FAQ

Updated June, 2013  November, 2015


Frequently Asked Questions? Okay, maybe one person asked them. Maybe I even thought of a few myself.

I checked out your profile and I see you've been on Blogger since May 2006. But [At First Glass'] archives only start in December 2007. What's the deal?

I experimented with a blog of book reviews beginning in May 2006, but I couldn't seem to get the hang of it. (Lacking fifty million visitors an hour right away, I probably thought "this isn't how it's done.") I shut that one down and then started [At First Glass] a year and a half later. Then I started a few more just for kicks. Blogger, bless its heart, still gives me credit for having been around since the moment I opened any account whatsoever.

What's the quote, or blog description, under the title? -- about the girl named Miss Pommery?

(The quote is struckthrough, below, but here is the story behind it anyway. I've since chosen a different bit of wisdom from Thomas Carlyle to replace it, because his History of the French Revolution seems so appropriate for our times. "Great is bankruptcy, for it works tirelessly, undermining all falsehoods ...." That's not the one I picked, but you understand.) 

It's from the great old movie The Philadelphia Story. Towards the end, wealthy ice goddess Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) gets drunk and makes a spectacle of herself with another man (James Stewart) on the night before her wedding to the parvenu stuffed shirt, George Kittredge (John Howard). In hashing things out the next morning, in front of witnesses no less, the affianced agree " 'she'd had too much to drink.' " Too much Pommery champagne in particular. But the witnesses defend her behavior, and anyway Tracy has learned to enjoy having "feet of clay," too. The script goes something like this:

Liz: You see Mr. Kittredge, it really wasn't Tracy at all. It was another girl, a Miss Pommery '26.

George: You'd had too much to drink.

Tracy: That seems to be the consensus of opinion.

George: Will you promise me never to touch the stuff again, Tracy?

Tracy (hesitating): No, George, I don't think I will. You see, there are certain things about that other girl, that Miss Pommery '26, I rather like ....

Are your sidebar links all sponsored ads?

No, none of them are. Most are links to my own articles, and I still keep a short "blogroll" of sites I like. That kind of networking used to be encouraged in the blogging world, but now I suppose is considered old fashioned and unnecessary, what with Facebook and all. I used to be a part of the ad networks BlogHer and then FoodBuzz, but in both cases I decided the ads were too ugly to warrant the few dollars a month they brought me in revenue.

So are you earning any money blogging?

No. I earned about $25 in a year with BlogHer, and had earned about $5 or $6 in a few months with FoodBuzz before I took those ads down.

How much does it cost you to own the domain name www.atfirstglass.com?

Ah, now there's our saga. You can read it in the sidebar. The domain name has now been claimed by someone in India or perhaps Thailand I think -- to judge by the alphabet -- who seems to post about Johnnie Walker a lot. Lots of slick, simple, clip art-quality photos.  

Ten dollars a year, paid to Google.

What made you become a -- well, a food writer?

You mean, for lack of a better word? Funny you should ask. I have always been a writer. And even as a teen I liked reading cookbooks. I can remember an older brother, who shall remain nameless, stalking past one day while I was absorbed in The Farmer's Daughter Cookbook and asking me "Whaddya reading a COOKBOOK for?" And I always enjoyed the food parts of novels -- Scarlett O'Hara's honeymoon indulgences in Gone With The Wind, for example ("fish baked cunningly in oiled paper and limes...."), or Dorothy's first breakfast in Oz (bread, butter, spring water, and fruit.)

That must have been some indication of where my tastes lay. When I began blogging, because I had a whopping six months in the wine industry under my belt and I wanted to earn big money like all the other bloggers, I found those indications reinforced. I found, a little to my own surprise, that I appear to have foodie-ism in my inner hard drive. It's a most congenial thing to have encoded there. Of course it's congenial for lots of reasons to lots of writers, but even though it might seem too girly, unchallenging, and monotonous a subject to concern a grown up -- strawberry shortcake is strawberry shortcake, after all -- there are serious reasons why food writing attracts, I like to think, pretty good minds.

Mainly, food and drink are an honest subject to write about. You are not agonizing over the invention of a new plot (fiction), or carefully diluting your opinions in the struggle to be loftily objective and incredibly prescient -- and forgotten -- in the realm of world affairs (nonfiction, politics). You are not doing a lot of navel gazing and calling it "creative non-fiction." Though you'll do research like any other pale academic, you will at least research things that other people can eat and drink, not abstractions and theses that might have embalmed you in an academic journal if you were lucky and had stayed in school.

There. Besides, Lin Yutang, with five thousand years of Chinese civilization behind him, says that thinking and writing about food is absolutely among the most civilized and serious topics to which poor, puny, hungry man can devote himself. He says, of the Chinese:

We are unashamed of our eating. We have "Su Tungp'o pork" and "Kiang bean curd." In England, a Wordsworth steak or a Galsworthy cutlet would be unimaginable. ...

The Chinese accept food as they accept sex, women, and life in general. No great English poet or writer would condescend to write a Cook Book, which they regard as being outside the realms of literature and worthy of the efforts of Aunt Susan only. But the great poet-dramatist Li Liweng did not consider it beneath his dignity to write about the cooking of mushrooms and all kinds of vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. Another great poet and scholar, Yuan Mei, wrote a whole book on cooking, besides writing a most wonderful essay on his cook. ...H.G. Wells, who of all English minds is the one most likely to write about English food, evidently cannot write it, and no hope is to be expected from the less encyclopedic minds ... (My Country and My People, 1935).

Okay. What kind of traffic does your blog get?

According to Google analytics, I am getting around 3,000  200 visits per week, or as much as 13,000 perhaps 800 to 900 a month. I'm not even sure whether individual people find me, or whether most of this traffic is search engines "dinging" the site automatically while trawling the web for fresh content. Unhappily the average visit length still seems to be about fifty seconds. I hope this doesn't mean I'm a bore. My Google page rank is 4 out of 10; high powered blogs like Orangette (among the best known food blogs in the U.S. -- she was a "Blog of Note" and got a book contract just before Blogger made it their policy to stop noticing good blogs) or Fermentation rank 6 of 10.

Do you have any formal culinary training?

Good heavens, no.

Do you have any formal wine training?

Good heavens, no.

What sparked your interest in wine?

I did read one book, Leslie Brenner's Fear of Wine, before finding work at a WineStyles franchise in 2007. With student loans to repay, and following a very brief and unpleasant stint in a medical office, I went job hunting on purpose in a local, swanky southern suburb -- there are only a couple of them -- hoping to be taken on at some swanky, scarf-draped boutique. None of them were hiring, but the wine shop was. I began to learn. All the good things encapsulated in a bottle of wine, sensuous pleasure, history, food, nature, religion, human conviviality, culture, aesthetics, the challenge of everlasting learning, have conspired to keep my nose in the glass. And to keep me working in the industry. I progressed from WineStyles to the position of liquor buyer at a local grocery store chain, and then moved on to a bigger retail liquor outlet.

What's your favorite wine?


My present favorites are Riojas, clean, satiny, somehow whole -- grown-up. My first revelatory bottle was a 2007 Rochioli chardonnay, savored in the late winter of 2010. Thanks, Dan.

All well and good, but why the extra descriptors after the title Pluot? "Notes, stories" -- and then wine? 

Because we mustn't take it all too seriously. One has other interests, yes? And one got tired of maintaining three blogs, when the first seemed an adequate platform for everything,

What's your favorite Star Trek episode?

It's a tie between Mirror, Mirror and Journey to Babel. Yes, City on the Edge of Forever is excellent, but I prefer the episodes that take place on the Enterprise. That's the most truly alien environment the crew ever cope with. By the way, have you noticed how often in TOS (The Original Series) officers and men relax over a good stiff drink? So red-blooded of them.




Image from Wikia divertissement (a Star Trek geek site -- in French!)

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