Monday, August 3, 2020

Due to reasons that primarily involve me being hired to produce an utterly professional infographic (for my wife’s school assignment, so it paid no money) I found myself sitting down to pen yesterday’s missive (this one) at 9:30PM. This will not allow for a tremendous amount of time to get into detail, as I must also cordon off a section of the evening for my daily debauchery and untethered madness. That shit won’t reschedule itself. So, with no further ado (because really, enough already with the goddamn ado), here’s what we got up to:

National Georgia Day

So many options for this one. Do we eat peaches? Find some southern delicacy like pig’s feet or grits to weave into an otherwise inauspicious entrée? Do we scour the lore of The Walking Dead to see what Rick Grimes might have feasted upon whilst others were waiting in the wings to feast upon Rick Grimes?

No, we kept it simple for this one. It’s a Georgia classic: Coca-Cola (invented in Georgia) with peanuts. It sounds blasphemous, both as a fan of Coke and as a fan of peanuts. But it was a revelation in snackery. The salted peanuts added an undertone of flavour in the soda which began as slightly salty and grew to become quite peanuty. But in a good way. And when the Coke was depleted, the peanuts maintained their crunch. It was surprisingly fantastic.

But what of the state of Georgia itself, a.k.a. the Peach State? Named for King George, it was the southernmost of the original 13 colonies, and the last one to be established. It was one of the first states to split from the country in 1861, and it was the last to be reinstated. That took all the way until July of 1870. The politics of the state are a quirky imbalance: they have pushed for abortion restriction and voted overwhelmingly to ban same-sex marriage, yet it’s also the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. and a number of other prominent figures in the civil rights movement. So who knows what they’re thinking down there?

Apart from being a hub of the film and television industry, Georgia has also produced some cool humans. You’ve got Jack McBrayer from Macon, Ty Pennington from Atlanta, Danny McBride from Statesboro, Ma Rainey from Columbus, Spike Lee from Atlanta, Otis Redding from Dawson, DeForrest Kelley from Toccoa, Little Richard from Macon, Oliver Hardy from Harlem, Steven Soderbergh from Atlanta, Ed Helms from Atlanta, Michael Stipe from Decatur, Bill Hicks from Valdosta, Kenan Thompson from Atlanta, Laurence Fishburne from Augusta, Jeff Daniels from Athens, and of course Ray Charles from Albany. Ray’s tune “Georgia On My Mind” is the greatest state song in the union.

And somehow, somewhere in history there’s a dude or a dudette who came up with peanuts in Coca-Cola. It’s a wild and wonderful state.

Shredded Wheat Day

If judging a food solely by its name, one might be quick to dismiss ‘shredded wheat’ from one’s table. The concept simply isn’t that appealing.

But that’s not the right way pick out your food. If it were, no one would ever dine on the Jewish delicacy of kreplach, and that would be a shame. Shredded wheat is a fine concept for a breakfast dish, provided it is created properly.

For example, the full-size shredded wheat, which are roughly the size of a person’s wallet and taste only slightly better, is not the way to do it. Henry Perky (his actual name) invented the stuff in Denver in 1890, back when no one expected breakfast foods to taste anything remotely close to good. The patent date was October 15, but for whatever reason someone (no idea who) decided July 30 should be the date to celebrate it.

Dr. Kellogg, whose history as a health practitioner has been discussed here before, was intrigued by this shredded wheat, though he felt Perky’s recipe tasted like “eating a whisk broom.” Once Doc Kellogg got into the cereal game though, he tried to buy the patent. Nabisco outbid him.

We opted not to indulge in those big ol’ lumpy broom units, instead enjoying the sugar-frosted Mini-Wheats instead, because dammit, we want to enjoy these celebrations, not suffer through them.

National Cheesecake Day

This is the second time this year we have paid tribute to cheesecake, with National Cherry Cheesecake Day in April already in the rear-view mirror. There was also National Blueberry Cheesecake Day in May, but we were inundated with desserts toward the end of May so we let that one slide. There’s also a day coming up later this year for Pumpkin Cheesecake. That one might get a pass too.

But this was the official one – or so it was on Thursday. We bumped it a couple of days, mainly because I wanted to celebrate with the strawberry cheesecake doughnut pictured above, one of our favourites from Destination Doughnuts. If you’ve gone this long in Edmonton without sampling the goods at Destination, you have wasted your life. That may sound extreme, and it may hurt to hear, but it’s the truth.

Cheesecake is not technically a cake. This is the kind of argument that professional dessert procurers will have and I will stay far away from, but it’s true – it bears no resemblance to any other cake I’ve ever tried. Some would say that the eggs being used as the sole source of leavening would make this technically a torte. Still others, perhaps fans of Led Zeppelin, would say the structure of the cheesecake, with no flour, a separate crust and a creamy soft filling, would make it a custard pie. Others would call it a flan or a tart, but those people are just being argumentative.

I don’t care what you call it, cheesecake is a sneak preview of the dessert tray in the glorious afterlife. The best I’ve ever had may have been at Lindy’s or Junior’s in New York, but then again the cherry cheesecake baked for us earlier this year by Jodie’s former student and all-around great human Miles might top the list. And I’m not just saying that in hopes he’ll create the pumpkin cheesecake for us later this year. I’m not even sure I want to try that.

Cheesecake, whether it’s in doughnut form, or as a tart, flan, pie, torte, or whatever, is magnificence.

National Raspberry Cream Pie Day

This is actually a thing?

Yes, it is. And it’s insane. Above is my mother’s take on the raspberry cream pie, made with cream cheese to give it the consistency of a dream – you know, one of those dreams you replay upon awakening and for the remainder of the day. The crust, which she doubted would be as exquisite as she’d hoped, was flavourful and maintained a perfect texture. The raspberries and the jam drizzled on top was just perfect.

Our team baker put in some overtime on this one, and she did it by running her oven when the temperatures outside were pounding with extreme force. Clearly I felt a tad underwhelmed by my own effort when she dropped by yesterday, as peanuts in Coke is hardly equivalent to the decadent masterpiece pictured above.

But that’s how the days tumbled. Next week’s feast will be far tastier. But I doubt any dessert we have next week will top this.

National Coloring Book Day

And while we’re at it, the above is an excerpt from one of our team baker’s colouring books. This has become an acceptable hobby for adults over the last few years, and I think it’s fantastic. Jodie has also enjoyed the act of colouring, though she’d left all her colouring books at school. It seemed a bit extreme to think of her going into that soon-to-be-germ-trap just to show off her colouring skills.

The origin of the colouring book can be traced back to Sir Joshua Reynolds, an 18th century portrait painter. He offered up a few lectures on his craft in the United States, and educators glommed onto the potential benefits of art as a part of every child’s education. Fast-forward to 1858 and the creation of the McLoughlin Brothers company, which became known for re-telling stories in colourful books for children. They created games as well, and in the 1880s they published The Little Folks’ Painting Book. It was the start of a new hobby for millions of kids around the globe.

The new resurgence of colouring books as an adult trend is said to help with anxiety, to increase motor skills, to relieve stress, and to get away from technology. It also offers a healthy dose of nostalgia. Some sociologists think they are actually a bad thing, a regression of culture. But those folks need to stick an emerald green pencil crayon in their hands and let loose. Colouring is fun, it doesn’t require a tremendous amount of skill, and it’s here to stay.

National Friendship Day

I can’t believe how many times we celebrate friends throughout the year. I mean, it’s a good thing, but it’s a little much, isn’t it?

Actually I’m changing my take. Friends are easy to let slip away in this confounding year, when the actual act of socializing face-to-face is considered a hazard to one’s health. We have visited with friends outdoors only once this summer, with the hopes that a few will show up to our recreation of our town’ folk music festival in our backyard this coming weekend. We miss our friends. Most of them are a blast.

So yes, we did celebrate this day. We worked a bit on prepping for our weekend party, and I even added a new friend on Facebook. We can’t allow the bizarre circumstances of 2020 to smother our social lives completely, as we will need them to return our brains to some sense of balance in 2021. So even though we’ll probably be toasting friends again with a celebration before the week is out, we stand firmly behind this celebration and wish all our friends a happy day.

National Ice Cream Sandwich Day

Okay, so a lot of yesterday was about eating. And drinking, albeit with peanuts crammed into the drink. But it was also a day of extreme summer, so finishing it off with some ice cream was nice.

One of the most interesting things about the ice cream sandwich is how much variety you can find around the globe. Pictured above are the ones we enjoyed; plain ol’ ice cream sandwiches but with a Neapolitan mix of ice cream inside. I was also looking at some that were made with chocolate chip cookies instead of the typical chocolate type, but Jodie claimed those weren’t real ice cream sandwiches. Real ice cream sandwiches? Oh, how wrong she was.

In the Philippines you can find street vendors selling ice cream sandwiches served on pandesal, which is an actual bun. In Iran you’ll find traditional Iranian ice cream (made with rose water, saffron, vanilla and pistachios) sandwiched between two waffle-style wafers. In Israel you might try a kasata, which consists of chocolate and vanilla ice cream between two thick biscuits. In Singapore they sell ice cream between multicolored slices of bread. In Vietnam they’ll cram the ice cream into a banh mi, the same bread you’d use for a submarine sandwich, and top it with nuts.

So there is a wide spectrum of ice cream sandwiches. The ones we had were wonderful. There’s always room for more dessert.

Today I can do my writing without the sun already resting below the horizon. And I can pay attention to all of this:

  • National Watermelon Day. Well, sure. Watermelon is a perfect summer treat for a perfect summer day.
  • National Grab Some Nuts Day. Heh. Insert your own joke here.
  • Heritage Day. Edmonton usually features the great Heritage Festival this long weekend, but alas it was cancelled. But we can talk about why it’s awesome.
  • Clean Your Floors Day. Well this isn’t any fun.
  • National White Wine Day. And what goes better with watermelon and nuts (heh) than wine? I don’t know, and I don’t care to find out.

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