Monday, June 8, 2020

Much like the unending flow of weirdness 2020 has been delivering, an ever-flowing cascade of rain kept us barricaded indoors yesterday. This worked out well, as we had only indoor celebrations to tend to. It didn’t work out well for my hammock, which has been used only once so far this year, and is in need of some love. But yesterday wasn’t about laying prone beneath a boisterous sun, nor was it about tuning our clocks to the rhythms of nature. It was, let’s be honest here, pretty much about the food. With Covid having ravaged our world for much of this year, all we’re left with some days is the eating. But damn, we love the eating.

National Oklahoma Day

And at last we get to the Land of the Red Man… wait, let’s use the other official slogan… to the Sooner State. The one state whose name evokes memories of vintage musical theatre. The state with a weird rectangular panhandle that keeps Texas from having to make physical contact with Colorado or Kansas (or is it the other way around?). The state with the cutest nickname for its residents (Okies). The… wait a second. I have to learn why they call this the Sooner State.

Apparently it refers to the white folks who swooped in and staked their land claims before the official opening date for the territory. Well, that’s one piece of trivia I’ve wrestled to the ground today.

The name comes from a Choctaw term that literally translates as ‘Red People’. No, it’s not racist; this was a term Choctaw folks used to refer to all American Indians. The part that nudges up my eyebrows is that the name was suggested by Chief Allen Wright as he was negotiating a treaty with the federal government. He envisioned the region being an all-Native-American state. That certainly didn’t happen. Allow me to pause to reflect on how little that surprises me.

Some great folks have entered our world within the borders of Oklahoma, only to go on to do awesome things. People like Kristin Chenoweth from Broken Arrow, Bill Hader from Tulsa, Chet Baker from Yale, director Blake Edwards from Tulsa, J.J. Cale from Oklahoma City, James Garner from Norman, first lady of rockabilly Wanda Jackson from Maud, Ron (and Clint) Howard from Duncan, Leon Russell from Lawton, Rue McClanahan from Healdton, Chuck Norris from Ryan, and Tony Randall from Tulsa. That’s a fine batch of Okies.

In researching the cuisine of Oklahoma I learned that chicken-fried steak is a beloved classic there. I’ve never actually tasted this dish, which is just tenderized steak, breaded and fried. That’s fine, it’s really just wiener schnitzel with steak instead of a veal or pork cutlet, right? Also, topped with a gravy that we made using bacon fat. So it isn’t a health food, but whatever – it was delicious, though it left me feeling like I needed more vegetables. Another great state, another great meal.

National Chocolate Ice Cream Day

In 1775, an Italian doctor named Filippo Baldini felt it would be prudent to prescribe chocolate ice cream as a cure for gout and scurvy, among other things. I’m not sure how long his patients lived, but it must have been great having Dr. Baldini as your family physician.

Chocolate has always been one of the most popular ice cream flavours, dating back to the late 1700s when ice cream began to enter into American culture. At first it was a treat for the rich folks, but eventually technology leveled the ice cream eating field. But if we go back a little further, ice cream was an extension of frozen drinks (which were invented first). As such, coffee and tea flavours were among the first flavours of ice cream. Chocolate, which was served as a hot drink in Europe at the time, was also ported over to the ice cream world, long before vanilla.

There wasn’t much we could do to celebrate this day except to simply celebrate it. We had some Rocky Road left over from last week, and that works with a chocolate ice cream base. But of course we had the actual stuff, because we are purists. At least whenever we can be. But alas, the chocolate ice cream betrayed us with a thick coating of freezer burn, so Rocky Road was our only… road, so to speak. We have several more ice cream celebrations coming up over the next 2-3 months, so we are anticipating a terrific and delicious summer.

National VCR Day

What an utterly strange day to celebrate in 2020. Where at one time in my childhood we owned about 10 VCRs in our house, we now own one. I think. It’s not connected to a TV and I honestly don’t know if it works. If it does, we’ve got a bevy of old Disney movies on tape, and I might even have some old episodes of SNL laying around somewhere. Given that I have the SNL app on my phone and our subscription to Disney+ has rendered all of that stuff useless, we didn’t feel we needed to plug one in to celebrate this day.

Video tape is, much like Shreddies, Eggo Frozen Waffles and Sting, a product of the 1950s. In 1956 the Ampex VRX-1000 hit the market, opening up possibilities for networks to record their own creations, and to work in a medium different from live performance. The first at-home recorder was the Telcan, produced in the UK in 1963. It was a few steps down from the tape players we grew up with. First, it cost the equivalent of about $2000 in modern Canadian dollars. Second, it came as a kit you’d have to build, and we’re not talking IKEA-type construction here; it was tricky. Third, it only recorded about 20 minutes of black & white footage.

There were home recorders available throughout the 60s, mostly looking like large reel-to-reel machines. There wasn’t anything that was actually called a videocassette until 1972. The technology exploded in popularity in 1975, and by the end of the decade there were three formats available. Soon there were only two. Betamax used smaller cassette tapes, recorded in better quality, and were better overall machines. They might have won the battle for the soul of VCR technology, except that Sony wouldn’t let anyone else make the players. JVC’s VHS technology was leased out for any competitor to manufacture, which led to more VHS machines on the market, and the ultimate judge of technology survival – the movie rental industry – threw its weight behind VHS technology.

My dad swore by Beta, and only begrudgingly bought a couple of VHS machines for rental purposes. But once DVD became the new standard in the late 1990s, no one wanted their VCRs anymore. There was simply no point, except to honour someone’s collection of tapes. We never looked back, and we likely never will. Even our DVD player is collecting dust now. I think if anything, that’s what we need to celebrate: the fact that we are no longer dependent on VCR technology. That is a big win for society.

Canadian Homebrew Day

The first ever Canadian Homebrew Day was held in 2019, and the date was meant to be honoured on the first Saturday in June going forward. Then they realized that the first Saturday in June this year was going to be June 6, which deserves solemn respect and temperance as the anniversary of D-Day. So yesterday was it: a day to gather and taste the home-brewed efforts of our fellow Canucks. There were virtual events all over the place, including a Calgary homebrewer who was going to make a cream ale on a live Zoom call.

Neat. Unfortunately, we don’t know anyone who crafts their own basement hooch, nor do we possess the equipment to do it ourselves, so watching the call could provide no practical advice. Or really, the desire to craft our own beer. I love beer, but I love other beverages more. Also, the beer that I love is quite varied, so I’m happy popping over to one of our well-stocked retail establishments and just buying the damn stuff I want to drink. I enjoy eating elaborate meals that I cook; I really don’t care about creating something to drink too.

So instead I enjoyed a can of local brewery Alley Kat’s Main Squeeze Grapefruit Ale, which is ideal more for a summer than the 7-degree rainfest we had all day yesterday. It’s refreshing and dangerously easy to drink. Perhaps over the next year we’ll get to know someone who has undertaken this hobby and we can dive into this day full-on. Maybe I’ll even write about it. More likely I’ll be too drunk to write about it, and that’s okay too.

Cancer Survivors Day

We have, as most everyone on this planet has, a network of cancer survivors who are very near to our hearts. I have an aunt who dodged its blade, and friends who have come disturbingly close to slipping off this mortal plane by cancer’s roughshod shove. We are so deeply grateful to still have all of these people in our lives, and we reached out to a few yesterday to let them know that.

Cancer is not a death sentence. The statistics for surviving some cancers are phenomenal: over 90% if it’s your thyroid or your balls that are stricken. For others it’s not so good: only about 13% of esophagus cancer patients and about 7% of pancreas cancer patients make it through the next five years, according to stats published by the Cancer Society in British Columbia.

The key, as I’ve learned from very powerful second-hand experience, is to act as soon as you have even a maybe diagnosis. My dad had a concerned furrowed brow from his doctor, followed by a written recommendation to get a biopsy on his prostate. That sounded gross and painful to him I guess, which is why I found out about this diagnosis on the paperwork that was left to me after the cancer got him. No one wants to be a cancer survivor, but the alternative the universe presents may be far more grim.

But yesterday was meant to be a celebration, and I do celebrate these people very day – literally every time one of them pops into my Facebook or Instagram feed I smile a little, just glad that they’re still around. If you missed this day, reach out to your people. And if you are one of these people, give yourself a hug and know there are a lot of folks who are damn glad you’re here.

Another work-week, another batch of weirdness to tend to:

  • National Name Your Poison Day. A day to drink anything we want? Sounds like a time to invent a new drink. Prepare to be grossed out.
  • National Best Friends Day. Since we are each other’s best friends we’ll just hang out together today. Is that cheesy as fuck? It sure is.
  • National Upsy Daisy Day. This is another day to keep a positive attitude. So we’ll haul that old chestnut out for another roast.
  • World Oceans Day. Well, since all of our favourite oceans are world oceans I guess that’s what we’ll celebrate today.
  • National Gingerbread Day. We haven’t forgotten. Just need to get supplies.

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