, it should work; and, besides the blog would still be here.

I laugh at the mental tortures I go through sometimes matching a recipe to a topic. Generally this is not a problem, but sunspots, elevators, and typewriters gave me trouble. Fortunately my brain is a clutter of random stuff, so something always occurs to me. Here’s a little gallery of photos I like that I took for the blog:

jf2 jf6 jf5  jf15  jf16  jf17

And three videos on me making an Argentine tortilla (in case you want voice and all):

Part 1 (The batter)

Part 2 (The filling)

Part 3 (The tortilla)

Finally here’s a walk through my transformations over the past 2 years. I like the current profile photo (thanks Kate), but it’s not me now.

Chillin’ in Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires


Summer sojourn in England (chops made a comeback).


On my balcony in san Telmo with my favorite skyline. The background of this blog is the sunset shot from here.


Photo for my first China visa.  Surprised they let me in.


In China going for the shaggy professor look


Current visa photo (suitably cleaned up) 2 weeks ago.


It’s breakfast time here. I’d give a lot for a Full English. Here’s what I had to say:


The “full English” is a BIG meal. You won’t need lunch later. I make it whenever the mood strikes, so it could be lunch or dinner (as is not uncommon in many households). There are some essentials, and then all the trimmings:


Eggs. Usually these are fried (one per person), with the yolk runny. Poached would be all right, but is not quite the thing. Scrambled are good for a big crowd when you don’t want to cook eggs to order.

Meat. Bacon is hyper-traditional, but it should be back bacon that is very meaty. People in the U.S. can often get this in supermarkets labeled “Canadian bacon.” I can’t get bacon at all in Argentina except Italian styles. Sausages are also a good breakfast meat, nicely browned. Ham steaks are a rare treat, also well browned.

Bread. Toast is usual. It should be well buttered and served with a pot of English marmalade. Customarily people will eat the eggs and bacon with buttered toast, and then add some marmalade to finish off, with tea. Fried bread is also common. You simply fry the bread until it is golden and then put the egg on top. Breakfast rolls, preferably toasted, will also pass muster.

Tea. Here I part ways with normal customs in my own habits. I rarely drink tea any more (yerba mate is my thing). But when I do indulge, I drink it like the Chinese – relatively weak and with nothing added. Of course, I use high quality imported Chinese teas. The English “cuppa” deserves a whole blog post to itself. Here I will just say that English Breakfast tea is the standard. Earl Grey and the like are for wimps, and certainly not suitable for breakfast. English Breakfast tea is strong and black, an eye opener, meant to be brewed dark with milk (and sugar if you like) added.


Potatoes. These can be hashed or chipped but must be fried.

Tomatoes. Use small-ish tomatoes, halve them, and sear them on both sides. They must be warm throughout when served.

Mushrooms. Halve or quarter them, and sauté them in butter until golden.

Kidneys. Use lamb’s kidneys. Cut them in half and remove all the white bits from the inside. Then cut them in bite-sized pieces and serve them fried in butter, or fried with a piquant English mustard sauce.

Black pudding. This is a northern English blood sausage which people either love or despise. It should be sliced in thick rings and fried on both sides.

Baked beans. These have always been a standard filler – straight out of the can and heated through. I’m not partial, but many are.

These are the standard accoutrements. I am sure I, or others, could add more.

Please comment if you can. Always good to have input on how I am doing, and thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to a splendid 3rd year.