Saturday, February 29, 2020

Yesterday I made a passing joke about how instead of scribing 3,000 words (which would be madness!) I clocked in at only 2,466. Ha ha. So that’s where my day went. For this one I’ll actually be exercising a little brevity, because the dogs are off at daycare, I’ve got the house to myself, and this nap ain’t gonna take itself.

National Skip The Straw Day

Somehow the issue of plastic drinking straws has been politicized. It’s overblown, we’re told. It’s killing sea turtles, we’re told. People approach the issue with their own sources in hand, other fist raised and shaking in the air…

But you know what? It’s a single-use plastic, and if you can avoid adding another one of those to the unstoppable mountain of waste in our world, that’s a good thing. Jodie has her reusable straws (she has sensitive teeth) and I can live without them. On January 3 we took part in Drinking Straw Day – with washable, reusable straws because we’re not hypocritical monsters – and drank everything through a straw. Today we simply did the opposite.

It’s remarkably easy to *not* use a straw. Just don’t use a straw.

National Public Sleeping Day

I’m going to file this particular day under ‘ill-advised’. Falling asleep in public opens you up to theft, assault, and strangers drawing dicks on your face. We can’t find who originated this particular celebration, but I’m going to assume it was a petty criminal, hoping for a profitable trip through the park or mall on February 28. Well, screw that guy. Or gal. Or non-binary jerk-face.

Having once suffered through medication-induced narcolepsy, I’m not inclined to try to re-experience the weird disorienting feeling of popping awake in a strange place. Jodie was at Teacher’s Convention yesterday, so nodding off wasn’t possible. Instead we opted to simulate a public snooze. Fortunately, no one in the restaurant tried to snag our stuff.

The only place I’ve felt comfortable napping in public was back at University. There were couches strewn about campus (inside – not, like, scattered around the quad), and always a few students catching up on some long-forsaken Z’s atop them. Unfortunately I spent a lot of time in the Arts Building (I have a degree in Film Studies, which has been extremely useful in my professional life), and the couches in that building feel only slightly more comfortable than cinderblocks. The science and business folks were kind though – they provided an abundance of tolerable rest-spots.

So if you plan on doing this one, be careful. Leave your valuables behind and be smart! Also, don’t draw dicks on strangers.

National Tartar Sauce Day

Tartar sauce, or “tartare” sauce as they call it in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, is a fairly limited condiment. You can use it on fish, or… nothing. Just put it down. If you’re not having fish – and even then, it’s generally just deep fried fish – you probably won’t use it. This is why we opted to get some on the outside instead of making our own. We don’t have a deep fryer, and tartar sauce goes best with fish & chips.

I suppose we could have made our own tartar sauce and brought it to a fish & chips restaurant, but we aren’t that kind of weird. Joey’s Only fries a decent fish, and it’s hard to screw up tartar sauce. It’s mayo and capers, possibly with some pickles and herbs tossed in. You can get fancy with some hard boiled eggs, maybe some Dijon mustard or onions, but for the most part the parameters of tartar sauce are pretty well set.

We considered making our own (I found a recipe right here), then purchasing two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches from McDonalds – one with their sauce and one plain so we could add our own – and doing a taste test. But then we’d have to eat two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, and that would have made for a rather unsatisfying meal. We regret nothing.

Did the tartar sauce get its name from the Tartars – the Golden Horde from Mongolia who invaded Europe in the 13th century? That seems really unlikely. The more plausible notion is that it was named because the sauce is tart. We’ll go with that theory. Either way, nothing does fish & chips better than some vinegar and this stuff. Happy fish Friday.

National Floral Design Day

I originally feared I’d have to obtain a bunch of flowers and arrange them just so in a vase or as some sort of makeshift centerpiece. This is not my forte (though Jodie would enjoy laughing at my efforts). After all, this day was meant to coincide with the birthday of Carl Rittner, who apparently was like the Elvis of floral art in the 20th century. In 1995 it was proclaimed into being by Governor William Weld of Massachusetts.

We simply could not compete with Mr. Rittner’s work – check him out with a Google search. Nor do we have the materials to work with. Fortunately, a number of posts on social media has shown us that people are honouring this day, not with flowers, but by wearing floral designs, or showing off blankets and shower curtains and all sorts of merchandise with floral designs painted upon them. That we can do.

I wore the same shirt I wore yesterday for National Retro Day. Don’t fear for my hygiene – I only wore the shirt for the photo on Thursday. It was another day of doctor-prescribed isolation, so it was a quick change into my slovenly PJs right afterward.

National Chocolate Soufflé Day

Here’s a little-known fact about the soufflé – it’s actually of French origin! Okay, that’s not exactly a stunner of a factoid. The roots of this dish can be traced back to master cook Vincent La Chapelle in the early 1700s. But the person who gets credit for making it a true French masterpiece is Marie-Antoine Carême, one of the first big superstar chefs. This guy used to make massive pastries – like, several feet tall. He gets credit for being a huge part of the grande cuisine movement, using fresh herbs and veggies. He’s the one who categorized all sauces under the four “mother sauces”. He also pushed for the Russian style of serving food, meaning each course one at a time rather than everything at once.

Oh, and he created what we all know as the standard chef’s hat. The guy was a master of fashion and function.

As for the soufflé, it features a flavoured cream sauce or puree as the base, along with some fluffy egg whites plopped on top. We couldn’t find a place that served both fish & chips and chocolate soufflé (they don’t really fall into the same food genre), so after our trip to Joey’s Only it was a quick jaunt to Chop for some fluffy chocolate goodness. Theirs was more a cake-like concoction, but the fluffy and puffy part was perfect, and our evening was gloriously souffléed.

National Margarita Day

Better late than never – and never would have been downright tragic in this case. National Margarita Day pulled into town last Saturday, the 22nd, but we were in no condition to host. With the shroud of grotesquerie raised to allow a smidge of sun to squeak through, we felt healthy enough to suck back some tequila and toast this sacred celebration.

As with most every mixed drink we have toasted this year, there are numerous origin stories for the margarita. Rather than pick one as the gospel truth, let’s look at the similarities between the stories. The margarita was an evolution of the brandy Daisy drink, but made with tequila instead. It was most likely created in Mexico (possibly Texas, but the Mexican stories seem more legit), probably around 1936-1945, and it was either named after a woman named Margret (or Margarita), or else after the brandy Daisy – “Daisy” in Spanish being “Margarita”.

Once the first sip of a delicious margarita jazz-hands upon the taste buds, it’s hard to care who invented it. It’s tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice, and it’s perfect. I’m glad we didn’t miss it.

I kept things short yesterday and avoided adding anything extra to my original plan. Here’s what we’ve got for today:

  • Leap Day. We’ll look at some leap day history and facts. And maybe leap over something, we’ll see how we feel.
  • National Bachelor’s Day. Well, I’m not one of those, though I do have that kind of degree I guess.
  • Open That Bottle Night. A night to crack open that bottle we’ve had sitting around for a while.

Also, we can switch our answering machine messages back to normal today. That’ll be a relief.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Yesterday was jam-packed with a lot of really simple celebrations. In honour of this, and in order to have just a smidgen of time to rest and recuperate, I have opted to write a little less about each one. I’ve been advised my articles are becoming a bit long-winded, and with nine items on the docket for yesterday, I didn’t feel I needed to write 3,000 words on top of all that merriment.

National Toast Day

Off to England we go, and to the Tiptree World Bread Awards, held every September in an effort to find the best baked bread in the country. The folks behind this competition (for which I would gratefully volunteer as a judge) devised National Toast Day in 2014, presumably to keep the interest going in their competition when it’s still six months out. Great bread makes great toast – this makes sense.

Jodie’s appetite wasn’t up to it this morning (she had “a couple of M&Ms” for breakfast), but I happily devoured some peanut butter-slathered toasted rye. Toast is a tremendous food: on the surface it appears to be a palette for its spread. Feeling like jam? Jelly? Compote? Marmalade? Honey? Those are the stars of the show, right?

Screw that – toast should come from flavourful bread. That’s the star of your show – the topping is the special guest star that rotates out every week. Toast is Captain Stubing. That grape jelly is just Charles Nelson Reilly.

We’ll happily raise a glass to this one. (Celebration puns – I don’t get to make many, but I’ll take ‘em when I can)

National Retro Day

“Retro” as an aesthetic, has been a thing for all my life. I think we can thank the baby boomer generation for this one. No doubt the Don Drapers of the 1960s were pining for the more logical days when swing music blasted through radio speakers, people behaved with more decorum and grace, and women and minorities knew their place in society. But that’s just crochetyism. Celebrating the retro as a fixture of modern culture took off in the 70s when Grease and Happy Days and (for some reason) the band Sha-Na-Na harkened back to the fabulous 50s.

And you know what? Those 50s did look pretty fabulous. There are still 300+ Johnny Rockets diners out there going strong. The music is timeless and eternally catchy. And when that doesn’t fill your cup, there’s retro 60s happening all the time – just look at the aforementioned (well, alluded-to) Mad Men. Retro 70s (Dazed & Confused, Freaks & Geeks) is often played for laughs, and so is the notion of retro 80s (The Wedding Singer, The Goldbergs). Those were goofy, funny decades, as long as you filter out stuff like the Iran hostage crisis, the cold war, Vietnam, etc. Retro 90s has been a thing for a while too.

We all like revisiting the totems of our youth. As someone who came of age in the rather flavourless years surrounding 1990, I grew up channeling a retro vibe. It wasn’t “my” retro, but the music was better, the clothes were cooler, and the culture simply made more sense. As such, the current retro music of my youth tends to be the same as that of my parents.

For yesterday we both listened to some vintage tunes, in part because the calendar told us to, and in part because there’s just so much great stuff out there. Embrace your inner retro, whatever that might be. If it’s your way of life, own it and love it.

National Pokemon Day

…and speaking of retro…

When video game designer Satoshi Tajiri saw two Game Boys linked together by a cable in 1990 (hardcore multiplayer gaming for the time), he imagined little bugs crawling back and forth through the wires. He had a vision of kids not just playing against each other, but trading little creatures with one another. Pokemon was born. By the time the game was ready for the light of day, six years had passed and the Game Boy was on its way to the antique shelf.

But the games (Red and Blue) kept selling. There was one creature – Mew – who was rumoured to be obtainable only if you correctly exploited a few programming errors. Truth is, Satoshi put Mew in there on purpose. He wanted people to interact, to trade with one another. The method by which these creatures battle (no deaths, just fainting if they lose), train and grow, kept the action interesting and constantly evolving. From there a mythology spread. And the trading cards became a phenomenon of their own.

This is “retro” for our kids, in particular our son. He watched the anime show, and I’m pretty sure he saw the first movie at some other kid’s birthday party so I didn’t have to go. I used to read to him every night before bed – a couple times he made me slog through some horribly-written chapter books in the Pokemon universe. We’ve seen enough of this franchise to know it is 100% not geared toward our tastes. But it has meant the world to a lot of people, and given that it doesn’t teach sub-standard values or promote nefarious ideas, we’ll give it a thumbs-up.

The plan was for me to download Pokemon Go for my phone, and to play around with it on my way to and from work today, possibly including a stroll downtown. I work with a couple of players (yes, grown-ass people who have real jobs), and I’ve been advised there are a few good spots around our office building. But alas, I am house-bound still, and I don’t feel like wandering from room to room in search of a Squirtle. Nor will I be likely to try this experiment next week – we’ll have plenty of new parties to keep us busy then.

But I’ve learned a little something about the franchise, and I will happily celebrate its existence as part of our popular culture. Just don’t make me read another one of those insipid books, please.

National Chili Day

For more about the delicious chili con carne (Texas style – no beans, and with chunks of beef instead of ground hamburger), I’ll refer you to our February 1 entry. I baked this chili for National Texas Day, and was fortunate enough to notice this day showing up nearly four weeks later, so I froze half of it.

It’s still savoury and spicy, and made for a magnificent repast last night, with plenty of leftovers for tonight.

National Protein Day

Does it seem a bit unnecessary for me to pay tribute to National Protein Day on the same day as National Chili Day, or the day I had peanut butter on my toast for National Toast Day? Perhaps, but unnecessary is all part of the game here at Celebrate366.

So what is protein? It’s a big ol’ molecule, packed with long chains of amino acid residues. Why do we need proteins? They do a lot of work at the cellular level, taking care of the tasks doled out by the info in our genes. They handle the enzymes. They fight off the bad crap that invades the body and keeps it home from work for a week and a half. In short, they do a lot.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you hopefully know that protein is something you’ve got to keep an eye on. We meat-snarfers can get our protein fix with a good corndog (which also gives us our daily pig-anus fix), but if you’re meatless you’ll need to add something else. Dairy products have protein, so do seeds, nuts and legumes. If you’ve got the stomach for tofu, even better.

I suppose we technically didn’t do anything special for National Protein Day, but it’s tricky when it’s something we consume with pretty much every meal. Let’s simply pause and appreciate how protein keeps this delicate and complicated vessel afloat.

Anosmia Awareness Day

I erred in yesterday’s article: anosmia is not a loss of the sense of taste, but rather the sense of smell. Of course, smell and taste are the Hall & Oates of the human sensory system – they go together.

Anosmia (pronounced in an almost cruel coincidence like “Ah-NOSE-me-ah”) can be temporary or permanent. We’ve all had colds that have temporarily slaughtered our ability to smell and taste. This can also happen through head trauma, as an early symptom of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, and sometimes it’s just a state of being from birth. Also, be careful with that nasal spray giving you sweet, sweet relief from your stuffed nose. Use it too much or for too long and you could cause some irreparable damage to your olfactory system.

So what’s the big deal? You can’t smell or taste, but it’s not like losing your sight or hearing, right? You can still drive a car, work most jobs, juggle flaming chainsaws, and live a full and complete life. Well, yes that’s true. But there are hazards. You might not smell a gas leak. The next room might be on fire and your sense of smell might be what gets you out of the house alive. If your food is spoiled but not showing any visual signs, how else would you know?

It’s not just that, but losing the ability to smell can lead to depression and a loss of sex drive. Imagine eating food simply for texture because the flavour will be non-existent. No, this isn’t a life-threatening condition (except for those gas leak / fire / bad food possibilities), but it’s a crappy thing to have to deal with. Our original plan for today was to plug our noses for every meal, but that would have taken away from our ability to celebrate our toast and chili. Plus, Jodie went for lunch with a couple of former students, and she’d have looked a little ridiculous with a clothespin on her nose at a restaurant. Once again, we celebrate by commemorating, and by learning a little something.

Mostly, we’ve learned we never want to be diagnosed with anosmia, even if the condition’s name is rather… on the nose. (sorry)

National Strawberry Day

If every fruit gets its own special day this year, it will be hard to top the magnificence of National Strawberry Day. We enjoyed Strawberry Ice Cream Day on January 15, but yesterday was for the real thing. First bred in Brittany, France, back in the 1750s, the strawberry has risen to become one of the world’s most beloved berries.

Except, of course, it’s not a berry. Berries are simple fruits with multiple seeds, coming from one flower with one ovary. Strawberries come from one flower with several ovaries. Each of those little seed things on a strawberry is an ovary, with a seed tucked inside of it. Raspberries aren’t berries either. Neither are blackberries. Neither are mulberries. They are “aggregate fruits”. Actual berries? Bananas, grapes, tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers. Seriously – someone really messed up when naming these things.

But that’s the scientific definition – we’ll go with the colloquial practice of calling strawberries berries. They’re a versatile fruit, great for jams and jellies, but also for drying and cramming into granola bars and breakfast cereals. We opted to keep it simple and just enjoy the berry on its own merit. These things are grown all year ‘round, so they are practically constantly in season. The ones we enjoyed last night were juicy, sweet, and perfect.

This won’t be our last trip to the strawberry patch in 2020. We’ve still got California Strawberry Day coming up on March 21 – we’ll be eating strawberries regardless of whether we can find actual California-bred ones up here. There’s also National Pick Strawberries Day on May 20 – it’s a Wednesday so I don’t know if we’ll actually get to a strawberry farm, but perhaps on the weekend. And National Strawberries and Cream Day on May 21, so we’ll be sampling a Wimbledon classic.

The mighty berry (or aggregate fruit, whatthefuckever) deserves all this attention.

National Kahlua Day

I couldn’t find a source for who invented this day, but I’m going out on a rickety limb here and assuming it was created by the company that markets the Kahlua beverage. Just a hunch. Whatever, I love the stuff (Jodie doesn’t mind it, but finds it a bit sweet), and we’re happy to celebrate it along with everything else today.

Alvaro Domecq y Diez was one hell of an interesting cat. He was a fighter pilot in the Spanish Civil War. He was a bullfighter, but he specialized in rejoneo – bullfighting on horseback, which sounds completely bonkers. He had 19 kids, but only two made it to adulthood – not a curse, as he claimed, but a blood condition passed down by their mother. And in 1936 his family, which produced brandy and sherry, began to make a coffee liqueur they called Kahlua, meaning “house of the Acolhua people”. The Acolhuas were a culture that lived in Mexico starting around 1200 – around the same time as the Aztecs were doing their thing.

Kahlua is terrific in drinks: the B-52 shot, the Black and White varieties of Russian, the Paralyzer (a.k.a. Colorado Bulldog), and the Dirty Mother to name a few. Last night I simply enjoyed a glass of it straight up. Sure, it’s sweet as all hell, but the flavour is wonderful. And it’ll wake you up – it’s made from actual coffee beans so you’ll get roughly 25% the amount of caffeine in a glass of it as you’d get from the same amount of coffee.

I’m glad this one showed up in the later days of my plague so I could enjoy it. Still have to get around to National Margarita Day. It won’t be missed, I promise.

So I stayed shy of 3,000 words and ended up writing only 2,466 yesterday. Holy crap, this project is a lot of damn work. Here’s today’s plan:

  • National Skip The Straw Day. No straws for us today. Sounds simple, right?
  • National Public Sleeping Day. I doubt we’ll actually sleep in public, but we’ll fake it.  
  • National Chocolate Souffle Day. I’m not making one of these, but I think we can track down a couple places in town that’ll do the hard work for us.
  • National Tartar Sauce Day. Hopefully those places will also serve fish & chips. That’s a weird dinner combination.
  • National Floral Design Day. I don’t see this one being celebrated. I suppose we’ll see.
  • Rare Disease Day. We won’t be looking to come down with one, but maybe we can learn about a few of the more unusual ones.
  • National Science Day. Science, perpetually under attack by those who don’t know better, definitely deserves its day.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

We skipped a few yesterday. We had to. Ash Wednesday is sacred, holy, and unrelated to our religious beliefs (which are presently “Jedi” with a splash of “Clapton Is God”). We don’t fake religious celebrations; that’s disrespectful. National Personal Chef Day was out of our price range. Carnival Day is hard to commemorate when there are no carnivals nearby. But we did do this:

National Tell A Fairy Tale Day

Okay, I didn’t do this one. Jodie read Coraline to her class yesterday. I didn’t encounter any fairy tales, though I did re-watch Jackie Brown, and one could argue Tarantino is the Grimm Brothers of our era, complete with all the grisly violence. Come to think of it, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood might have made more sense.

So what is a fairy tale? Is it folklore? Is it just some story with a talking animal or some weird supernatural hoo-ha? Are they simply children’s stories that aren’t likely to be adapted by Disney?

A fairy tale is a genre of folklore. There’s usually some element of magic, and quite often an element of transformation in the story. Talking animals are an indicator, but many fables have talking beasts but don’t fit the mould of a fairy tale. The Germans used to call them Märchen, which translates to “little story”. The early French ones often had fairies involved, which is where the English term ‘fairy tale’ was born.

Before the fantasy genre was a thing, early fantasy works were thrown into the same pile as fairy tales. This includes Baum’s first Oz works, Orwell’s Animal Farm, and even The Hobbit. We know that a lot of the fairy tales we’re familiar with began as early as the Renaissance, but the oral tradition of story-telling goes back as far as the advent of language. Definitely a quality thing to celebrate – I hope people picked out their favourites from their childhood and read them to their kids yesterday (or, as we always encourage, do it today!).

National Pistachio Day

There are, as most would agree, two titans of the mixed nut world. Note that I’d say “most agree”, however I have done no research on this, nor have I even surveyed the folks who follow this madness on social media. By “most” I guess I mean “most of this household”. Even that isn’t true – the dogs have no solid opinions on which mixed nut reigns supreme. So, like many people on the internet I suppose I’m talking out of my ass when I make a blanket, statistic-less statement like the above. I make no apologies. This is the internet, where facts are in the eye of the schmuck beholding them at any given moment.

Anyhow, the two obvious kings of the mixed nut bowl are cashews (November 23) and pistachios. These days you can buy pistachios with the shell popped off and a myriad of flavours sprinkled upon the little green boogers of exquisite goodness. Not long ago you’d have two choices: green (so, normal), or red. I don’t know if the red ones tasted any different, but they didn’t look natural. And you’d always have to face off against the shells, no matter which colour you preferred. That meant encountering those ones that were clamped together so tight you’d either break a nail trying to pry them apart or have to sacrifice the yummy nugget within.

Archaeologists have deduced that people have been munching on pistachios since at least 6,750 BC. The trees grow freely in central Asia, and have been spread to everywhere they can flourish. Right now the two biggest pistachio producers are the US and Iran. Those trees will give off generations of food, living as long as 300 years. That’s a whole lot of nuts – or if you prefer, ice cream. Walnuts need maple to qualify them as an ice cream flavour; pistachios can do it on their own.

We had a great after-dinner snack last night, as Jodie contended with her own plague settling into her system. What a happy, grotesque, sick little house of celebrations we have become!

For Pete’s Sake Day

And we’re back to Thomas and Ruth Roy, the creators of the weirdest holidays-for-holiday-sake celebrations on our calendar. What is this day for? Who knows?

We skipped For The Love Of Mike Day when my illness was at its worst last weekend. So naturally we had to engage with this one. Besides, “For Pete’s Sake” always bugged me. Who is Pete? How did this expression come to be? The answer, unfortunately, is disappointing.

There is no Pete. I thought at first it might have been a reference to St. Peter – as in, “Oh, for the sake of St. Peter”, meaning there were implications of heaven and hell, good and evil, that sort of thing. But it looks like “Pete” is just a substitute for “God”, since invoking His name in one’s kvetching is generally frowned upon.

So let’s have a look at some of the great Petes out there:

Pete Davidson on SNL: funny motherfucker who got famous too young, but didn’t let it destroy him. Pete Carroll, coach of the Seattle Seahawks: chews too much gum, and should have handed the goddamn ball to Marshawn Lynch at the end of Super Bowl 49. Pete Rose, Baseball Hall of Fame… umm, visitor, I guess. Should have bet on football instead. Pete Best, who has outlived both Lennon and Harrison: seems like a nice guy, but Ringo was clearly the better drummer. Pete Townsend, guitarist: the most talented Pete in the group? Probably. Pete Buttigieg, mayor: no comment – no politics here. Pete Seeger, folk singer: deserves lots of love for the love he put out to the working people of the world. Pete Holmes, comedian: his show, Crashing, didn’t last long, but it sure ended beautifully. Pete Postlethwaite, character actor: commanded every scene I saw him in. Pete Tork, Monkee: I always thought he was the funniest of the four. Pete Boyle, actor: could sing “Puttin’ On The Ritz” better than anyone. Pete Bogdanovich, director: he was with Cybill Shepherd throughout the 70s, so well done, dude. Pete Gabriel, singer: a non-stop innovator. Pete Cetera, singer / bass player: sure he wrote a lot of schmaltzy music, but his work on Chicago’s first few albums is legendary. Pete Jackson, director: the guy literally created an entire cinematic world. Pete Frampton, singer / guitarist: damn, there are a lot of fine musical Petes on this list. Pete Noone, singer: I’m not a Herman’s Hermits fan, but lots of folks are, so good on ya, Noone. Pete Tosh, reggae musician: he wrote “Legalize It” and eventually they did. An incredible talent.

For Pete’s sake, I’m impressed with Petes today.

Inconvenience Yourself Day

I’d say I celebrated this one well. At home and still well under the weather, I spent almost the entire day at my computer, working. I designed Jodie’s posters and tickets for her show. I published an article and wrote this one. I meticulously went through Abbey’s essay and edited it with her. I finally got to bed after 10. It wasn’t convenient, but it felt good to be productive. Today’s plan: don’t be productive.

Looks like our calendar has other plans for me. Holy shit.

  • National Retro Day. Retro clothes and retro music all day. I’m not leaving the house, so that should be easy and thoroughly unimpressive.
  • National Chili Day. Good news – we froze some chili from February 1, National Texas Day. So dinner is taken care of.
  • National Toast Day. Here’s to heating up bread until it hardens, then spreading stuff on it! (clinks glasses)
  • National Pokemon Day. I was going to download that Pokemon app and play around with it on the bus, but since I’m not going into work, I’ll just look into the history of this phenomenon.
  • National Protein Day. Protein will be consumed. Easy.
  • Anosmia Awareness Day. Our food will be sampled with noses squeezed tight – anosmia is an inability to taste, so we should try to simulate it a bit.
  • National Kalhua Day. Alcohol! Again – easy.
  • National Strawberry Day. And now I know what my snacks will be. Okay, a busy day but all pretty easy to accomplish.

PS: A happy birthday to star photographer, friend of the project, and all-around great dude Graeme Kennedy yesterday!!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Another day at home yesterday. While women were flashing their breasts at strangers in exchange for plastic beads in New Orleans, I was posting a diagram on how to perform breast self-examinations. While people were gorging on food, drinks and thunderous revelry in Rio, I finally got around to watching The Master with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a delightful slow-burn. This chest infection may have me sidelined, but I’m keeping the party going on the bench.

Fat Tuesday / National Pancake Day / National Hot Breakfast Month

Three celebrations in one! Allow me to address each of them in turn:

If you judge Fat Tuesday by the Mardi Gras party in New Orleans, you’d think it was a free-for-all debauchery-fest before the onset of Lent and the allotted time to re-shape one’s soul and spirit through sacrifice. That’s an extremist view, and not entirely in line with what Fat Tuesday is about. Yes, it’s about indulgence. But New Orleans does not own the patent on Mardi Gras. In Mobile, Alabama, the events begin in November, with parties, parades and balls running for three months up to this day. In Staré Hamry, Czech Republic, there are door-to-door processions to get everyone involved. In Germany the carnival season starts on November 11 at 11:11am (which, for Germany, is a little odd). In Ivrea, Italy, there’s a massive orange-throwing fight.

Were we not on a budget we would do this properly, and actually venture to one of these places for Mardi Gras. To be honest, I’d be more intrigued by the orange fight than the drunken debauchery in New Orleans… but do they have beignets in Ivrea?

Pancakes are the traditional food of choice for Shrove Tuesday, or so my Catholic-raised wife insists. National Pancake Day is actually an IHOP creation from 2006, and it involves free pancakes – plus, you can donate what you would have paid directly to their charity, which supports children fighting serious illnesses. Jodie arose yesterday morning and blasted a batch of her delicious blueberry heaven-discs before leaving for work, so I can say with absolute certainty that we celebrated this one to its greatest potential.

The pancake itself has such an incredibly detailed history we couldn’t possibly cover it all. At the start are the Greek tagenites, made from wheat flour, olive oil, honey and curdled milk. Most every culture has some sort of flat bread served with fruit or honey or something. There’s even something called the Banana Pancake Trail, which refers to a bunch of backpacking stops in the Far East where westerners are served food they’ll recognize. Pancakes are universal, though varying in personality. One of our perfect foods.

As for National Hot Breakfast Month, we’ve had several warm first meals since the month began. Actually, I can only pinpoint one day in February when I had cereal, and one other when I’ve skipped breakfast entirely. Otherwise every day has been filled with something toasty – mostly toast! – for breakfast.

National Clam Chowder Day

Jodie was required to haul a bunch of her students to the theatre last night, to see some weird collision of Shakespeare and the Beatles. As I would have coughed and hacked throughout the entire performance, I remained at home. For her dinner she ordered in some clam chowder from Earl’s, which she said was quite fantastic. She gets the credit for celebrating this one alone.

Clam chowder (pronounced, as we’re all aware, like “chow-da”, not “shau-dare”) comes in all sorts of varieties. The New England / Boston style is the most common, and that’s the brand you’ll see labeled generically as ‘clam chowder’ on most menus. Milk or cream-based, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, with potatoes, onions and clams. Manhattan style is tomato-based and red. Long Island, being located in between Manhattan and Boston (if you’re using a curved line, I guess), is a blend of the two. Over in Delaware, they add cubes of salted pork to the mix. The Hatteras style (served in North Carolina) is a clear broth, and they have the good sense to add bacon. Rhode Island style is similar to Manhattan, but with a tomato broth and no chunks of tomato. The Minorcan style (from northeast Florida) is spicy as hell, and the one I want to sample the most.

We’ll be dining on clams a few times throughout this project, for National Clams on the Half Shell Day (March 31), Fried Clam Day (July 3), and Deep Fried Clams Day (November 1). They are a food I have never cooked with, but have always enjoyed devouring at a restaurant. This was great to celebrate, mostly because we didn’t try to cram it into the same meal as our pancakes. That would have been unpleasant.

National Chocolate Covered Nut Day

I think the chocolate-covering people got together at some point and simply divided up everything they can do with chocolate, then scattered those days around the calendar. We’ve already enjoyed chocolate mints, chocolate covered cherries, and we’ve got heaps more coming up. For today, we kept it simple.

If pressed to pick our favourite M&Ms, Jodie would opt for the peanuts, whereas I prefer the peanut butter. That said, if we’re talking Glosettes (because we’re in Canada and we can talk Glosettes), we’ll both take peanuts over those infernal raisins. Those were the chocolate covered peanuts we both grew up with – Goobers weren’t a big brand on this side of the border. Goobers hit US shelves in 1925 so they are very much a part of American snack food history.

To commemorate this day we went with the old standard, the M&Ms peanuts. The plan was for me to head downstairs from work to the chocolatier we’ve visited earlier in this project, but given that I’m off work for a week, we let the Mars Company do the heavy lifting yesterday. Peanut M&Ms also have a lengthy history, having been introduced back in 1954. Back then they were available only in tan candy shells; the other colors were introduced in 1960. They still pack a great crunch and they still don’t melt in your hand. Kind of amazing, really.

Another wild Wednesday. Actually, it’s pretty mild for us.

  • National Pistachio Day. Damn. We *have* to eat delicious, salty, savoury, wonderful pistachios today.
  • National Tell A Fairy Tale Day. I have no one who isn’t a dog to whom I can read a fairy tale. Perhaps Jodie can handle this one at work today.
  • For Pete’s Sake Day. Who is the original Pete? I’ll look into this. Actually, I won’t. There is no Pete. But there are a lot of great Petes to honour today.
  • Inconvenience Yourself Day. A good day to get out of one’s comfort zone. Since I’ve been medically ordered to remain in my comfort zone today, this will take some creativity.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Guess who’s got two thumbs, a chest infection, and a doctor’s note advising him to stay at home for the rest of the week? This guy. Guess who’s also got a bunch of home-based celebrations to keep him busy? Same guy. Guess who really has to take a leak? That’d be Liberty, our new puppy. Every five damn minutes. At least she’s letting me know in advance. But enough about that. This was yesterday’s party:

National Tortilla Chip Day

There’s nothing like a warm bowl of homemade tortilla chips, dunked into a chunky, spicy, also-homemade fresh tomato salsa. Unfortunately, all we had on hand yesterday was a bag of Tostitos and some Pace salsa out of the jar. I’m going to be honest: I’m sick of Pace salsa. We’ve bought the stuff for decades, and literally every time I’ve had salsa elsewhere I’ve enjoyed it more. I’d be happy if I never tasted the stuff again.

But yesterday was not National Salsa Day – in fact there isn’t one. There’s National Salsa Month in May though.

No, yesterday was all about the chip. The flavour of a proper tortilla chip should be enough to stir the senses on its own. Think of a drum and bass groove so thick it almost falls over into its own pocket. That’s the tortilla chip. The salsa bursts in with its flashy brass spice and its tomato-y waka-chika guitar and its fresh-frantic peppery keys, but every so often you’ve got to drop the extras and let that rhythm section take control. It’s too bad our snack yesterday was a tinny 80s Casio drum machine topped with bland, repetitive chords. But in tasting mediocrity we celebrated the heights we knew we should strive for.

The legend of tortilla chip origin only goes back to the 1940s, when Rebecca Webb Carranza from LA cut up some misshapen tortillas into triangles, fried them up and sold them as a snack. From there, an industry was born and a celebration was planted into the calendar.

Dog Training Education Month

As English bulldog owners for the past 16 years, we have had very little experience in dog training. Bulldogs are known for being obstinate and stubborn, and remarkably difficult to train. With all our previous pooches we achieved house-training (mostly), and the ability to sit on command, but that was it. Yoko – our smartest bulldog – also achieved a slight wave on command too, like a half-assed paw shake.

But now we have entered the world of golden retrieverdom. These are the dogs who – according to some Youtube videos I’ve seen – can be trained to open a fridge, retrieve a beer, close the fridge and deliver that beer to the slothy human on the couch. This is the dream: a dog who can learn. As such, Liberty attended her first puppy kindergarten class last night.

Dog training is a big task for human and dog alike, and also a terrific bonding experience. I recall learning this from our first bulldog, Rufus. He and I went to training together, and while we were kicked out of the class because Rufus refused to not pee on the pylon every time he walked past it, he and I also grew closer as a result of that class and the off-class training time. Liberty was taken by Jodie last night, given that I’m not fit for human contact at the moment. She (Liberty) was a star pupil, and showed a lot of promise for the future. I don’t need a dog to bring me a beer; I just want one who will come when she’s called. That said, if we can teach her how to roll a joint, I won’t complain.

If you’re in the area and looking for a great school, the classes run out of the Doghouse Daycare on the southside are top-notch.

National Self-Check Month

Look, we don’t need to get into all the gritty details, but we all know the dangers of not keeping up on one’s health. Check your man-parts, your lady-parts, and your everyone’s-got-em-parts for lumps, lesions, discharge, and anything out of the ordinary. If something seems a little outside the ordinary, get it checked out. We’ve got great health care in this country (apologies to our American readers), so make use of it and keep yourself in top shape.

Beyond that, you need to follow up on that check. If the doctor says yes, something needs to be biopsied or x-rayed or tested through some extracted bodily fluid, just do it. This isn’t the weird clunking noise in your car that will mysteriously go away by itself or can be ignored by cranking up the music. Also, I’m terrible with car maintenance, but that’s for some other celebration.

If you don’t know how to properly check yourself, there’s an internet out there with plenty of instructional videos. This goes for guys too. In 6th grade sex ed I remember they showed us a video of an extremely hairy man checking his own nut-sack in the shower. It was shocking, disturbing, and derailed us 11-year-olds into terrified laughter. A simple animation or diagram would have been much better. And there are lots of those online now – if you want to see a bunch of man-fingers kneading a pube-heavy scrotum, there are other websites for that.

The point is, check yourself out. Be healthy. And talk to your kids about it. Just don’t show them that video.

Today Jodie is at work until 11:00, so we’ll be partying on our own for the most part.

  • Fat Tuesday. Pancakes for breakfast! We’ve already done this one, and it was worth getting up at 6:30am for pancakes on a day when I was not leaving the house.
  • National Clam Chowder Day. Jodie will be grabbing some of this for dinner tonight.
  • National Chocolate Covered Nut Day. We’ve got some for snacking.

It’s also the 35th birthday of Tears for Fears’ Songs From the Big Chair, so let it all out!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Another day of recuperation, but dammit we did everything we could. Well, I did – Jodie was fine, and she just trucked along as a healthy human. My advice: don’t get sick. And if you do, hopefully you’ve married someone who will keep the party rolling. We are mostly caught up, which I count as a massive win.

National Dog Biscuit Day

So many days in this project have been devoted to providing delicious treats for us humans to gorge upon. It’s only fitting that our canine companions receive a day devoted to their own love of snacking. While we’re still overflowing with cherry pie, blueberry-lemon muffins, a sticky bun, and even those York peppermint patties, our puppies could finally get their turn.

Some dogs are motivated more by love than by food. Trixie is one of those beasts. She loves a good treat, and performs a goofy little head-weave dance when she sees a cookie a-comin’, but she’d let her food sit across the room if she was wrinkle-deep into a solid belly-rub. Rosa would crawl over hot coals for a tasty salmon stick. She’s all about the eats. We’re learning that Liberty is quite the same, given her bizarre tribal leaps when it’s feeding time.

So our puppies were treated to some extra snacks today. Just because they don’t fully understand this weird experiment we’ve undertaken doesn’t mean they shouldn’t benefit from it.

National Banana Bread Day

It’s an odd thing about bananas: when most purchased fruit has run through its lifecycle and managed to avoid the chomp of human teeth, it is discarded to return to the earth and restart the cycle of nature. When bananas have shrouded themselves in umber and retreated beyond the realm of edibility, they can achieve a second life in the form of carb-heavy breadstuffs.

We always seem to have a batch of blackened bananas sitting in our freezer, awaiting its rendezvous with some flour, sugar and other goodies. But our team baker (thanks, Mom!) came through for us once again with a delicious loaf of chocolate-chip goodness. The downside is that we are now even more stacked with treats. This will go well for our co-workers. Well, for Jodie’s co-workers – I took today as another day of recuperation, but Jodie’s fellow teachers will be snacking well this week.

National Single-Tasking Day

In an era of multitasking, this day is supposed to allow us to focus solely on one thing at a time, to power through it with care and focus, and to ensure we do it right. For me this was easy enough to do. I focussed on the task of recovering from another sleepless night, then focussed on publishing yesterday’s half-article, then focussed on writing this article, and lastly I focussed on winding myself down to another, equally sleep-deprived night.

Jodie had plenty of homework to do, but again that involved handling one thing at a time, handling it properly, then moving on. When we multitask everything we do, we run the risk of putting out shoddy, or incomplete work. Directing one’s workflow toward a single goal at a time is not always possible, but this day is here to remind us that when we can, we should take aim and fire at one job at a time.

Our dogs are good at this. Up there you see Trixie focused on the single task of not falling asleep and keeling over onto the floor. While this was going on, Rosa was chewing a nylon dinosaur, and Liberty was writhing around like a weirdo. We can learn so much about productivity from these pooches. Better give them another treat.

Curling Is Cool Day

Is it though?

Don’t get me wrong – curling is a game of phenomenal skill and precision. It takes years of mastering subtle wrist movements, keen observation, and an inherent aptitude for physics. That said, I’ve seen championship curlers with the same athletic build as me. I’ve seen old clips of people smoking while playing the game. This is not a triumph of athletics, but a game of strategy and hand-eye coordination, like darts or billiards.

Curling, which is basically shuffleboard played while standing on the table, is not riveting television, at least not to our eyes. During the Olympics it’s always fun, because (a) Canada is almost always in the running for a medal, and (b) the Olympics can make the most banal televised sports interesting. Ever watch a javelin competition in some other context? Of course you haven’t.

We watched a bit of curling yesterday. As luck would have it, last night was the final game in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, live from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. This is the Canadian women’s championship tournament and last year an Albertan took home the prize (which I assume is a trophy shaped like a broom?). It was dramatic and intense, but even under the haze of sleep deprivation, I was more intrigued by the season five premiere of Better Call Saul. That said, those women displayed a level of skill I couldn’t even dream of. And you know what? They were cool. Congratulations, Kerri Einarson of Manitoba.

National California Day

The Golden State. Several of my favourite cities on the planet. The first state to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples. The first state to usher in the age of legal medical marijuana. The birthplace of the computer, the movie industry (as we know it), fast food and the Internet. My dad packed up and moved to LA when I was 16, so I’ve visited often. One of my favourite humans married the love of his life in wine country up north, so we got to experience that treasure trove of natural wonder. Our headspace has us favouring New York City over Los Angeles these days, but as a state California will always hold my heart.

California was controlled by Spain, then Mexico, then passed over to the USA in 1848. Coincidentally (maybe), the gold rush began that same year. California marked the end of the great Frontier – the last reaches of New World exploration before the deep blue veil of the Pacific. It’s romanticized in western lore, and has come to be romanticized in many other contexts since. If you can afford to live there, you can proudly proclaim your zip code to be a portion of paradise, from the awe-inspiring redwoods (they live up to all the hype), down to the majestic waterfront of San Diego.

Here’s where I tend to list famous people who come from the state being celebrated, but with California is that really necessary? Beautiful people flock there to make a living off their assets, and they hook up with other beautiful people and make beautiful kids. There are no surprises in this list. Jennifer Aniston? Candice Bergen? Kevin Costner? Snoop Dogg? Does it shock you that any of those people were born in the land of sunshine?

For our California adventure, I opted for this recipe to simulate the In-N-Out Burger chain’s classic, the Double-Double. Up here a double-double is how one can desecrate coffee with too much cream and sugar, but in California it means something else. We’ve had the real thing, and found it to be the best fast-food burger we’ve tasted. Did this recipe measure up? We have no idea. It’s been more than a decade, and we only tried them once. But it was a terrific burger.

The down-side was that my appetite had not yet returned to its normal voracious levels, so I was only able to eat about half of it. Also, the recipe creates way too much sauce for just two burgers, but since the sauce is actually the most exquisite part, we were okay with that. In hindsight, some sort of avocado thin-crust pizza concoction might have made more sense, or one of those Chinese chicken salads my dad and I used to devour. But this, like California, was pretty goddamn good.

National Cook A Sweet Potato Day

What can I say? We cooked some sweet potatoes. Peel ‘em, chop ‘em up, cover them in some diced fresh rosemary and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. We left them in the oven for about 20 minutes and they made for a  welcome side dish beside the three-napkin monstrous mess of those burgers. Sweet potatoes are a delightful alternative. We’re not a fan of the fries they produce, though Da-De-O, our favourite restaurant, makes the best we’ve ever tried. I was happy this day showed up when it did. (Technically on Saturday, but again, it had to be bumped)

Don’t call those little tubers ‘yams’ though – the yam is a different beast. These aren’t really that closely related to potatoes either, despite their similarities. Sweet potatoes date back to pre-Columbus times – in fact, the first Europeans to taste the meat of a sweet potato were Columbus’s 1492 crew. The darker tinted sweet potatoes contain more beta-carotene than the lighter ones, so if your vitamin A levels are low, go for the deep orange.

In Asia, you can pick up roasted sweet potatoes from street vendors. Sweet potato greens are popular in Taiwan – and yes, you can eat their leaves like spinach. In Sri Lanka they like them for breakfast, which is probably far healthier than that bowl of Lucky Charms you wolfed back a few hours ago. Koreans turn them into noodles. In Indonesia they’ll batter them and fry them along with bananas and spicy condiments. The Japanese have even introduced them into maki rolls.

They were a welcome treat last night. My appetite even found a way to finish every piece on my plate.

National Sweet Potato Month

We really loved those sweet potatoes. We’ll count it as a double-celebration.

Kalevala Day

Finland has spent its existence sandwiched between the big bear of Russia and the much, much different Nordic countries. As such, its culture is a unique beast. The story of how the Finnish developed their national identity is far too long and complex for me to summarize in a few paragraphs below an entry about sweet potatoes, but suffice it to say the epic poem known as the Kalevala is a key part of it.

The Kalevala consists of 22,795 verses, divided into fifty stories from Karelian and Finnish folklore and myths. Karelia, for those who don’t know, is a distinctive region that straddles Finland and Russia’s border. The stories in the Kalevala begin with the creation of existence, feature plenty of lust and kidnapping, and would probably make for a killer HBO series, once Westworld has run its course.

How is this epic so relevant? You’ll find places all over Finland with references in their names. Brands and major national companies have names pulled from the poem. This day, also known as Finnish Culture Day, is a major holiday in the country. The poem has birthed the nation’s music culture, and inspired countless works of literature and even film. So to our Finnish friends, we hope you enjoyed your respite yesterday.

Still feeling rough, but only one thing to celebrate today. Thank God.

  • National Tortilla Chip Day. Woohoo! An easy one! Suck it, weird illness!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Yesterday we learned the benefits of scaling this project up to such an immense and manic proportion right out of the gate. When an insurmountable hurdle arises – such as a mystery illness that is part flu, part bronchial, and fully debilitating – we can scale things back for a few days, rather than shut off the lights completely. We missed some key celebrations yesterday, but there is no way in unholy Fucktown that we are recusing ourselves from National Margarita Day.

Over the next few days we may find ourselves posting a bit less, and paying homage to fewer celebrations. Jodie is still revving in top gear, but given that I (Marty) am the one who handles most of the social media and all of the writing, it’s going to take a night in which I actually fall asleep for more than 2 hours before I can return to full revelry. That will be a day to celebrate.

So bear with us and keep the party going. Some events it looks like we’re skipping may show up a few days late. But we’re still in it to carouse our way through 2020.

Random Acts of Kindness Week

We spent much of yesterday running our usual chores, which likely didn’t assist in my recovery one bit. But we got to take part in Random Acts of Kindness Week (the Acts of Kindness Day, if you’ll recall, was last Monday), and do something I’ve always wanted to do. We rode through the McDonalds drive-thru for lunch and paid for the vehicle behind us. This is a pay-it-forward kindness that I’ve heard about for years but never experienced.

The good news: his total was only $6.57. We were fortunate not to be in front of a mini-van full of hungry children. The weird news: he paid it forward immediately, running his debit card through the machine, most likely for whomever was behind him. Either that or McDonalds ripped us both off and charged him twice. The optimist in us will believe the former.

Today will be an attempt to catch up on a couple items from yesterday that we didn’t get to. The margaritas can wait until I can appreciate them. Here’s what’s on our schedule if we’re feeling up to it:

  • National Banana Bread Day. Our team baker (known more familiarly as my mom) has this one under control for us.
  • National Dog Biscuit Day. I’m sure I’ll be able to muster up the strength to feed my dogs treats today. If ever I’m too sick to do that, things aren’t good.
  • Kalevala Day. A day to honour Finland’s national poem. To celebrate, we’ll learn what that is.
  • Curling Is Cool Day. Quite possibly the least exciting sport to watch on TV, we will try to watch some. I’m sure there’s some bonspiel or something going on. And what the hell is a bonspiel? Just call it a game.
  • Meteni. Who doesn’t love a good Latvian spring festival? Eat and drink as much as you want – that’s what my research told me to do. Since I have almost no appetite, this should be easy.
  • Single-Tasking Day. No multi-tasking all day. One thing at a time. We’ll be lucky if I can even do that.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

It was a sketchy day yesterday, the first real test of our ability to see through the toughest terrain of this project. Fortunately there were only two items on the menu, and one of them needed to be skipped. You can’t do National Grain-Free Day if you’re also doing:

National Sticky Bun Day

Full disclosure – we spent yesterday sad that we were shipping our daughter back to school, busy running dogs to vet appointments, and I am still gliding down the slope of a chest-based illness. I am prone to bronchitis and a couple years overdue for my next bout, which will make it tough to keep celebrating. But dammit, we are troopers, and just like troopers we are here for a good time (not a long time), and to raise a little hell like any boy in a bright white sportscar. So we shall power through it, Canadian classic rock puns be damned.

Of course, it’s a lot easier when “powering through it” means eating something as divine as a sticky bun. Sticky buns have been around since the middle ages – once cinnamon became a widely-used ingredient, it was the easiest way to spice up bread and concoct a dessert. Apart from fruit, this is probably one of the oldest consistent desserts in western human history.

We opted for a trip to the High Level Diner for lunch today, not only because they use killer locally-sourced food and make the greatest homemade ketchup I’ve ever tasted, but because their sticky buns are the stuff of local legend. They tower over a plate like some fluffy, imposing monolith. They are served with a bourbon caramel sauce that dares every taste bud not to fall into a bliss-induced coma. Unfortunately, their immense stature means they don’t work as dessert. Abbey enjoyed hers as a main course. We took ours home for a treat later, as we were foolish enough to order actual food for our meal.

They were worth the wait. These things are pure doughy heaven.

National Grain-Free Day

Okay, we opted out of this one, given our sticky bun treat. Even dinner was Chinese food, which my wife pointed out was partly breaded, and included rice. Rice is absolutely a grain – I looked it up.

So is the point of this day to go full-on Atkins and stick with meat and veggies only? No, that probably shows up on a different day, and so help me if it’s one of the doughnut days it can rightly go fuck itself. This was concocted just last year by Siete Family Foods, a family-run company who makes grain-free tacos and other such products. They wanted a day to honour the items made for folks who can’t process grains.

I love this idea. As someone who got thwacked with lactose intolerance at age 30, I can appreciate that the struggle to adjust one’s diet to conform to one’s digestive capabilities is a tough one. And where I can pop a few pills and dive into ice cream consequence-free (most of the time), there is no such magic for those who must shy away from breadstuffs. So sure, Siete Family Foods is trying to make a buck with this day, but they are creating products that absolutely deserve the publicity. Just so all y’all with grain intolerance know, we were with you in spirit yesterday.

If the Atkins Diet is more your thing, I’d like to introduce you to the original grain-free weight-loss regimen: the Drinking Man’s Diet from 1964, invented by a forward-thinking San Franciscan named Robert Cameron. He pushed low-carb, manly foods (this was fully intended for men, and the weird gender-bias is evident in his writing). He said we should eat steak, eat fish, even eat salad if it’s smothered in Roquefort dressing. And drink, dammit! But just the low-carb stuff: gin, vodka, rum, whisky, and so on. So on you’ll go, not counting calories, not adding up “points”, just eating your manly meat foods and drinking your hard liquor.

Like a man, I guess. I’ll take the shot of whisky, but give me a grain-free taco instead.

Drink Wine With Your Cat Week

My beloved cousin Shelby helped out with this celebration, as we have no cats on the premises (and could not bring one onto our premises, at the risk of offending Trixie beyond repair). She enjoyed a tasty malbec with her cat Harriet and graciously sent me a photo.

Cats and wine make sense as a pairing. Cats are a more emotionally complex pet than dogs, just as the flavours of wine are intricate and often complicated. A cat requires patience and understanding, while a dog just embraces you with love and drool. A wine is meant for sipping and savouring, not gulping. Wine, like cats, is jazz. Dogs are rock ‘n roll. Hopefully this analogy makes sense to someone outside of my skull.

I’m happy we could acknowledge both this week, and in a way that causes no additional stress to our puppies. I’d encourage every cat lover to share a glass (well, don’t actually share it) with their feline companions. You both deserve it.

Today I’m not sure I’ll be up to much. We’ll see how this cough and its accompanying pains will treat me. Here’s what’s up:

  • National Margarita Day. If I have to pass this one up, I will make up for it in the near future. So help me, this will be celebrated.
  • For The Love Of Mike Day. Another odd celebration from that guy who made up a bunch of odd celebrations. We’ll send a little love to the Mikes we know.
  • National Walking The Dog Day. We have three to choose from. They’ll likely all get a turn.
  • National Cook A Sweet Potato Day. I suppose I’ll be making these with dinner.
  • National California Day. Our once-a-week journey around the US cuisines takes us to the sunny west coast. I’ve got a good recipe planned for dinner tonight.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Yesterday was a fine day for laying around the house, as I felt a slight plague begin to creep into my system, only to force its way out periodically through coughs. Fortunately, this day was all about love and food.

National Love Your Pet Day

So, Hug Your Puppy Day was January 21, and Hug Your Dog Day is April 10… there’s really no shortage of days tuned into celebrating our adoration of the creatures that surround us. This one seems to have quite a fair amount of traction though. It was all over social media yesterday morning, in posts from the Chicago City Clerk, the Obama Foundation, The Sims, and even @DCBatman, the official Batman twitter account.

Of course if you’re waiting for a special day just to love your pet, you probably shouldn’t have a pet. We showed some extra love to our three she-beasts today, but they get that every day. There is no ‘extra’ – what, do we buy them jewelry?

I suppose we could. I’ve always felt Rosa would like dapper in a tiara, and Trixie’s neck is just crying out for a bejeweled choker. Liberty would probably try to eat anything we gave her, so the diamond tennis bracelet will have to wait. But jewels are not love, contrary to what a lifetime of Kay Jewellers commercials may suggest. Give ‘em some hugs, give ‘em some treats, and just love them. Pets are what gives life purpose. They are comfort and compassion, wrapped up with absolute devotion.

Well, dogs are anyway – cats serve a more esoteric purpose. Fish? Quiet entertainment. Hamsters, gerbils and other rodents? Fuzzy adulation. Birds? Great companions, especially if you want to pretend you’re a pirate. Snakes and spiders? Those aren’t pets, they’re ill-advised animal boarders. Ferrets? Okay, we’re done here.

Just go hug your pet. It’s the best thing you’ll do all day.

Hoodie Hoo Day

Once again we travel to Pennsylvania and the realm of Thomas Roy, that guy who invented 80+ weird holidays. Some we’re ignoring, but this one kind of makes sense in a weird, unapologetically goofy sort of way.

The purpose of Hoodie Hoo Day is to welcome forth the shift into spring. As anyone who lives in this tundra can understand, spring is still a ways off no matter what we yell at the heavens. But yell we must – at least this year. Yesterday I walked outside, raised my arms above my head and cried, “HOODIE HOOOOOO!!!!!” to the sky. Then I came inside and had lunch. It’s a simple celebration.

Hoodie Hoo Day shows up twice this year: once yesterday, and again on August 22 for the folks in the southern hemisphere to cry out for their spring. I won’t be joining them, as the weather slated to show up here after August 22 is not something I want to hurry along. But yesterday, for a brief moment removed from time, I felt spring was listening. My voice cut through the crisp air, rose high above the reach of snow and entered the ear-holes of the heavens. When spring does decide to ring our bell, I’ll hope it’s because it heard my call.

Probably not, but we can pretend.

National Muffin Day

The beloved muffin truly deserves a day. The cupcake is blunt, it’s almost unpleasantly obtuse with its intentions. But the muffin sidles onto your plate with an air of potential complexity. Will your teeth be plunging into a sweet berry or chocolate concoction? Will there be a bite of cornbread, biting you back? Or will you be experiencing the bland (but well-intentioned) taste of bran? You really can’t lose with a muffin.

You can splash some butter on a muffin. You can spruce it up with some cream cheese if you’re feeling particularly insouciant. But a cupcake? A cupcake will deliver what it promises: sweetness and sweetness alone. There’s no adventure there, no passion. My mother delivered a batch of her incredible lemon-blueberry delights last night, and they will keep our taste buds giggly and giddy for days to come.

Of course the muffin’s top portion is the star of the show. But a muffin is an experience, and shutting out the stump means filtering a journey. It’s like listening to the AM radio edits of great classic rock songs – oh, sorry, is that keyboard solo too interesting and long for your attention span? Here, listen to the 2:52 version of “Light My Fire” and munch on a muffin top; you don’t really care about biting into life anyway. No, in this house we eat the entire muffin, and we take our 1967 Doors singles in their 7:06 format.

The quick bread muffin (what some Brits call ‘American muffins’ and what we just call ‘muffins’) date back to 19th century American cookbooks. The flatbread muffin (what we call ‘English muffins’) goes back at least a century before that. I enjoyed one of each yesterday. It was a muffin-tastic little Thursday.

How best to celebrate this day? By covering the muffin gamut as I did, that’s a good effort. But San Franciscan tech lawyer Jacob Kaufman truly does it right: he bakes muffins then hands them out to the hungry and homeless on the streets. Actually he does this all the time, but on National Muffin Day he encourages people all over the world to do the same. He also celebrates this day on March 1 for some reason (we’ve got enough planned for that day), but any day is a great day to do this.

National Cherry Pie Day

Another day without a specific origin story that I could find, but the cherry pie deserves a day. According to the American Pie Council (and one does not dare contradict the APC), fruit pies date back to the 1500s. It’s said that the first ever cherry pie was baked for Queen Elizabeth I.

The pie is a perfect encapsulation of dessert. The sweetness derives from the fruit or cream (or whatever) inside, but it’s surrounded by a pastry that gives it form and purpose. Pie goes brilliantly with ice cream, which is further proof of its perfection. We sampled a delicious pecan pie back on January 23 (National Pie Day #1 of 2 this year), but since this is a more specific day, we had to shift gears.

Thankfully my mother, who has proudly declared herself to be the official bakesmith of this project, came through with a terrific creation from her oven. This day encapsulates this project beautifully: an over-indulgence of tasty foods, plus dog hugs. 2020 has been a pretty great year so far.

National Cherry Month

The cherry is truly the fruit of utter magnificence. If there’s an assorted fruit-flavoured anything, the cherry is most reliably the greatest. We’ll call this a double celebration, and I will finish every bite of this pie.

Today leads us into a bizarre contradiction we’re not entirely certain how we’ll overcome:

  • National Sticky Bun Day. The High Level Diner in Edmonton makes sticky buns that are the stuff of legend. Easy to celebrate.
  • National Grain-Free Day. How the hell do we go grain-free *and* eat a sticky bun? We don’t. The sticky bun wins. Perhaps the rest of the day will be breadless.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Another blissfully quiet day yesterday, which allowed for plenty of time to reflect on the pivotal role these few items play in our lives. Actually it just meant we could get some real work done, but here we are:

National Tug Of War Day

I could find no resource that indicated who came up with the notion of National Tug of War Day, so I can only assume it was (a) the big rope corporations, looking to scrape up some extra business in February – a notably slow month in rope sales, or (b) Paul McCartney, doing his best to drum up sales of his 1982 album, Tug of War. If it’s the latter, I approve. “The Pound Is Sinking”, “What’s That You’re Doing?”, “Ballroom Dancing”, “Take It Away” – just a heap of great music on that album. I’m listening to it presently, as these words spew from my fingerprints.

I can play the McCartney album, but orchestrating an actual tug of war in our lives has not proven possible. I was advised there may be some occupational health & safety issues if we tried a competition betwixt our cubicles. Jodie didn’t want her school to be liable for any injured children (though we both agreed the physical comedy would be hiLARious. Fortunately two of our research assistants – Rosa and Liberty – were willing to demonstrate their skills for us.

For five glorious Olympics between 1900 and 1920, tug of war was a team event. For its potential as a popular TV spectacle I’m hopeful they’ll bring it back. It’s played as an organized team sport in 53 countries after all. A form of tug of war was featured on American Gladiators too, and I still think a lot of those games should be ported over to the Olympics.

That said, one should not take tug of war lightly. I mean, the word ‘war’ is right there in the title. Just look at the events of June 13, 1978 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Around 2,300 people were going for the middle school tug of war Guinness Record. The rope snapped, resulting in 200 injuries and six fingers and thumbs amputated. When 650 German Scouts tried to break a tug of war record in 1995, two people died.

Respect the sport, but maybe tug for love instead. (Tug For Love would be a unique memoir title, if anyone wants it)

National Chocolate Mint Day

With National Peppermint Patty Day still visible in our rear-view mirror this felt a little like a rerun. That’s okay – a great rerun is still quality entertainment, just ask everyone who still tunes into old Simpsons and Seinfeld episodes. We went with the York miniature Peppermint Patties yesterday for a change, and we finally finished off those After Eights we’ve had since Christmas. Astute readers will recall the After Eights were used for Read To Your Child Day. We’re very economical here at Celebrate366, and we love a good dose of cocoa mass.

If you’re looking to invest in some Yorks for the betterment of your own existence (and anyone should agree this is a sound way to improve your ride through this crazy teacup ride we call life), I’d recommend the 25-pound bulk option on Amazon – only $215.93 (Canadian) for approximately 1,500 patties. That will last you all week! That’s less than 15 cents per pattie! This is the future we are living in, people. Don’t deny its awesomeness.

Another great day of eats!:

  • National Cherry Pie Day. My mother has volunteered to steer the ship for this one. Also…
  • National Muffin Day. Hooray for February 20. My mom has also baked some of her classic lemon-blueberry muffins, so tonight promises to be just awesome.
  • Hoodie Hoo Day. This involves stepping outside at noon and yelling, “HOODIE HOOOOOO!!!!!!” to the heavens. So that will be fun.
  • Fat Thursday. One tradition of this pre-lent party is the women cutting the ties off the men. I’m inherently against wearing ties, so I’ll be happy to desecrate one.
  • Love Your Pets Day. Or as we call it, “day”.