Saturday, January 25, 2020

Awash in the wild and wonderful, the suds of this project tickling our eyelashes and popping like miniature bubblewrap in our ears, we find ourselves not only on a mission to celebrate, but on a mission to embrace the joy these celebrations can bring. For example…

Clean Out Your Inbox Week

For you this might mean the mental inbox, the cerebral Corn Flake crumbs at the bottom of the bag, the flitting green specs of algae obscuring you from absolute clarity. It could be a literal box of requests on your desk, by your door, in a pocket weirdly sewn onto the back of your lab coat (I’m not totally clear on how scientific labs operate, so this may not be an actual thing). Or perhaps, like me, you just want a swept-out email inbox.

I have friends and coworkers with a veritable mountain of emails clogging the air in their inboxes. Thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of emails, just sitting there collecting e-dust, reminding them to RSVP for the Company Christmas Sock-Wash of 2008. But if you shuffle that clutter into subfolders, elbow the outdated trash out of the way, and leave yourself with an utterly empty inbox… goddamn that is refreshing.

It’s perfect Friday afternoon therapy. I found myself staring at that digital void, soaking into its liberating froth, and feeling as though I had nothing left to do for the day. I did, of course – there’s always more work to be done. But the weekend felt within reach, almost as though I was halfway out the door with no condemning tasks to stare me back into my beige-grey cube. This is top-tier self-care. Pure joy.

National Peanut Butter Day

My post for this celebration posited the question: is peanut butter the perfect food? It’s not the healthiest food – it’s 50% fat, albeit mostly the good fat, I believe. It’s packed with protein, fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B6 and magnesium. It harmonizes with jelly’s flirtatious pop in a tremendous tenor roar. The master-chemist Dr. Reese realized the medicinal benefits of packing it into a cup of chocolate. It pulls ribbons of euphonic sizzle from the meat of a banana. It even makes celery palatable, which in itself is impressive.

Plus, it’s kind of Canadian. Back in 1884 Marcellus Gilmore Edison from Montreal got himself a patent for his way of squeezing peanuts into butter. John Kellogg, whom we spoke of on Michigan day last week, boiled the peanuts instead of roasting them, and introduced them to medical patients who needed protein without all that pesky chewing. Before long, peanut butter became a food of the elite – it took a fair chunk of pocket change to stay at Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium, and the patients returned home refreshed, cured (perhaps), and craving that tasty protein sludge they’d slurped back inside the sanitarium walls.

Peanut butter begat almond butter, cashew butter, and other aspiring nut-butter alternatives. But don’t go looking for it in the Netherlands – they don’t allow anything to be called “Butter” unless it contains butter. So you’ll be wanting to order a peanut-cheese-and-jelly for lunch in Amsterdam.

As for the eternal struggle between smooth and chunky… I’ll drop myself on the smooth side of the fence, but there is no wrong answer. It’s all the perfect food.

National Compliment Day

To each of you who are reading this: you are attractive and brilliant.

See? Easy day to celebrate. Except we endeavoured to pay actual compliments to people today – sincerity and honesty were key. If this perpetual party is meant to inflict joy upon its attendees, then this may be the most literal interpretation of that mission. And it kept our spirits upon the golden path of optimism as well – you simply can’t force sincere and honest compliments past your teeth without feeling a bit of that joy drip down your chin.

We are happy to note that there are several days throughout this year which are dedicated to directly spreading good feelings through our words. As long as we remain true to ourselves and to the spirit of the task, there is no downside.

Beer Can Appreciation Day

The craft beer movement has produced a renaissance in beer packaging. Clever names, impressive artistic mastery in design and smoothly-penned prose enhance the landscape of beer cans in any fridge. But today is not about clever names, and it’s only slightly about the prose and prowess of the brewery staff artists. It’s about the cans themselves.

For that reason, I felt it essential to sample some beer from Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery yesterday. Their beer is legendarily brilliant, their graphic design always top-notch, and once upon a time they had the best prose in the business on their cans and bottles (yeah, I used to write for them so that’s a blatant self-horn-toot). But recently they have been producing beer in cans with wide-open tops, providing the experience of gulping from a glass instead of through a can opening. This allows for quicker consumption, and a greater overall experience.

The first appearance of beer in a can came as the black sun of prohibition was just making itself at home below the horizon, back in 1935. Back in the early days of the beer can if you found yourself without a church key (a.k.a. a can piercer), you’d be out of luck and left yearning for the sweet suds inside. If you had access to some quality smaller breweries you might find a “cone top” can, which tapered at the top and featured actual bottle-like caps. Not twist-off, you’d still have a ways to wait for that.

The problem with cans was the flavour. When they were made from metal, you’d get that hint of metal spicing up your lager, like it or not. 1959 saw the invention of the recyclable aluminum can by the Coors company *and* the pull-tab technology to allow drinkers inside without a special tool. Daniel Dudzik was the guy who figured out the lever-style tab we have on cans today. And we can also thank can technology for improving to the point where the beer you taste on the inside tastes solely like beer, not like its vessel.

It’s easy to appreciate a glorious brew. But yesterday was about appreciating the means of delivery, and that was executed with absolute relish and uncompromised zeal.

Belly Laugh Day

This day comes to us via Mumbai, India, courtesy of Dr. Madan Kataria, the founder of something called ‘laugher yoga’. This is a guy who understood the potential of the unrestrained moment of chaotic bliss we call laughter.

Laughter is, as far as human behaviors go, the most welcome form of temporary insanity we have in our collective arsenal. A laugh should be an involuntary response, like a sneeze or a surge of pain. We semi-lose control of our composure for a moment, we tuck notions of shame and self-awareness under the rug. Laughter is, in essence, the most free we ever get to be. It’s our most pure form of self-expression, originating in a goofily-lit corner near the back of our brains, then firing through our bodies before the conscious mind has a chance to catch up.

For Belly Laugh Day we did as we were told: we laughed and we laughed well. One description I found of this holiday encouraged people to belly laugh for no reason – to feel the health benefits rush in simply through the act of pushing a laugh out. I don’t agree with this. The benefits to body and brain from laughter are exponentially boosted when you’re actually laughing at something. We all have something that sets our giggle into a gallop: find a funny show, a funny movie, a funny book… or just take a few moments and watch some people. Humanity is ultimately an absurdist comedy and belly laughs are lying in wait all over the place if you go looking.

Today will culminate in a wild celebration of life, of poetry, and of food we’ll probably never eat again on purpose.

  • National Opposite Day. We will find a number of things to do in an opposite fashion today. We’ll read things back to front. We’ll park on the wrong side of the street. We’ll trip one another up by stating the opposite of what we really mean.
  • National Irish Coffee Day. We only drink coffee in the morning, but we will be enjoying this in the evening… opposite day? Or just common sense?
  • National Florida Day. Enough Irish Coffees and we can go out and commit public-humiliation atrocities on par with everyone’s favorite news guy: Florida Man. Or, we’ll get us some key lime pie, the state’s greatest culinary export.
  • A Room Of One’s Own Day. This is taken from a Virginia Woolf quote that pertains to women’s access to education. We’ll take the day a bit more literally, and each spend some time on our own in separate rooms today to soak up the quiet.
  • Robbie Burns Night. We were going to celebrate this at a local establishment, but they were all asking for $100 a plate. That would go against the Scottish stereotype of stinginess, no? So instead we’ll be partying at home with some friends. Haggis and all.

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