Monday, May 11, 2020

Moms everywhere are no doubt awakening with an emotional hangover from the heaps of love and devotion spewed into their Sundays by their devoted children yesterday. While today’s needle will pop comfortably back into the click-and-pop-infested grooves of another lockdown workweek, let’s take a moment to honour yesterday, as it contained some delicious and fun celebrations. Also this one:

National Clean Up Your Room Day

This is cute. The ongoing battle between parents and kids cleaning up their rooms can come to a one-day détente, as the most basic notions of guilt can be plucked and bowed by a savvy mom to get the chore done on Mother’s Day. Very clever. On the plus side, if your room was really atrocious going into yesterday, an equally savvy kid could claim this to be their present to their mom, and then spend their allowance on penny candies and Pac-Man.

(note: I may be slightly out of touch with what kids today are in to. That’s okay, it doesn’t come up much)

So to celebrate this day a quick sweep of our house was performed. Yes, it was performed by Jodie, but hey – in my defense while she was sweeping I was publishing yesterday’s article. Besides, I made a great dinner. Don’t judge me. Pictured above is the net result of one week of dog hair, swept up from roughly 50% of the floor area where they hang out. Our bedding and furniture are still coated in the stuff. It’s a wonder we can live in this place sometimes.

At least now it’s a little bit cleaner.

Mother’s Day

Ah, Mother’s Day: invented by Hallmark to sell a bunch of cards. Stupid, fake holiday.

Except that’s totally not true. While Hallmark may have seen the opportunity and ran with it, the origins of Mother’s Day are actually quite sweet and sincere. It started in 1908 when a woman named Anna Jarvis was grieving her mother, who had passed away a few years before. Anna was an accomplished woman, a seminary graduate who went on to become the first female literary and advertising editor at Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance in Philadelphia. On May 10, the three-year anniversary of her mom’s passing, Anna held a memorial service for her mom and all moms at a church in West Virginia. Anna wasn’t even there – she sent a telegram along with 500 white carnations. She spoke before a crowd in Philly instead, riling the crowd up with her powerful words. Moms need to be celebrated.

Congress was on board quickly – and yes, I’m taking an American-centric approach to this, because a form of mother’s day is celebrated by almost every nation on earth, but not necessarily on the second Sunday in May. By 1911 every state was on board, and eventually it spread up to Canada and elsewhere. And right away the card companies, flower companies, and candy companies made a huge deal of it, eventually leading to the cynicism some feel about the day. Why do car dealerships have Mother’s Day sales anyway? What percentage of the population is buying a car for their mother?

Anyhow, if you count yourself among the Mother’s Day cynics, you aren’t alone. Anna Jarvis hated how commercialized her holiday became. She considered herself the mother of Mother’s Day, and she often spoke out against the excessive capitalist bent that the holiday had picked up. As her health deteriorated in the 1940s she found herself spending her last few years in a sanitarium. A happy ending though: her medical bills and living expenses were covered for those years by representatives from the flower and greeting card industries that felt they owed her a little love.

Happy mom’s day (belated now) to all the moms, grandmas and great-grandmas reading this. And I suppose even to the ones who aren’t. Pictured above was our attempt at capturing a shot of all four moms in the house (mine came to visit for dinner). As you can tell, Liberty felt she needed to inject herself into the shot. She’ll probably be a mom someday, so we’ll allow it.

National Washington Day

On to the Evergreen State, the state from whence our city’s American network television broadcasts have emitted, the state where being unwashed and musically adept could have made you a star in the 1990s, the state where the rain falls like an eternal poem, and the horizon resonates with an unrelenting, insistent green hue. We have never been anything less than awed by this state, and should we ever get to travel once more, it is on our dream list of destinations.

But how to celebrate Washington? First, by learning something about it, as we do every week. Roughly 60% of Washingtonians live in the greater Seattle area, so if you’re looking for a rustic new home, you’ve got a lot of land available. It also helps if your politics lean toward the progressive: they were one of the only four states to perform legal abortions prior to Roe v. Wade. They legalized recreational cannabis back in 2014, along with Colorado. They were allowing same-sex marriage before it was a national law. They are one of eight states that have banned bump stocks, and one of only five that allow physician-assisted suicide. If you’re a Democrat, it’s a good time to be in Washington.

Washington is home to the lovely Cascade mountain range, and to Mount St. Helens, which makes a habit of exploding every now and then, just to keep the locals awake. Washington is about 50% forest, so it’s a good place to spot some wildlife. Washington is also a good place to get sick, as they are one of only seven states to have passed legislation to force employers to provide sick leave. Seven states? Seriously?

Famous Washingtonians – and I’m leaving out those we know come from Washington because they were part of the grunge scene or Microsoft executives – include Bob Barker from Darrington, Rainn Wilson from Seattle, Carol Channing from Seattle, Michael Winslow, the guy who made all those weird noises in the Police Academy movies, from Spokane, Bing Crosby from Tacoma, Adam “Batman” West from Walla Walla, John Elway from Port Angeles, Sir Mix-A-Lot from Seattle, Kenny G from Seattle, Craig T. Nelson from Spokane, and of course Jimi Hendrix from Seattle.

Spokane’s fishing industry is massive, and salmon is at the top of their export list. So we made a simple but terrific salmon dish using this recipe, with shrimp as part of the deal for reasons that will become clear in the next entry. It was fantastic, and a delightful Mother’s Day meal for all moms who attended.

National Shrimp Day

The shrimp, a versatile, delicious, and wholly unkosher delight, is one of those foods we can’t help but be amazed by. Specifically, it’s amazing that anyone looked at the thing pictured above and thought, “Yeah, I could totally dig eating that with some butter, or perhaps I’ll invent a cocktail sauce.” They look like sea-bugs, and it’s not a surprise they are rejected by Jewish traditionalists for being bottom-feeders. But as gross as they are in life, they can be just as delicious on a plate.

Shrimp tails are remarkably muscular little things. When in danger, they use their tails to flick themselves backwards at a remarkable rate. The creatures tend to stick by themselves, unless it’s mating season in which case they’ll group together in some sort of crustacean nightclub situation. They exhibit a wide range of weird behaviours too. You have the caretaker types, like the Pederson’s shrimp, who cleans parasites off of other fish. There’s the shock-and-awe pistol shrimp, which stuns its prey with a sonic boom – one of the loudest sounds in the ocean. Then there’s the blind tiger pistol shrimp, which will team up with a yellow watchman goby. The shrimp digs a burrow, then they both hide inside while the goby keeps watch for travelling foodstuffs.

You’ve got fairy shrimp that subsist only on plant life. Brine shrimp are often used as feed, except when they’re being marketed in comic books as sea monkeys. The mantis shrimp will stab its enemies (or food) and dismember them violently. They can do the same to a human hand if you aren’t careful when you pick one up. The skeleton shrimp are so slender, they’ll practically disappear into the weeds – a good way to wait for some food to come by.

Shrimp are fascinating little creatures, but more than that they are delicious. Apologies to enraged vegetarians everywhere, they are just a great source of food. And when cooked atop salmon, then drizzled in a Dijon-honey-garlic sauce… damn. Happy Shrimp Day to us.

Trust Your Intuition Day

Given that we are in a bit of a global rut right now, with few crucial decisions needing to be made on a daily basis, how much intuition did we really need yesterday? Well, Colton’s intuition told him to call his mother on my cell phone yesterday, and as luck would have it, his sister called Jodie’s just a few minutes later. This allowed us to converse with both our kids on separate speakerphones for about an hour. I’d say that’s intuition well-served.

Apart from that, I trusted my intuition with cooking. The salmon recipe above is meant for individual filets in separate foil packets, but we made a single Costco-size salmon slab, all in one foil packet. So I had to trust my intuition to tell me when to take it out of the oven, just as I had to use my intuition to know the green beans were cooked perfectly. In both cases I succeeded.

Then again, the term intuition means to acquire knowledge without conscious reasoning. I did employ conscious reasoning in my cooking, as well as previous cooking experience. A number of philosophies seek to enhance what we call intuition by elevating our minds to a higher plane. This was not in the plans for yesterday – we didn’t actually get out of bed until almost 2:00, and I had an article to write. There’s no time for achieving a higher mental plane when you’ve got salmon to cook and 2,500 words to write.

We trust our intuition whenever we can, and so far it has led us to a pretty incredible life with a pretty awesome family and some pretty eventful dogs. Not bad.

National Small Business Day / Small Business Week / Small Business Month

Small Business Saturday is two days after American Thanksgiving, and it serves to remind us that while we cram our heads as far up the butthole of capitalism as possible on that sacred Black Friday, we should also toss some of our feverish spending to local small businesses, lest we end up with no greater options than Walmart and Amazon down the road. This was a day – and an entire week or even month, really – to remind ourselves yet again that small businesses need our help.

And boy, do they. This week has seen the closure of a beloved Vietnamese restaurant in Edmonton, as well as a small-business retailer that has operated a handful of stores for more than a century. All businesses are struggling during this difficult time, but it’s the small business owners who are in the most trouble. If you are looking to toss some money toward food or goods or services in the next few months, please look for a local small business alternative first.

We didn’t leave the house yesterday, but we did our supply run the day before, which gives us an excuse to give a shout-out to some of our favourite local small businesses. Regular readers will probably be sick of these plugs by now, but we need to do our part to keep these places going. Carole’s Sweets still makes incredible chocolate and has the best candy selection in the city. Destination Doughnuts makes a fleet of incredible doughnuts so delicious I have literally (figuratively) wept. Mayfair Shoes kept Jodie in gorgeous Stuart Weitzmans for years. Freecloud Records is the best source of vintage vinyl in town. Callingwood Flowers does some incredible work. Our hair cutters, Sarah and Joshua, are deeply missed in these shaggy, scruffy times. The best movie theatre in the city is essentially a small business, the Metro at the Garneau.

And for restaurants, while it’s cool that some of the big chains (Boston Pizza, Earl’s) got their start in our town, we frequent places like Canteen, The Next Act, High-Level Diner, Barb & Ernie’s, Thanh-Thanh Oriental Noodle House and of course Da-De-O (always the top of our list) because they need our support right now. And they need it always – big corporate chains might be better for getting less expensive merchandise and predictable food fare, but there is always greater potential in a small business. Where you shop and where you spend matters – help out your fellow locals.

Rant over.

Today we indulge in this weird little motley bunch of mirth:

  • National Twilight Zone Day. I don’t think this show is on any streaming service right now, but we’ll have a look. If nothing else, we’ll listen to that Golden Earring song.
  • National Eat What You Want Day. We have no other food requirements for today, so this will be easy.
  • National Foam Rolling Day. Looks like we’ll be getting the knots out of our muscles with some foam rolling. Fun!
  • World Ego Awareness Day. We will be as aware of our egos as possible.

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