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.

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