Saturday, March 7, 2020

As we swim into another day bombarded with pandemic fears, political upheaval and concerns over humanity’s response to pandemic fears, I offer the worlds of Walt Whitman: Re-examine all that you have been told… dismiss that which insults your soul.

We are built from greater light, and our collective purpose should always be a chaotic climb toward greater enlightenment. Don’t let the mire grab hold of your spiritual ankles, and never succumb to the briny bite of snivelling skepticism. Sometimes you’ve just got to slap on your happy hat and let the good in the universe wash over you. Here’s one way to start:

National Oreo Cookie Day

Along a stretch of 9th Avenue, between 15th and 16th Streets in Manhattan, you’ll find the Chelsea Market, a place filled with so much delectable food it will make your taste buds weep. Back in 1912 that building housed the National Biscuit Company (eventually Nabisco for short), and that is where the Oreo was first brought to life. Where did this inspiration come from? It’s a simple six-word answer: Hydrox.

The Hydrox cookie was created by Sunshine Biscuits in 1908, and it featured a crème centre in between two chocolate cookies. The only notable differences from the Oreo that would come along and usurp the cookie’s fanbase are that the Hydrox biscuits were crunchier (and stayed that way when immersed in milk), and they were kosher. But enough about the original – this is not National Hydrox Day.

The Oreo may have been named for a genus of the laurel family known as Oreodaphne. The original cookies had a laurel wreath imprinted upon it, and Nabisco was into naming cookies after plants back then. Oreos (full name: Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookie) have been lard-free (and therefore both kosher and vegan) since the early 90s, and they’ve been without trans fats since 2006. That doesn’t make them health food. But they are the world’s best selling cookie, if you believe the company’s hype.

We opted for the white Oreos in the thin variety. The thin cookies have a magnificent little snap to them, and it feels somewhat less junk-food-bingeish when we eat them. Which allows us to eat more, I suppose, and that defeats the purpose. Whatever – it’s an Oreo party.

National Day Of Unplugging

From sundown to sundown, the National Day of Unplugging attempts to remove technology from our lives, to allow us to connect with the world again. The list of sponsors who have leant their names to this cause include Virgin, NBC, the New York Times, Vogue, and the Wall Street Journal. There are events happening all across America, including a yoga gathering in New York, a handful of restaurants that are banning cell phones for the day in Maryland and Virginia, and an ice cream giveaway in San Francisco.

I feel stretched in both directions on this one. Can I go 24 hours without music? Without social media? Without… dear god… television???

No, this is madness. This project is dependent on technology, and we certainly aren’t going to skip over National Crown of Roast Pork Day (which would require our oven) just for this little day. We are making the effort, however. In particular, a social media break (except for posting pics of our crown of roast pork, etc.) might satiate the soul. Our focus for those hours of this day during which we are together will be on connecting. We will connect with the world, and with the people around us. And the dogs. Always the dogs.

The National Day of Unplugging is the brain-child of Reboot, a Jewish-based non-profit, which might explain the sundown-to-sundown motif. In fact, they’re just tricking us into observing Shabbat. Very crafty. I tried honouring Shabbat once (this involves using no technology, not even a light switch), and found I couldn’t do it. Four hours past Friday sundown I needed some music to placate my nerves. I don’t suspect I could do it today either, mostly because I wouldn’t want to. Jodie was already having a hard time last night. So this one we shall observe in moderation. We’ll unplug a little.

National Dress In Blue Day / National Colo-Rectal Cancer Awareness Month

Here’s a scary truth: colon cancer doesn’t give itself away with any pesky little symptoms until its advanced stages, when asking it politely to leave is a hell of a lot harder. It’s advised that after you turn 50 you should be getting screened regularly. It’s not a pleasant process, but I read a thing yesterday about a new camera-capsule that will record the goings-on inside your back door on a one-way voyage, thus eliminating the need to snake a piece of equipment up the other way. If this is true, I’ll want a take-home copy of the entire film. Imagine the cinematic experience of journeying with your food from chomp to plop – the entire trip. Who wouldn’t watch that? Don’t lie.

Back to the point… In 2006 Anita Mitchell had already lost her dad and a friend to colon cancer, and she herself had experienced stage IV and lived to tell us about it. She organized an event at her kid’s school to get everyone to wear blue and raise awareness for this undiscriminating killer. Today we each opted to sport some blue. This annoyed a few of my coworkers, who advised me I should have told them about this yesterday so they could prepare. Okay, well we do have the calendars posted to the webpage, just sayin’…

If you also missed your chance to slap on some indigo duds, don’t fret – just go get a doctor to look inside that rusty sheriff’s badge back there and give you a clean bill of health. We can’t beat colon cancer outright yet, but we can kick it in the knees if we catch it early enough. Go ahead, kick that fucker.

National Dress Day

Jodie popped on a dress in the evening (a weird bit of fashion show-and-tell for a couple who spent the night in, eating crappy food – more on that below). She didn’t wear it to school due to shoe-related reasons that I won’t pretend to understand.

There is no history of the dress that I can sum up in a paragraph or two. Dresses have been around for as long as clothes have been around – one could argue the toga was simply a tied-up, non-fancy, unisex dress. Over the last millennium dresses became incredibly complex, involving things like kirtles, foreparts, ruffs, stays and partlets. I don’t know what any of those are, and a couple of them sound kind of dirty. Nowadays the rules for dresses have eased to the point where they are once again an any-gender garment. Not for me, of course – the thigh-chafing of a day of dress-wearing wouldn’t work for me.

That said, we both got dressed yesterday, so in spirit I’m going to say yes – we did honour National Dress Day, just as a verb instead of as a noun. A little holdover loophole from National Grammar Day.

National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day

With zero chance of us baking a white chocolate cheesecake today, we instead went in search of a local slice to wind down our Friday. It wasn’t easy. Turns out even the places that specialize in desserts aren’t specifically tuned in to National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day. What is wrong with these people? Fortunately Vi’s For Pies, a Glenora institution, came through with that exquisite white chocolate raspberry cheesecake pictured above. It made for a great little date.

National Cheesecake Day is on July 30, and on that day I’ll prattle on about the glories of cheesecake, and recount my own favourite cheesecake experience (spoiler: it was at Lindy’s in midtown and it was smothered in cherries). White chocolate cheesecake does not sport such a rich and interesting history. White chocolate makes sense with cheesecake though – it’s fatty, sugary and wholly unhealthy. And the sweetness flows fluently with the creamy taste of cheesecake. It’s a perfect match.

Some items are just too tricky to come by in this town. Hell, there’s no guarantee that even Lindy’s would be selling the white chocolate variety if it was still around. But if you were able to grab hold of a slice yesterday, I hope it was as sumptuous as the one we found. This perpetual party is all about the sumptuous.

National Frozen Food Day / National Frozen Food Month

The origins of the frozen dinner date back to the earliest days of commercial air travel, and the pretty little compartmentalized trays that not only kept food in place during turbulence, but also satisfied those with OCD who hate to have their food touching their other food. Who specifically invented the at-home models is up for debate, but it was Gerry Thomas, an executive with the Swanson company, who came up with the term ‘TV Dinner’.

TV Dinner. That appellation changed not only the frozen food game, but the way we mentally tie convenience with technology. Here is this behemoth device which has captured the world’s imagination and found a way to keep people glued to their living rooms night after night. TV took away from numerous live entertainment offerings, and even crippled the movie industry: movie income has never matched 1946 levels when adjusted for inflation. Then Swanson comes out with an easy-to-make full meal, perfect for eating in front of your new addiction. You don’t even need to dirty a plate for it.

We know, it’s not National TV Dinner Day (that’s September 10), but apart from the first forays into food freezery the TV dinner is the most revolutionary thing to happen in the frozen food field, and that’s how we chose to celebrate. Jodie enjoyed the breaded chicken parts from Swanson’s, while I went old-school Hungry Man for some Salisbury steak – or, to be accurate, hamburger patties in salty brown gravy. It was terrible, but I kept reminding Jodie of the miracle of this stuff. Didn’t matter – it was still terrible. But terrible and historic, so that’s… something.

Oh, and the third picture is Jodie finding a kernel of corn embedded into the bottom of her brownie. That made the meal extra-special.

National Speech & Debate Day

I made no speeches yesterday (Jodie did, but she’s a teacher and that’s her gig), and we didn’t get into any really interesting debates. Actually, that’s not true – I did engage in a spirited debate with a couple of co-workers over which type of Oreo cookie was best. I presented my points in favour of the white thin cookies described above, highlighting the crunch and the reduced size (and accompanying reduced guilt). One co-worker claimed Double-Stuff was a better Oreo, because “more goo.” This was a valid point. Another colleague argued for the original, stating that Double Stuff was too much of a good thing.

Debate is the Bernard Hermann score of lively conversation. It’s tragic that ‘debate’ by today’s standards can be found most frequently in social media contexts, where salient points are traded for snippy comebacks, and eventually someone brings up a comparison to Hitler. And that’s not just in political debates – I’m sure if I brought the Oreo question to Facebook someone would bring up Hitler eventually.

If you find yourself engaging with a non-bot who holds a differing view, do everything you can to avoid personal insults. Present your case with diplomacy, tact, and even humor if you can squeeze it in without sounding didactic. If the person on the other side demonstrates an inability to offer a cogent response, drop it. You can’t hold a reasonable debate where only one side is willing to be reasonable. Two last tips – don’t expect to change anyone’s mind (because you won’t), and be willing to concede a point here and there. Approach the debate like the person you’d like to be debating.

Middle Name Pride Day

Well, this is a fine how-do-you-do. I am hereby excluded from this day as I have no middle name to my name. I do have a wife, though, and her middle name (which is also her mother’s middle name) was her grandmother’s first name – it’s a family tradition that I suppose found its end with Jodie’s generation. It’s a good name though – Marie. It reminds me of that line from Goodfellas: “Plus, they were all married to girls named Marie. And they all named their daughters Marie. By the time I finished meeting everybody, I thought I was drunk.” So this makes Jodie basically a mob-wife. Rad.

Checking out once again (this is still Celebrate Your Name Week after all), I see that Marie might have several meanings, ranging from “Beloved”, “Wished For Child” and “Gold of God”, down to “Sea of Bitterness” and “Sea of Sorrow.” It may also mean “A person that is nice”, so that’s… nice. Marie hit its peak in popularity around 1920, when Jodie’s grandmother (and probably a lot of those Goodfellas wives) would have been born.

For those of us with no middle name, we can opt to create one, as I almost did last month, except the cost is quite high and the paperwork prohibitively deep. I used to joke about changing my middle name to ‘Danger’, then Austin Powers did it, and later on my nephew got the name. I’ll stick to two names and let the multi-named have their pride day. I had white chocolate cheesecake today – I’ll call it a win.

Day Of The Dude

Not much to do for this day but pour myself a white Russian (thankfully Kahlua Day was just last week), roll up a joint and admire how our new puppy really ties the room together. Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of The Big Lebowski’s release, and a great day to reflect on that magnificent film.

Lebowski has become a cult classic, spawning viewing parties and Halloween costumes, not to mention scads of human males who have devoted their adult lives to living more in the spirit of El Duderino (if you’re not into the whole brevity thing). There is a mesmerizing beauty to the Dude’s lifestyle. There’s a reason it impresses even Sam Elliott when he’s at his coolest. It’s a state of being.

Even for those of us who don’t wish to adopt the Full Dude, we can connect with the character somehow. I also hate the fucking Eagles, man (well, except the Joe Walsh-era stuff), and I also don’t roll on Shabbas. Wait, that was Walter. We shouldn’t be trying to connect with Walter – he’s too damn angry. Whatever – we’ve got a spin-off sequel dropping this year, so the spirit of Lebowski lives on. And I’ll happily toast this film every year when March 6 rolls around. Maybe you won’t. Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

Saturday and the menu is light today.

  • National Cereal Day. We’ve got plenty of this stuff laying around. Easy breakfast.
  • National Crown of Roast Pork Day. We don’t have as many of these lying around, but I suspect we can procure one.
  • Genealogy Day. A little bit about where we came from.
  • Plant Power Day. We’ll look at some plants that rock our world. Fun!

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