The top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo were a real mixed bag – everything from Terence’s post on the sourdough backlash and how easy, cheap and deeply satisfying he found sourdough baking to stories on our favourite kitchen condiments, favourite Bourdain books, favourite food (fried rice!) and an interview with our favourite chef.
There was a lot of talk about pivoting this year. Restaurants pivoted from exclusive fine dining spots to more inclusive cafés, bakeries and soup kitchens. Local independent retailers pivoted into global online stores. Guides shifted tours from the real to virtual world.
And our travel site with some food content seemed to pivot to a food site with some travel content. Unlike the chefs forced to close their restaurants and shift to takeaway, product boxes and home delivery, moving from a focus on travel to a focus on food wasn’t a business decision that we consciously made. Rather, it was a decision that our readers made for us.
Top 10 Stories You Read in 2020 on Grantourismo from an Ode to Sourdough to Condiment Love
After we lost all our work, projects, clients, and income in March we decided to concentrate our time and energy on our Cambodia culinary cookbook and culinary history project and Grantourismo to keep us focused and busy and keep the anxiety at bay.
While Grantourismo had lost most of its income in March – which over the years came from paid partnerships with tourism brands, sponsored editorial, and affiliate commissions when you bought books, booked hotels and tours, rented cars and motorhomes, bought travel insurance etc via our links – the site’s traffic increased almost tenfold in a month.
You were no longer predominantly coming to Grantourismo for travel inspiration, searching for itineraries to plan trips or using our guides to book hotels and restaurants – obviously because the world had shut down, borders closed, flights stopped, and we all hunkered down at home.
You were overwhelmingly visiting for our recipes and food stories, and as we couldn’t go anywhere either, and were spending much of our time cooking and recipe-testing, as well as researching and writing, that suited us just fine for the most part.
Around 80% of the stories you read in 2020 on Grantourismo were recipes and food stories and most of the travel content you read was food related. But occasionally there were surprises. And pre-COVID there were koalas in Australia who needed your attention. (That was another of our top posts of 2020.)
Recipes aside – we’ve excluded them from this count, except recipe round-ups; you can find our top 10 recipes of 2020 here – these were the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo.
Top 10 Stories You Read in 2020 on Grantourismo
Sourdough Baking is Easy, Cheap and Deeply Satisfying – Ignore the Sourdough Backlash
It should be no surprise that Terence’s response to the sourdough backlash became one of the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo. It wasn’t long after the coronavirus began spreading around the world earlier this year that we all began self-isolating, social distancing, and baking sourdough it seemed. Quarantine baking went from a trend to global phenomenon in a couple of months and making a sourdough starter and baking sourdough bread became one of the most popular pandemic pursuits. Home bakers dropped ‘boule’ and ‘banneton’ into everyday online cooking conversations, traded tips on everything from the best flour for sourdough starters to what to do with sourdough discard, and shared scoring patterns and crumbs on social media. Terence was no exception, however, he had already been making sourdough for two years at the time. Before the pandemic began Terence had shared his simple sourdough starter recipe, a beginner’s guide to baking sourdough, and a no-knead sourdough pizza recipe. A few months later, everybody was baking sourdough it seems – from your kids and your colleagues to celebrity chefs and movie stars – and it was fantastic to see. Sourdough baking is not only therapeutic, it’s a deeply satisfying process, creating something so delicious and healthy from nothing. There are few things more rewarding than a freshly baked slice of sourdough, still (a little) warm from the oven, smothered in butter.
James Beard Award Winning Cookbooks You Need to Add to Your Library
I have to say that it was a surprise that this post on the James Beard award winning cookbooks you needed to add to your library became one of the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo. Of the list of many winners we recommended a tight list that included the Book of the Year, the groundbreaking The Whole Fish Cookbook: New Ways to Cook, Eat and Think by trail-blazing Australian chef Josh Niland and two very timely books, American Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin, which was called “a celebration of African American cuisine right now” and The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration by Chris Smith, which included recipes from some of the American South’s most influential chefs and scholars. The James Beard Foundation’s media awards, which include cookbooks, food articles, podcasts, and videos, are the USA’s most prestigious awards for food media and in 2020 they celebrated their 30th anniversary. The awards were announced on 27 May 2020, just two days after the murder of African American George Floyd in the USA, and the eruption of protests around the country, however, we delayed this post as it was inappropriate to share anything celebratory at the time, but the fact we highlighted two books that provided great introductions to the centuries of African American cooking in the American South and celebrated its important culinary contributions to US food culture was perhaps why this post did so well and that was fantastic to see.
Driving from Perth to Margaret River – Where to Stop Along the Way
Driving from Perth to Margaret River, some 275kms away in Southwest Western Australia is an easy drive of around three and a half hours, which is nothing in a state where road trips can take weeks. What makes it so enjoyable are the stops on the way for swims on sandy beaches, engaging indigenous experiences, self-guided heritage tours, and the chance to see adorable woylies. You can break up the journey with an overnight stay along the way at Bunbury, Busselton or Dunsborough. Or, if you’re on a long holiday, stay a few nights en route to really experience the area’s wonderful beaches and clear waters, and wildlife and marine life, especially in whale-watching in season. The Margaret River is one of our favourite parts of the world and driving from Perth to Margaret River one of our favourite things to do. Once you arrive, exploring the Margaret River is an absolute delight, whether you’re riding the waves, discovering caves, or wine tasting with local experts. In a normal year our Australian stories, itineraries and guides are hugely popular, particularly our posts on Perth and Western Australia, so it’s no surprise this was one of the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo, particularly as Western Australia closed its borders to the rest of Australia for a big chunk of the year and had some of the lowers numbers in the country when it came to cases (just 858) and deaths (only 9).
Quarantine Cooking Dishes to Make to Prolong the Time Between Grocery Shopping Trips
You’d think that getting some fresh air and going shopping would have been a relaxing diversion after more than two months of social distancing and staying at home, but we wrote in this post – another of the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo – about how stressful we found our weekly supermarket shopping trips due to some people’s lackadaisical attitude towards COVID-19 – whether it’s expats who think that they’re invincible, even though they’re in a high-risk category, or tourists trapped here who weren’t wearing masks, despite government advice to the contrary. As a result, we developed a quarantine cooking strategy firmly focused on meal planning that included dishes to make to prolong the time between grocery shopping trips and recipes for dishes that could be stretched across several meals. Because of this tactical meal planning, careful budgeting, wise shopping, and choosing protein that could be frozen and defrosted a few days later, we were able to schedule our grocery runs with military precision. While we recognised that freezing and defrosting was normal for many of our readers, it wasn’t something that we had to do before here in Cambodia: fresh local markets are filled with an abundance of beautiful produce from here and neighbouring countries, and we have excellent supermarkets close by, so until the pandemic we did as the locals do and shopped on a daily basis and bought fresh seasonal produce to cook that day. Fortunately, we’re lucky to be able to do that again.
Sourdough Starter Discard Recipes – What To Do With Your Sourdough Starter Waste
After reading Terence’s post on the sourdough backlash and seeing how low-maintenance his sourdough starter really was – he just added 50ml of flour and 50ml of water once a day – and how simple he made sourdough bread-making look, I was inspired to give sourdough baking a go myself. However, with Terence baking enough sourdough bread every few days for our little household, we really didn’t need two sourdough bakers in the family, so I found myself another cooking project (on top of Terence’s barbecue project, my Cambodian samlors (soups and stews), and Terence’s Cambodian-Australian fusion sausage rolls and meat pies) and that was sourdough starter discard recipes. Terence joined me and we made sourdough starter discard crumpets, crackers, pancakes, and more. As it seemed everyone was baking sourdough and experimenting with sourdough discard recipes, it was no surprise to see that this round-up of our best recipes became one of the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo.
Best Anthony Bourdain Books to Read and Cook From Wherever You Are Right Now
Like many of you who went into lockdown in March, I built paperback towers on my bedside table, work desk and office shelves of the books I’d bought in recent years, but hadn’t yet read, that I intended to get through while we were staying at home self-isolating. Instead, in between researching my Cambodia culinary history, I found myself reaching time and time again for familiar favourites, including the well-worn copies of the best Anthony Bourdain books. These included Kitchen Confidential, Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which I recall Terence, who had spent more time in restaurant kitchens than I had, buying as soon as it published, and A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, which resonated with us, as Bourdain travelled the way we’d always travelled, guided by our taste buds, connecting with locals through food, and getting beneath the skin of places through the people who inhabited them as much as our appetites. I relied upon the best Anthony Bourdain books to take me on a journey, a culinary journey that was about so much more than the food – although eating to get a taste of a place, sharing meals with strangers and new friends, and connecting over feasts on the streets and in homes were central to Bourdain’s narratives on paper and on screen. Tony Bourdain is so missed and his books beloved by food and travel lovers alike, so it definitely wasn’t a surprise that One of the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo
Our 10 Best Condiments and the Most Beloved Condiment Brands to Buy
“Condiments just make everything taste better,” Terence wrote. “Whether it’s a tomato sauce or mustard, a hot sauce or chilli paste, a little dab or splash at the end of making a dish, or a bowl of something on the table to dip into, we can’t live without our condiments.” Having just moved apartments for the second time during the pandemic when Terence wrote this, we had another opportunity to really take stock of what we keep in our pantry and fridge and thought this post might be helpful to our readers and provide some Christmas gift ideas for food lovers and home cooks. Even so, I have to confess that I was surprised that it seemed to go viral for weeks and became one of the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo. So what are our 10 best condiments and most beloved condiment brands to buy? They include everything from Hellmans mayonnaise for European dishes and Kewpie mayo for Asian to Lao Gan Ma’s spicy chili crisp and the original Sriracha sauces from Thailand, Koh Loy Si Racha Sauce and Si Racha Phanich, both of which are fantastic on noodles and in soups, but you’ll have to read the post to find what else the list includes and why.
How to Help Save Your Favourite Restaurants and Cafes During the Coronavirus Pandemic
It was heart-breaking to see so many of our favourite restaurants around the world, where we’ve shared so many memorable meals, shut as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Whether that was due to government lockdowns, social distancing restrictions or people staying home and self-isolating, millions of restaurants across the globe closed their doors because they couldn’t afford to continue to operate. This post on our ideas as to how to help save your favourite restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic was another of the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo and we were so chuffed to see that. We covered everything from ordering home delivery and takeaway meals to buying gift vouchers and purchasing restaurant cookbooks, not to mention making donations to support chef-led initiatives to feed the hungry and less fortunate, such as chef Deepanker Khosla, owner of urban farm-to-table restaurant Haoma, in Bangkok, who cooked free meals to feed the Thai capital’s jobless and hungry. All of these things seem so normal now, but they weren’t when we published this. Sadly, so many restaurants have not survived the coronavirus crisis and have shuttered permanently because overheads were too high or landlords wouldn’t or couldn’t freeze rents. Others made the decision to close temporarily or indefinitely. Let’s hope that they open in 2021 and if you haven’t seen this post, please do click for ideas as to how to help save your favourite restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic, because unfortunately the struggles continue in so many places experiencing a second wave that are in lockdown again.
New David Thompson Restaurant Aksorn Opens in Bangkok’s Hip Historic Charoenkrung
Thailand-based Australian chef David Thompson brought a few smiles to my face during an interview this year, as he has on myriad occasions over the years when we’ve chatted to him for stories, but this time it was during a particularly dark period so the laughs were extra appreciated. A chat with David is always fun so it’s no surprise that this was one of the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo. We first met David (briefly) in the 1990s at his glam Sydney restaurant Darley Street Thai, a pioneer that paved the way for a new breed of Thai restaurant. But it wasn’t until 2011 after we moved to Thailand that we interviewed the chef when we began writing about Bangkok’s new wave of restaurants. This interview was on the opening of his latest restaurant Aksorn in one of Bangkok’s oldest neighbourhoods, which sprawls along and around one of the city’s oldest streets, Charoenkrung Road. Since leaving Nahm, his flagship restaurant, Thompson has opened Michelin-starred Aaharn in Hong Kong and Long Dtai at Cape Fahn resort on the Thai island of Koh Samui. Of the Long Chim restaurants he opened in Singapore and Australia, Long Chim Sydney and Long Chim Perth have survived. David called me en route to Aksorn, on foot, along bustling Charoenkrung. Fortunately, I wasn’t recording a podcast and have spared you from a conversation that was frequently punctuated by “I can’t hear you!”, “Can you speak louder?”, “What did you say?”, “You’re speaking too softly!”, “It’s not me, it’s you!” I’ll let you be the judge.
How to Cook Rice Around the World – 66 Rice Dishes and Rice Cooking Tips from 65 Experts
I was pretty chuffed to see that not only was this story on How to Cook Rice Around the World one of the top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo, but it’s also one of the top stories on Google. It was a story that I’d pitched to a major broadcaster but ended up pulling as I was nervous about how they were going to handle it after receiving the editor’s queries. They were scary! To read about how that came about see this post Make Rice Not War, which was a call to rice lovers to open their minds to different ways of cooking rice other than their own. I decided to publish the full-length story here and go all out, word count not being an issue, and ended up with 66 Rice Dishes and Rice Cooking Tips from 65 Experts from around the world, everywhere from Afghanistan to Australia and India to Indonesia. My experts included chefs, street food cooks, cookbook authors, food writers, culinary guides, caterers, hosts of pop-ups and supper-clubs, and even a former MasterChef contestant or two, who shared advice to cooking all kinds of rice dishes, from curd rice to congee, fried rice to rice desserts. It was intended as a celebration of the diversity of rice dishes and the countless ways rice is cooked around the world came about. The aim was to inspire curiosity in how others cook rice in their homes, on the streets, in restaurants, and in communities, in their countries of origin and adoption, and in diasporas around the world, and I think it succeeded in doing that. This isn’t the last you’ll hear about my #MakeRiceNotWar mission.
And that’s our annual round-up of our top 10 stories in 2020 that you read on Grantourismo done. We can’t wait to see what you read in 2021 and let’s hope it’s a better year for all of us and especially for you.