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.

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