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Life - it takes up your time and so does the internet - so we give up

"It’s hard to give information without using some words along the way." Cadry Nelson

It's a bit late in the day now so this will be brief I think - and probably somewhat disjointed. The inspiration today is the above website - Adventures in Taste and Time - which was on my list. I must have come across it some time when I was 'researching'.


So a few random thoughts and a few quotes as the sun is finally shining after days of dull - which has its advantages - no fear of fire, and able to go for walks and therefore get exercise. Sunlight is always welcome though.

The website in question is run by an American lady from Pittsburgh called Helena Nichols. Her aim is - was?:


"Adventures in Taste and Time looks at foods throughout history, exploring how they came to be, their cultural significance, and how they have evolved and were manufactured over time."


And then at the end of each article she will offer a recipe that is a synthesis of what she has learned on that topic. She also tells us that we should listen to her:


"Because I also have a master’s degree in Food Studies from Chatham University’s School of Sustainability. This degree is part hands-on food exploration and part cultural and historical food research." Helena Nichols


Which to my mind is a bit "though doth protest too much" and a bit insecure. Somewhere on her About page she also tells us that she has children and a husband and I think a dog and that time is precious and money is short. Which is pertinent to my title - Life - it takes up your time and so does the internet - so we give up - because she does appear to have given up. On the blog anyway.


Why do I say this? Because her last post The Classic chocolate chip cookie begins with these words:


"Hello! Long time, no see. I’m sorry for the break in-between posts; life happens. Thankfully the children are all at school for the first time in years, which means I finally get to complete my day job in a timely manner and can put my spare time back into the blog."


Words that become even more pertinent when you see that this particular post is dated October 7 2021. The previous post had been in February of the same year and the one before that in October 2020, but prior to that she had posted more or less once a month. Since October 2021 nothing. So it would seem that life has well and truly got in the way - well the daily trivia of it all that finds you suddenly realising - as I did the other day - that almost three years have passed since you resolved to reply to an email from a friend. It just zaps along - life - even though nothing much happens on a day to day basis.


Has she given up or has she moved on? I think possibly the latter. For I think she has an Instagram page with a slightly different logo, that still operates, although, not having an Instagram account I cannot check this. She also describes herself as a Freelance Writer and indeed her name does appear hear and there in the foodie online press - in websites such as Mash.com. So let's hope that her blog gave her enough exposure to enable to advance a more profitable journalism career.


I'm guessing that most of us bloggers give up eventually for a number of varied reasons. Perhaps they had hoped to make money and didn't. Perhaps they did make money and moved on to bigger and better things. Children, marriage, boredom, lack of interest, illness, death - who knows - the reasons for ceasing are as various as the websites themselves.


Her aim though was interesting and much more dedicated than my own very flimsy 'research' on whatever topic lodges in my brain on every day. Mind you the implication is that, mostly like me, and the vast majority of humankind these days, she relied on the internet for answers which has its problems:


"The internet has made information widely available, but with little filter for accuracy and truth. To quote Sherlock Holmes “Data data data, I cannot make bricks without clay.” The lack of citations and evidence available on the internet is infuriating. When there is well researched, cited information, you have to pay for it. I want to provide thoughtfully researched, accurate information, and full citations to my readers whenever possible." Helena Nichols

She pays for that extra information. I don't. If there is a pay wall I just don't bother. I would actually add that the Internet does not have the answer to everything anyway. Nothing, and no-one does. Even not the largest libraries in the world. And even if they do you have to find it. Which depends on the catalogue and/or the search engines - and therefore the people who created them. 'Garbage in, garbage out', as my cataloguing instructor used to say. For once upon a time I was a cataloguer - a somewhat arcane profession really - but vital if you want to find information. When I was heavily into family history research I rapidly realised that the internet does not have all of the possibly available information. The vast majority of that is stored in archives and libraries. There are thousands of kilometres of documents on every topic you could imagine stored away somewhere and available only to the dedicated few with access.


I only read two of Helena Nichols' articles - the last two she wrote - one about chocolate chip cookies and one about witches (and beer), and actually you know, although there was a lot of information in them, I would not say that it had taken a huge amount of genuine research to find.


I admire the aim of looking into the history of things associated with food though because:


"Food blogs are born from a desire to create, and like any other creators, bloggers have every right to create however they see fit, in whatever ways are meaningful to them. Every recipe has a story behind it." Casey Stern/Bite Club at NYU


Food has history. Almost the very first thing all animals do when born, is eat. And it is amazing how, over millennia we have learnt to continually improve the experience of eating, in every way that you can imagine, from how it tastes, through how to prepare it, to what it can do for you.


"When one thinks of the civilisation implied in the development of peaches from the wild fruit, or of apricots, grapes, pears, plus, when one thinks of those millions of gardeners from ancient China right across Asia and the Middle East to Rome, then across the Alps north to France, Holland and England of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, how can we so crassly, so brutishly, reduce the exquisite results of their labour to cans full of syrup and cardboard-wrapped blocks of ice." Jane Grigson


She might be a little bit cheered by how much improved the food scene is these days, although some of those sins still persist of course. But there is no doubt that the variety of food on offer in your average supermarket is well above what would have been available in Jane Grigson's day. Partly due to her and her fellow pioneer cookery book writers. Ditto for the dishes that we eat - so much more varied than in the 1970s, when she could say:


"It's odd that we should have clung on to traditions that hardly matter - beefeaters, Swiss guards, monarchies, the paraphernalia of the past - and forgotten the true worth of the past, the long labouring struggle to learn to survive as well and as gracefully as possible." Jane Grigson


And, by implication the wonderful dishes that almost vanished into oblivion but which are now either commonplace or gourmet heaven.


I tried to find if anyone had ideas about why food bloggers eventually give up, which was a pretty stupid thing to investigate really, because, as I have already said there are so many reasons. But I very quickly fell into a whole debate about whether food blogs should cut to the chase as it were, and just give a recipe, or whether they should talk at length about this and that. As I do. But like those reasons for giving up there are as many ways of writing a food blog. And surely that is a good thing. If people don't want to read long introductory bits about the author's personal life, a food's history, a country's likes and dislikes, and so on, then they don't have to. If those writers - like me - are not getting financial reward - remember that many of them - like me - are just doing it for fun and intellectual stimulation. So I'll continue to explore the food blog world - the big successes like Recipe Tin Eats, and the tiny little blogs, like mine with a handful of friends and family who read it. And every now and then you find a treasure. Perhaps not this one, but almost, and I have no doubt I shall come across it again some time.


"Food blogs fall loosely into categories I call the six Rs: reviews, recipes, rants, raves, rumours and reflections." Paul Best/Sydney Morning Herald


Another not completely on topic quote that I found in today's journey around the web. I think I have seen it before.


And meanwhile the sun continues to shine, but alas dinner does not beckon - it's a fasting day.

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