Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Another strange sun-stretch from horizon to horizon in our little world. I sense dread and unease, but also a lifeboat-esque coming-together from the citizenry out there. And by ‘coming together’, I mean ‘staying at least six feet apart, but helping one another’. Once we crawl past this period of weirdness our world will be changed, hopefully for the better in some ways. But for now we can turn to more serious and pressing issues:

National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day

I have tasted golden California raisins fresh from a farmer’s market. Those raisins were juicy and flavourful, and were all raisins imbued with such magnificence I’d have been anticipating this day with appetite and glee. Alas, most raisins are dried lumps of muted grapiness, palatable at best to the taste buds and leaving an unpleasant mouthfeel. Glosette chocolate-covered raisins, a Canadian staple of 80s youth, are alright. But do they deserve an entire day?

I’m going to declare that yes, they absolutely do. We hit up Carol’s Sweets (still open during our state of lock-down; just sanitize when you walk in and keep your distance) and grabbed some of their chocolate-covered raisins. The chocolate was exquisite, and the raisins plump and actually quite tasty. We were unexpectedly delighted by this little celebration.

Raisins are a great source of sugar, if that’s what your diet is lacking. They have antioxidants, but if you’re after vitamin content, eat grapes – the drying content soaks up some of the Vitamin C. Just don’t feed them to your dog – raisins or grapes. They can cause kidney failure. And if they are enrobed in chocolate, well that’s just basic common sense. One interesting note I found is that snacking on raisins three times a day (which is a weird idea in itself) can significantly lower blood pressure. Given that mine has been coasting along the high end of normal for the last few months, maybe I should try to track down some of those delightful California goldens. It’s a long way from Edmonton to the Santa Monica farmer’s market (which is likely not operating anyway right now), but I’ll do my best.

Chocolate, I assume, is optional.

National Cheesesteak Day

Of all the regional American foods I have yet to sample, a genuine Philadelphia cheesesteak ranks below only a New England lobster roll and a New Orleans beignet on the list of stuff my taste buds crave. We’ve had this sandwich delicacy before: sliced steak (technically ‘frizzled’, meaning fried until it’s crispy), cheese, onions, mushrooms, maybe some peppers. But we’ve also heard Philly residents or former residents reminiscing with palpable drool about the finest establishments in the city: Tony Luke’s, Dalessandro’s, Pat’s, Geno’s, and so on. I’m sure they’ll put anything we can get up here to shame.

Even if we make them from scratch. We tried a recipe with last night’s dinner, and it was exceptional. But I know it can be better. Just as I knew with the greatest pizza I’d tried prior to my first New York trip. The greatest form of this beast is still out there, waiting for us to taste it.

Cheesesteak, like every other great food, has conflicting stories surrounding its origin. The most accepted tale is that of Pat and Harry Olivieri, who started serving the sandwiches in the 1930s. Allegedly they simply changed things up at their hot dog stand, and the new sandwiches were a hit. They opened a restaurant (the aforementioned Pat’s, which still operates today… well, probably not “today”, except for take-out), and a guy named “Cocky Joe” Lorenza first added the provolone cheese to elevate the food into perfection. Some people use Cheez Whiz instead. I wonder about those people.

But of course I’d try it. I’d also like to sample The Heater, which is served at Phillies games and features jalapenos, buffalo sauce and jalapeno cheddar. Like a pizza, a cheesesteak is open to interpretation and embellishment. It is sandwich royalty, and it became the highlight of our otherwise quiet Tuesday.

World Tuberculosis Day

Let’s talk for a moment about another lung-related illness that has killed a lot of people. If one’s latent tuberculosis evolves into the full-blown deal, the mortality rate is 50% if left untreated. It’s estimated that as of 2018 25% of the world’s population was infected with TB. That is a very scary number. And it’s particularly disturbing when you consider that 25% is primarily located in impoverished countries that don’t have access to the vaccine. Records indicate the number is as high as 80% in some countries.

Avoiding tuberculosis can be achieved in the same way as avoiding Coronavirus. Fortunately, since we have a vaccine we don’t have to hide out from this one. That said, it is still wandering around the shadows in North America, and the vaccine’s effectiveness wears off as time goes by. And anyone who is compromised by COVID or anything else is more vulnerable.

We haven’t destroyed TB yet, but we have whittled it down to a near non-concern for this chunk of the planet. Surely we can do the same for that other pesky respiratory demon, right?

Another day in paradise, or at least in self-imposed isolation party town. What joys await us?:

  • National Tolkein Reading Day. I guess we’ll peruse some Hobbit-related literature..
  • International Waffle Day. Waffles for lunch or dinner, whichever strikes our fancy. Nice.
  • Maryland Day. Not one of our “official” weekly sojourns, but the actual day Maryland celebrates itself. Our plan was to get crab cakes, but our crab cake conduit is shut down. Not sure what we’ll do.
  • Manatee Appreciation Day. We will appreciate these majestic and graceful behemoths.
  • National Little Red Wagon Day. We don’t own one, nor can we source one. But we’ll celebrate them.

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