Friday, April 3, 2020

What a week – celebrating bread, pencils, walking… all the exciting gifts sprinkled upon life from above. Yesterday we powered through a busy day with work, chores and a smattering of joyous cheers for our perpetual party. When the gasps and breathy reverence for our prescribed celebrations rings too shallow to splash above the rim of a day, we simply look to the skies (or, more accurately, the internet) and track down more. This keeps our cup full and our compass tuned to true weirdness. And yet sometimes the celebrations are so obvious:

National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day

The mighty PB&J is sandwich royalty. It’s one instance wherein the processed plainness of white bread is actually appropriate; I had mine on sourdough yesterday, and the flavour within the bread dug its elbow in too deep to what I was supposed to be experiencing. The contrast of salty peanut butter and sweet jelly (we opted for grape, as we usually do) is absolute perfection. No other adornment need apply.

Peanut butter’s pre-jelly history saw it paired with mostly savoury foods like cheese, celery and pimento. Remember, as we learned on National Peanut Butter Day (January 24) and again on National Peanut Butter Lovers Day (March 1), peanut butter was a snack of the elite when it was first introduced in the late 1800s. This sandwich was born because: (a) peanut butter dropped in price, and worked its way down the hierarchy of classes to the common-folk, (b) manufacturers started adding sugar to the recipe, which made it more popular for kids, and (c) sliced bread – the greatest thing since, like, ever – became popular in the 1920s, which allowed kids to make their own sandwiches.

Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches were standard fare in my lunch and in Jodie’s lunch when we were kids. Even now, as responsible, mature and sophisticated grown humans, we still pop a couple of these down for dinner on occasion. Ever try grilling the bread and crunchifying the sandwich? That’s some next-level shit right there. For being one of the greatest food inventions in this corner of the planet, we salute the PB&J with both hands. Which looks kind of silly. Whatever, it was a delicious lunch.

National Ferret Day

It takes a certain breed of human to claim a ferret as their pet of choice. What specific breed of human that is, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I have never known a ferret-keeper, and as such I cannot delve into the sort of mental make-up that would inspire such a bizarre lifestyle choice. A ferret is a form of the European polecat, closely related to the weasel. I’ve never known a weasel-owner either. I’m thinking these are strange people, but probably a riot to talk to at a party.

Our original plan had been to get up close with an actual ferret. We were going to phone around until we found a pet store with one in stock, and take a trip to say hi. This was, of course, not meant to be – pet stores are open as an essential service, but it’s generally expected that we visit these stores for supplies and get out. The staff doesn’t want to schmooze with us while we learn stuff for an article.

The word ‘ferret’ comes from the Latin ‘furittus’, meaning ‘little thief’, as though we needed another reason not to get one for our home. A boy ferret is called a hob, and a girl ferret a jill, so that’s fun. A neutered boy goes from a hob to a gib, while a spayed girl goes from jill to sprite. A group of ferrets is called a business. That’s how I want to go – to be torn apart by a business of wild ferrets.

Ferrets are also crepuscular, meaning they are most active near dawn and dusk, and spend between 14 and 18 hours a day asleep. If they’re feeling a little hyperactive, they’ll do what’s called the weasel war dance, in which they make clucking noises and bounce and hop from side to side clumsily. This is not an act of aggression, but how ferrets play. They also have scent glands near their anus, which seems like a very cruel design to me.

So next time you see a bunch of these critters frolicking about and making weird noises, you can impress your friends by remarking, “Hey, it looks like that crepuscular business of little hob and jill thieves is doing its war dance!”

Love Your Produce Manager Day

Most grocery stores are ultimately judged by the quality and selection of their meat and their produce. When we used to shop at Debaji’s we would be treated to the freshest and best of both. Now we tend to settle for whatever we can get at Safeway, Costco, or if we’re feeling particularly funky, we’ll head to H&W Produce. But it isn’t the same.

A produce manager takes the utmost care in their offerings. If your local grocery store always features exquisite displays of brilliant produce, and doesn’t boast shelves of browning bananas and orange peppers showing the early puckers of wilting age then you’re doing quite well. Our Safeway has been undergoing extensive renovations, and the new produce section looks terrific – that said, we’re avoiding the hell out of that store right now, because if you need to make a run for supplies with as quick an in-and-out process as is humanly possible, you don’t want to visit a store in the middle of an upheaval.

You also don’t want to pop into a store right now just to thank a person who manages one section of it. It’s quarantine time, so instead I took to the website and sent in some feedback. It’s a great time to thank everyone who works in a grocery store right now, as they are providing an essential service during a time when we all have to reasonably assume that every other human in our midst is carrying potentially fatal cooties. Plus, sending a positive note to a business always brightens a few people’s days, so I strongly encourage this. Let your local produce manager know you dig their work. It’ll take 90 seconds of your day to add a lift to hours of someone else’s.

National Burrito Day

I found a magnificent looking recipe for a chorizo breakfast burrito, and was excited to try it out until coming up short in my search for chorizo. We had to settle for a Tex-Mex seasoned pork option, but as far as settling goes this was a total win. The burrito is a dinner that will not let you down. Or a breakfast. Or breakfast for dinner. So many ways to enjoy it.

“Burrito” means “little donkey” in Spanish, but that’s more a reference to how donkeys carry a bunch of stuff around – they never used to make burritos with donkey meat. A burrito is a more substantive meal than a taco, with loads of real estate for fillings like meat, cheese, salsa, sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, tomatoes, veggies, beans, rice, and even crema if you’re getting fancy. A taco will provide you with a snack, but you’ll need a few to make a meal. A good burrito can do the job on its own.

Not much is known about the history of the burrito. We know the Mesoamericans who used to live where Mexico stands today used tortillas to wrap around food – that goes back more than 12,000 years. But were they making tacos or burritos? We don’t really know. We know that the burrito was first defined with that name in the late 1800s.

If your burrito is smothered in sauce and topped with cheese that’s known as a wet burrito. If it’s deep-fried then you’d call it a chimichanga. If your burrito is massive, and crammed with extra rice and extra everything, it might be a Mission Burrito from San Francisco. If it has carne asada meat, French fries and cheese it’s probably a San Diego-style California burrito. Doesn’t matter – if it’s a burrito, you’re probably going to enjoy the hell out of it.

National Reconciliation Day

Advice columnist Ann Landers came up with designating April 2 as National Reconciliation Day. This was a time for her readers – all of whom were plagued with some relationship problem or life issue – to reconcile with those who have wronged them or whom they have wronged. It’s a day to repair broken relationships. A day to move forward.

Unfortunately, neither Jodie nor myself are plagued with any broken relationships that need repairing. Well, to be fair Jodie does have one, but she has already extended the olive branch of reconciliation, so at this point it was up to the other party to take advantage of this day and make an effort at reconciling. That did not happen. So instead we turned to the principle source of friction in our household: the fact that Trixie, our senior canine research assistant, appears to despise Liberty, her youngest junior intern. Could we bridge this gap with a proposed peace?

We did our best. We talked to Trixie, and tried to show her that Liberty has much to offer, like another butt to sniff. We showed Trixie how joyful it was to watch Liberty’s tail swoop and swoosh when she’s happy, but when that tail thwacked Trixie gently in the forehead, Trixie was having none of it. There was to be no great reconciliation on this day – it’s almost as though these dogs don’t appreciate the sanctity of this calendar that is prompting our every move in 2020. Well, except for the moves the government says we aren’t allowed to make.

Today we try our damnedest to make something out of this weird collection of celebratory curiosity:

  • National Film Score Day. I prefer to write to music without words, so this will be what accompanies my creativity today.
  • National Find A Rainbow Day. Without leaving our house? And with a climate outdoors that screams pure winter? We’ll see.
  • National Tweed Day. We own no tweed. This won’t be easy.
  • World Party Day. A day to counter all the war and misery in the world with a big party. Tough to do while socially distancing, but we’ll figure it out. Also, we’ll listen to the 90s British band World Party. They were great!
  • International Kids Yoga Day. We will not be interacting with kids today – Jodie was going to do some yoga with her students, but alas we’ll have to figure out something else.

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