Monday, February 3, 2020

Yesterday was spent embracing tradition. I suppose every one of these days could wager a boast of tradition, but there’s tradition and then there’s the all-caps TRADITION. For example:

Super Bowl Sunday

If professional sports are our favourite distraction (I exclude music and film, as art is a necessary indulgence, not a distraction), then Super Bowl Sunday is the reigning champion of drawing our eyes, ears and minds away from the real world. Baseball, hockey and basketball finish their annual tales in best of seven series. Soccer may be a more massive global draw, but in this corner of the planet it’s a distant fifth. Even the Grey Cup, Canadian football’s crowning event, is a pale shadow of the pageantry and hullaballoo that surrounds this sacred day.

We had no stake in this game going in, apart from the annual 25 cent bet I have with my mother every year. These were two teams we enjoyed watching all season, and we simply hoped for an exciting afternoon. Obviously we were not disappointed. Perhaps most importantly, KC coach Andy Reid just coached his 366th football game, so we humbly appreciate the (obviously intentional) brand tie-in he provided us with his win.

It’s hard to wrap one’s head around just how much Americans care about this game. It is perpetually the most watched television broadcast of the year. More food is consumed on this day than any other, apart from Thanksgiving. Even the commercials (which we don’t get to see here, because the CRTC is a life-sucking crap-bucket of a government body) tend to define brands and create cinematic masterpieces in 30-60 seconds. People bet on who wins the coin toss. Networks spend stadium-fuls of cash on the show that airs immediately after the game, because people will tend to tune in for those Very Special Episodes.

The Super Bowl will always be a sacred Sunday for us. And cheer up, 49ers fans; you’ve still got next year.

Groundhog Day

If the groundhog sees its shadow, that means six more weeks of winter.

In Edmonton, the desolate arctic-tundra wasteland in which I live, winter ending in the middle of March would be a meteorological miracle, not a disappointment. As such, Groundhog Day’s silly superstition has never meant much to me. Still, we’re playing along here, right?

Shubenacadie Sam, Canada’s east coast g-hog, saw his shadow. Wiarton Willie, the albino groundhog who dwells in South Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, saw nothing and therefore declares an early spring. Fred la Marmotte from Val-d’Espoir, Quebec, predicts le printemps va arriver bientôt. Winnipeg Wynn says an early spring, while Manitoba Merv (big province for rodent weather speculation, apparently) agrees. Balzac Billy, from our own happy little province, is a person in a groundhog costume so how much should we really believe him? Screw it, he says early spring, so I’m on board with Balzac Bill. Then there’s the infamous Punxsutawney Phil, once held high by Brian Doyle Murray in the classic film. He’s also all-in for an early spring.

So how much should we believe in this? If we limit ourselves strictly to logic and common sense, not at all. A study in 2017 of Phil’s accuracy graded him at between 39%  and 47% accuracy in his predictions (only 17 of which were for an early spring, compared to 103 for more winter). So… maybe just flip a coin instead?

National Hedgehog Day

Consider if you will the mighty hedgehog. In ancient Egypt they were a culinary delicacy. The Bedouins believed their meat could cure arthritis. In Morocco, inhaling the smoke of the burnt bristles is said to be a cure for impotence. Their blood is sold as a cure for ringworm.

And they’re so damn cute. There are restrictions on owning them in a handful of US states and Canadian cities. Alberta, for those locals who were wondering, lifted their ban on domesticated hedgehogs back in 1994, so we’re good to go. Why are they so controlled? Most likely because precisely zero hedgehogs are native to this continent, and we all know what happens when you introduce a non-native species into the landscape. Well, those of us who saw that Australia episode of The Simpsons will remember, anyhow.

We opted to celebrate National Hedgehog Day, not with a scurrying new pet but instead with some delicious dark chocolate hazelnut treats from Carole’s Sweets. Purdy’s Chocolates claims to have invented the hedgehog-shaped hazelnut chocolate back in the early 1990s, and somehow that notion spread. Are they a common feature of American chocolate shelves? We have no idea. But they should be. They’re a nifty little shape, and a delightful flavour.

Hazelnut-chocolate will be a running theme this week – get your Nutella ready for Wednesday.

National Ukulele Day

Some instruments are birthed with an emotive voice. The ukulele can’t help but exude vibes of chill and calm with every strum, or evoke images of seaside relaxation in every pluck. The ukulele speaks volumes about any piece of music, more than any words a vocalist could utter. It’s an instrument of immediate transport, of escapism and light. You can be wistfully sad with a uke, you can be snuggled in the spirited cloths of new love with a uke, and you can see the universe unfold in its most spectacular colours with a uke. But you can’t be angry and vengeful, nor can you spew hatred and vitriol – the strings of a ukulele will rebuff such emotions.

My beloved Auntie (one of them) is a mad uke-lover. She performed yesterday afternoon at our giant mall (not far from where the snakes and penguins are stashed, as we discussed in yesterday’s article) with a troupe of eager amateur musicians, all of the uke persuasion. We would have loved to attend, but Jodie’s flight arrived five minutes after the beginning of the show, and we would have missed all of it. As such, my hopes of strumming a few peaceful, Hawaiian chords were not meant to be. Instead we opted to create a ukulele playlist on Spotify, and groove to that. Here’s a sampling of the tunes:

  • Paul McCartney – Ram On
  • Jack Johnson – Banana Pancakes
  • Twenty One Pilots – House of Gold
  • Vance Joy – Riptide
  • Bruno Mars – Count on Me
  • Taylor Swift – Blank Space
  • George Harrison – Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

And of course, because we’d be failing this day if we did not include it, “Tip Toe Thru’ the Tulips with Me” by Tiny Tim.

National Heavenly Hash Day

What, I hear someone out there asking, is heavenly hash? I was disappointed to learn that it has nothing to do with hashbrowns. Those would have made an unusual but welcome Super Bowl snack. Nor does it have anything to do with hashish, though I may have considered enjoying a smidgen of that, just to maintain the theme.

Heavenly hash is a dessert creation, not unlike the ambrosia salad. This recipe I found had us mix marshmallows with crushed pineapple (we used canned tidbits), maraschino cherries, whipped cream and… rice. It was odd, but a fine dessert to wash back the second day of chili con carne. Perhaps a bit unnecessary since we are still sitting on a massive baked Alaska, but who’s going to complain about a double dessert?

Bonza Bottler Day

Please check out our January 1 entry for the full explanation for this 12-times-per-year celebration. In short, on each day wherein the month number and day number match up, we are each going to enjoy a special bottle of something. Jodie sampled Phillips Intergalactic Root Beer, which she found to be tasty, though she wasn’t fond of the aftertaste. I enjoyed a Chimay Blue, brewed at a monastery in Belgium, a perfect complement to an afternoon of football.

Today is a weird mixed bag of goodies.

  • National Football Hangover Day. I didn’t drink enough for an actual hangover, but I think I can wrap my brain around a football one.
  • National The Day The Music Died Day. We don’t relish savouring death dates over birth dates in this project, this is quite the significant anniversary.
  • National Women Physicians Day. What luck, my physician is a woman! I also have an appointment with her – not really a matter of luck, but planning.
  • National Carrot Cake Day. There’s really only one logical way to celebrate this day.
  • National Golden Retriever Day. Plans are in place. More info to follow.
  • Doggie Date Night. Dinner and a movie for the pooches.

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