Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Today we bid a boisterous, ebullient birthday to two of our beloved past pets, Bethany and Becky, who would have turned 12 today. Alas, “12” is not an age achieved by very many English bulldogs. Our beloved Frenchie, Rosa, hit age three a couple days ago, so we have lots to celebrate just within our own little sequestered family. But then there are the grander parties, and we can’t forget those:

National Beer Day

How to do justice to such a sacred day as this? Mighty beer, ranked #3 in the beverage world, after water and tea. We praise you on so many days it hardly seems necessary to hang a banner on any day in particular. And two days in a row? What a treat.

On this day in 1933, Prohibition officially fell and America was once again allowed to consume their hooch without fear of reprisal from the feds. This anniversary is not particularly widely-spread – in fact, it only became a thing when a Facebook page was created to recognize it in 2009. Just three years ago it was signed off in Congress, so National Beer Day is here to stay.

The history of beer is about 13,000 years long, full of rich and interesting stories and worthy of several volumes of books, not a handful of cursory paragraphs in an article such as this (which will also consist of roughly the same effort to describe doing no housework). Let’s just leave it at this: beer is grand. I haven’t met a genre of beer I don’t like – white ales are low on my list, but I’ll still down one with the right food pairing.

Yesterday’s journey took me to the Ribstone Creeek Brewery out of Edgerton, Alberta, and their tasty little English ale called Abbey Lane. By coincidence, Abbey Laine happens to be my daughter’s name. I’ve had this one before, and it’s terrific. I’d like to say more about it, but sometimes there is no point in venturing down these celebrations beyond the visceral act of celebrating itself. The beer warmed my soul, and calmed my entire being. It brought me joy and comfort, as beer often does, and I can’t wait to once again consume it in the real world.

Happy Beer Day to all who celebrate. And if you missed it? You can celebrate this one every day of the year.

National Coffee Cake Day

The methodology for naming cakes is odd. Whereas pie names tend to tell you what’s inside the pie (apple, cherry, banana cream… maybe ‘flapper’ is a little off, unless you’re stuffing your pie with women from the 1920s), cake names are all over the place. Chocolate cake and carrot cake tell the story. But birthday cake is all about when you eat it. Red velvet and angel-food cakes are about metaphorical descriptions. Bundt cake describes the pan it’s made in. Pound cake describes the weight of each of its four ingredients. Coffee cake? It’s about what you serve beside it.

Actually, the coffee cake is usually (but not always) made with coffee in Europe. It’s a sponge cake, sometimes topped with nuts, sometimes baked as a loaf. Its roots can be traced back to Vienna, where so many of our most beloved desserts were born. Europeans were looking for something sweet to serve with coffee – I suppose tea, which can be sweet in itself, didn’t necessarily need a similar side-treat. Tea cake (which is a thing) is just a mildly sweet bun, so I could be right.

The coffee cake we know around here is almost never made with coffee. It came to America courtesy of German women and their kaffeeklatsch. There are a number of ways to make it, but we enjoyed the one pictured above, dropped off to us social-distancing-style by my mom, our team’s resident baker. It was moist and immaculate, far more exciting than the previous day’s caramel corn or even the chocolate caramels from Sunday.

Starbucks sells a half-decent coffee cake if you’re looking to celebrate and don’t mind the excessively long drive-thru lines. Otherwise, just add it to your list of things to honour once this madness dies down. It’s worth it.

National No Housework Day

This is another celebration courtesy of Ruth and Thomas Roy, our Pennsylvania friends who have added more than 80 celebrations to the planet, most of which we will be honouring because dammit, we have the time right now.

And it’s easy to find the time for this one. We tidied up the kitchen after using it, only because not doing so would have meant double the work this morning. Also, it would have been gross and un-celebrate-ish. But no other chores were done. Nary a toilet was scrubbed and not a single speck of dust was whooshed into the dustpan by a busy broom. We kept our housework down to nil. Didn’t even make the bed.

That said, we also are both fortunate to have jobs where we can work from home, so… we did work while within the house. We did plenty of house work. Just no housework. The space bar is key here. This celebration should carry over for a few days in my opinion. What better way to celebrate the very concept of housework than to not do any? Sure, it’s twisted and irrational logic that I would never dream of applying to National Beer Day, but this is our song and we get to pick the notes we play. National No Housework Week / Month anyone?

International Snailpapers Day

This celebration was particularly tricky. I’d mentioned just a couple days ago (I think – they all kind of blend into one long day now) that we have two local papers, the Journal and the Sun. It used to be that the Journal was a tremendous source of news and information, while the Sun was half-tabloid, half right-leaning rag, but it had the Sunshine Girl and Sunshine Boy every day if you were into gawking at pretty people. Now both papers are owned by Postmedia, a right-leaning conglomerate that has gutted our local papers to an alarming degree.

In short, we have no desire to possess either of these dailies. We could probably find a newspaper box offering the National Post or Globe & Mail, but neither of us are particularly eager to touch a newspaper box, or even a newspaper right now. It’s not worth it.

We used to get the New York Times delivered once every week, and it was a joy to read. Now we subscribe for digital access, because we just don’t need the extra waste. Now is as good a time as any to look over your local news access and decide if any of the snail-papers (meaning a newspaper delivered the slow way, by hand) are worth your time. If they are, throw them a few bucks for digital access if you don’t want the physical pages. Good journalism is a sacred and precious thing at the moment, and they deserve our support. But it’s up to you to decipher the good from the bad, and to decide who deserves your loyalty.

We are thoroughly unimpressed with the recent direction of our two locals, but we will continue to throw our support behind the better quality papers at a national level and international level. Hug your snailpapers if you treasure them – that industry is in a perpetual struggle with false truths and declining readership. They need your love and your dollars.

International Beaver Day

Beloved Canadian symbol, proud slappin’ tail upon our nickel coin, and oddly enough the name of a small child on TV in the 50s and 60s. Today is the day we fire off a 21-snowball salute to our nation’s favourite rodent. They are the second-largest rodent on the planet, by far the most percussive as their tail-slaps on water are used to send off a warning to others, and they are the true hydrological engineers of the animal kingdom.

Beavers are fascinating little creatures. Their teeth keep growing non-stop so that they never get whittled down as they chew wood. They can live up to 24 years in the wild, so if you’re looking to spark up a friendship with a wild rodent, these guys will be with you for a long time. There is a European beaver, but it has been nearly hunted to extinction because some weirdos believed their scent glands held medicinal properties.

They’re herbivores, preferring to dine on the inner bark of aspen and poplar trees. They aren’t picky though, and they’ll devour wood from a number of different tree species if given the chance. Their numbers have also dropped significantly in this part of the world, but that’s probably due more to the encroachment of cities on their habitat.

In the 40s a few beavers were transported from northern Manitoba down to Tierra del Fuego, that little island that pokes out into the Atlantic from the southern tip of South America. Turns out, the experiment – to launch a fur industry made from beaver pelts – didn’t work out, and the beavers were let loose into the wild. They had no predators there, so the number of beavers ballooned to over 100,000 in five decades. The lesson here: don’t ever do this.

The beaver has been our national animal since 1975, but it has been a part of the coat of arms of the Hudson’s Bay Company since 1678. Just a reminder, much of Canada was founded and claimed by the department store where I buy my underwear. Oh, and if you’re looking to eat some beaver (heh), the Roman Catholic Church designated the beaver as ‘fish’, so you can dig in this Friday if that’s your thing. Not us – we love the beaver too much to turn it into food. Happy dam-building, little national rodents. You rock.

Metric System Day

Oh boy, I’m sure you are all thinking, a day to finally raise a flag and cheer for the glorious and magnificent metric system. You know, the standard of measurement that has been accepted in every single country on the planet except for Liberia, Myanmar, and the United States. That’s right, America, you’re in some pretty elite company there with your inches and your quarts and your cubits and such.

Actually, this day is particularly significant. The metric system was first introduced to France on this day in 1795, making it a nice round 225 years old. If that era in French history sounds familiar, that’s because the French Revolution actually paved the way for this revolution in measuring things. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand proposed the idea to the French Assembly in 1790, and while other nations were slow to adopt it, it eventually became inevitable.

Look, I grew up learning the metric system. It makes logical sense. There’s no 12 of anything in an anything, and no dividing lengths into 5,280 to find the next smallest unit of measurement. Everything works by 10s, so you’re just shuffling the decimal point if you’re moving between millimetres, centimetres and metres. That said, I cannot picture what a 180cm human looks like. I still use feet and inches for that. I have no idea what my weight is in kilograms, so when they take my weight at the doctor’s office I remain blissfully unaware.

Will America eventually cave and adopt the metric system? I’d like to think that logic will win out among American leadership, but that doesn’t seem to be a bankable bet these days. Someday, perhaps.

Today we still have leftover beer, so we’re just going to drag that celebration out a little longer. Here’s what else is up:

  • National All Is Ours Day. A day to appreciate nature – though it sounds more like a day to appropriate it. We will go for a walk in nature.
  • National Empanada Day. Not going to make these, but we might try to source some.
  • Trading Cards For Grownups Day. This was going to be another trip to a store that no longer has its doors open, so instead we’ll just learn about some weird and obscure trading card ideas.