Monday, July 20, 2020

As of yesterday we have celebrated 1,259 different events this year, either through eating, drinking, doing, listening, or writing about them. We had set our sights on hitting 1,000 celebrations at the start of the year, though secretly I was always thinking 2,000 was achievable. Unfortunately it seems as though I may have been right. Our distractions continue to preserve us and buffer us from the ugliness of reality, even as that reality stalks us, its arm raised to strike according to someone else’s timeline. We can feel the strain only it isn’t our strain for the time being. In the meantime we will allow ourselves to be consumed by all of this:

National Pennsylvania Day

As our weekly state-to-state journey takes a shift onto Mondays we respond by honouring the Sunday family dinner tradition by celebrating them a day early. Even if, on occasions such as this one, we don’t go overboard on our celebrations. On March 24 we celebrated the Keystone State’s most iconic food by taking part in National Cheesesteak Day. What could we do without repeating ourselves?

Pennsylvania certainly deserves a snippet of our attention. It’s a land that the English, the Dutch and even the Swedish settlers argued over for years. I mean, there were also numerous indigenous tribes who were voicing their own concerns, but in the grand story of America those voices tend to be nudged beyond the margins of the page. Ultimately it came down to King Charles II, who granted a land charter to writer William Penn, as a means of paying off a debt owed to Penn’s dad. William was thrilled, hoping to name the place New Wales, or perhaps Sylvania, from a Latin term meaning ‘woods’. The King declared that nope, it was to be Pennsylvania, or “Penn’s Woods”. William didn’t want everyone thinking he was so vain he’d name a region that large after himself, but it was never his call to make.

Pennsylvania was the second state to sign on to the America Experiment, and it played a pivotal role in the establishment of independence. Still, the state has only produced one president: James Buchanan, who was so great at his job a Civil War broke out a few months after he’d stepped down. Pennsylvania also has its own language, known colloquially as Pennsylvania Dutch. This is an inaccurate moniker, as ‘Dutch’ used to refer to German folks, and the language spoken by these (mostly Amish) folks is technically a variation of West Central German. Nearly 30% of the state’s population claims some German ancestry, and it’s expected as many as 300,000 speak Pennsylvania German as their native tongue.

Some cool Pennsylvanians? There are many. There’s Kevin Bacon from Philadelphia, Andy Warhol from Pittsburgh, Irvin Kershner from Philadelphia, Trent Reznor from New Castle, Bradley Cooper from Philadelphia, Gertrude Stein from Allegheny, Sydney Lumet from Philadelphia, Jaco Pastorius from Norristown, Tina Fey from Upper Darby, Jeff Goldblum from West Homestead, Grace Kelly from Philadelphia, James Stewart from Indiana, Solomon Burke from Philadelphia, Daryl Hall from Pottstown, and so many more it almost seems silly to try to pick and choose which ones to list.

Jodie enjoyed dunking her bacon in some Heinz ketchup yesterday (yeah, I know, it’s weird), and we made some quality use of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup over our ice cream (see below). They are Pennsylvania staples, and the best you can get.

National Peach Ice Cream Day / National Ice Cream Day / National Peach Month / National Ice Cream Month

Up to this point in my 45 years circling dizzily around our little ol’ sun, I have never once, to my knowledge, tried peach ice cream. I love the flavour of peach, and of course I love ice cream, but I have simply never experienced the fusion of these two things. And since not leaving the house has been the order of the day lately, we had to improvise. We are getting really good at improvising.

So we cracked open some canned peaches and plopped them onto some ice cream. I don’t know what to say about this one. We made this one work, and it was perfectly tasty. Tasty enough that I’m already planning a repeat sampling later today. We’d actually put the peach celebration off for a few days so that we could combine these two into one party. We can only eat so much.

The point is, when the opportunity arises to get a little creative with your celebrations, go for it. It’s fun, delicious, and unlike the black licorice ice cream experiment which came out the other end in a stunning turquoise hue, there were no ill-effects to this little party. It’s peaches and ice cream. It’s frickin’ wonderful.

Stick Out Your Tongue Day

There is no purpose for this day other than the above. No grand history, no special back-story, no inventor of a tongue device who is having his birthday today. Stick out your tongue and slide on the ice, so to speak.

The tongue is a fascinating bodily protrusion. That thing that keeps your tongue stuck to the bottom of your mouth? That’s a mucous membrane called the frenulum. When you swish your tongue around you are using one or more of eight muscles: four attached to bone which change the tongue’s position and four floating independently within the tongue itself, altering the shape of the tongue. As a dog exercises, its tongue swells in size due to increased blood flow. By this logic bulldogs are the most exercised dogs on the planet, since their tongues freely flop outside their mouths nearly all the time.

Sticking out your tongue is often seen as a show of disrespect. In Tibet, however, it’s a normal way of greeting someone. Tongues of cows, lambs and ducks are frequently eaten as food, something I was not prepared to do for this or any other celebration. I’m sure it’s a fantastic kosher delicacy, but that’s also what they said about gefilte fish and that is about the most unpleasant seafood I’ve ever tasted.

So we stuck out our tongues. Trixie, pictured above, stuck out hers. We all joined in on the party for this one.

National Flitch Day

Journey over to England for the ancient history of this curious little day. A flitch is a side of bacon, and dating back to possibly as early as 1104 it was used in a bizarre gifting tradition. The idea boils down to giving a flitch of bacon to any couple who has been married for a year and a day and can swear that they have no regrets over the marriage. Whether people would be true to this or just lying for some free bacon I have no idea. Wouldn’t we all tell a white lie for some free bacon?

These weren’t just minor check-ins with married couples. There was an entire ceremony that took place, which they called the flitch trials. I imagine some intensive cross-examination by fancily-robed officials, a Newlywed Game-style quizzing of both parties to ensure they possess adequate knowledge of one another, and maybe something like one of those giant Q-Tip fights on American Gladiators. I don’t know how that would prove any sort of intimacy or devotion, but Renaissance crowds would have gotten a kick out of it.

Jodie and I are nearly 21 years into our marriage, and I’m pretty confident we could snag a flitch if such a flitch were offered. Instead we rewarded ourselves yesterday by downing a bunch of bacon for brunch. We were several slices shy of a flitch, but we felt the point had been made. Our love is truly flitch-worthy.

National Daiquiri Day

In David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, the tome that paved the way for the decade of basement bars and amateur mixologist dads to strut their libational stuff at parties, there are six basic cocktails everyone should learn to make. The daiquiri is the only one whose key component is rum, which means it’s the only one with a nod to the tropical. Happily, it is also the only one that – to my knowledge – gets its own National Day.

It was an American mining engineer named Jennings Cox who came up with this one. Well, there’s a claim that William A. Chanler, a Congressman who bought up a bunch of the mines where Jennings Cox worked, may have created it as well. But come on – if you’re looking for an innovation in cocktails wouldn’t you look to the guy who works in the sweaty pits of the earth rather than at the US Capital? Besides, with a name like Jennings Cox, the dude was bound for immortality. Let’s give Mr. Cox full daiquiri claims.

Daiquiri is the name of an iron mine and a beach in Cuba. It was in this region that Mr. Cox was stationed during the Spanish-American War around the turn of the 20th century, and it was here where he first conceived of mixing light rum with lime and sugar. It’s a profoundly simple recipe, one which belies its dynamic flavour. A visiting US Navy medical officer brought the beverage back home and spread it around, leading it to become a favourite of Hemingway and Kennedy, among others.

Its simplicity is its magic. I quickly became a fan of the daiquiri last night, only after so many white rum-based beverages over the last couple of weeks I’m afraid I’m going to have to head out and get some more. It will be worth it.

My spirit is feeling a little battered and beaten as I roll into today’s celebrations. We’ll see if all this can perk me back up:

  • National Get Out Of The Dog House Day. A chance for men to atone for their foolishness. Naturally this won’t apply to me.
  • National Moon Day. I’m hoping this is a day meant to honour the verb form, not the noun form.
  • National Lollipop Day. Cool! A day to pay tribute to my favourite Munchkin guild!
  • International Chess Day. Either Jodie learns how to play chess or else we have to watch that stupid musical.
  • Nap Day. I think we already had this one – in fact we absolutely did, on March 9. We can do it again.
  • National Ugly Truck Contest Day. We have a contender here in west Edmonton.
  • Global Hug Your Kids Day. Well this one hurts a little.
  • World Jump Day. Kriss Kross gonna make us… jump? Jump?
  • National Fortune Cookie Day. I doubt we’ll have any lying around, so we may have to make our own.