Saturday, January 18, 2020

As of yesterday morning, Edmonton had achieved the longest continuous stretch of -30 or colder (with wind chill) since 1982. As of the moment of this publication, we’re up to nearly 160 straight hours, which is the 7th longest such stretch in the city’s history. Alas, you wouldn’t know the Chill of Yuki-onna had descended upon this land by the happy warmth of our bellies. Why? I’m glad you asked.

National Hot Buttered Rum Day

Neither of us had ever sampled this delicacy. Its name is the song of a frozen night. It’s the melody of the snow wasset, tuned to a frequency that only the crystalline air of pure unadulterated winter can carry. My (Marty’s) taste buds were in a perpetual quake all day in anticipation of this beverage. Upon learning that it has a history as a tiki beverage, those taste buds were tizzied into an absolute throttle.

We tracked down this recipe from Rachel Ray, which is remarkably similar to the official Trader Vic recipe. The key difference is that Trader Vic made a “batter”, which would be kept in the freezer, then scooped out and mixed with rum and hot water. We decided to try both. Rachel’s recipe calls for honey and spiced rum. Vic suggests no honey, and regular rum. We mixed the ingredients (without honey), and created the “batter”, half of which went in the freezer. The other half got blended with honey and splashed with Captain Morgan’s finest. We’ll try out the batter (with regular rum) later this weekend.

Jodie found it too sweet – which I expected. She’s not a fan of rum, whereas I have all rum’s albums and a closet full o’ merch. I also found it to be a high dose of sweet (kind of like drinking hot caramel, but with spices). Still, I loved this recipe from the bottom of my liver. Mr. Vic has yet to let me down though, so I’ll jot down an update tomorrow or Monday to let you know how his version fared.

National Slow Cooking Month

January knows what it’s about. It’s soup month, it’s Sunday Supper month, it’s hot tea month. And yes, it’s also slow cooking month. Jodie, who remained sidelined from regular life due to a nagging stomach ailment, concocted a delicious pork loin with a root beer barbecue sauce, which was yanked and shredded into the perfect sandwich.

The slow cooker came to us (and by “us” I mean society, not our slow cooker specifically) from Naxon Utilities Corporation in Chicago, and was originally intended to cook beans. This might have been a great way to combine holidays back on National Bean Day had we known this little factoid. Slow cookers are also known as crock pots, but apart from the “crock” portion specifically referring to the ceramic innard of the device I have no idea why this name exists. Specifically a ‘crock pot’ is a brand name owned by Naxon, and it took the 70s by storm. Have a look for vintage 70s recipes and you’ll see a lot of love for the crock pot. Some of those recipes may turn you off food for a while, so be careful.

National Bootleggers Day

One hundred years ago on this day (yesterday), America went dry. For thirteen years booze was either smuggled in from another country (the term ‘bootlegging’ usually refers to sneaking booze over land borders, while ‘rum-running’ refers to smuggling it over water), or made from scratch and sold on the sly. It was an insane paranoia and a misplaced fear that led to this moronic decision, and it would take the country 13 years to ctrl-z this mistake.

Of course, Canada danced this insane little dance too, you just don’t hear about it as much. Federally, alcohol (more than 2.5%, so weak beer could still exist) was banned from April 1, 1918 until late 1919. But provincially, governments held out a lot longer. Most provinces had already closed the bars down by the time the federal ban hit, and many hung onto their dryness for years afterward. Ontario was dry from 1916 to 1927. Quebec reinstated hooch in 1919 because those French-Canadians, they know how to drink. Alberta switched on the taps in 1923, but Prince Edward Island – apparently our most puritan province, at least at the time – was alcohol-free from 1901 through 1948.

The only place in the western world that couldn’t toast the end of WWII with a drink.

Anyhow, we honoured this day by consuming some home-made hooch of our own, courtesy of Jodie’s co-worker, Brent. He crafted some sour cherry liqueur, and it goes down with a smooth fanfare and a resounding, echoing applause that tickles the ventral striatum with every sip. This man knows how to apparate pure joy and wonder in liquid form. He’s a damn wizard.

International Fetish Day

We could have done so many things for this day, most of which we would not be willing to share through photographs on Instagram, video on Youtube, or in print on this site. Alas, we held back (or did we? Would we tell if we didn’t?). Instead we had an interesting discussion of some lesser-known fetishes. Check out our Youtube page (the link is over there, to the right) if this discussion would be something you’d want to subject yourself to.

We won’t judge if you skip it. But we had a few laughs. Ultimately, the lesson learned is that if it ain’t hurtin’ anyone, if everyone’s consenting and on-board, have a blast. Also, trees may or may not be… “hot”?

Today will be a bit different: there will be no Youtube video tonight, and at least one of our intended celebrations (Peking Duck Day) will be passed upon, due to money and time constraints. We have tickets to see filmmaker Kevin Smith do a Q&A after screening his new movie, Jay & Silent Bob Reboot. The man has been a genuine inspiration to both of us, and I can trace a direct and straight line between his words of encouragement (mostly to the world, and not me specifically) and this project. He’s the kind of artist who regularly uses his success to encourage others to craft their own. We’ll also be celebrating these:

  • National Michigan Day. Some delicious treats will be enjoyed, along with a generous helping of Motown music.
  • National Use Your Gift Card Day. A teacher tends to have a gift card or two rattling around their possessions. Jodie still has one from Starbucks and one from Chapters, both of which will be spent today.
  • National Thesaurus Day. I considered leaning heavily on a thesaurus for this article, but that would be abusing it. A thesaurus is like a cool guitar effect – it can alter the texture of a moment, but use it too much and it becomes obvious and annoying. Just ask any English teacher. We will just appreciate it today.
  • National Winnie The Pooh Day. Anyone up for scooping up some honey with their hands? No? Just me? Well, it’s either that or get stuck in a hole. Oh, bother.

Friday, January 17, 2020

As this project lurched through its prototype and research phases, we were asked, “What about when you’re sick? How will you continue to achieve the level of celebratory greatness which you will have established?” We may have embellished the laudatory tone of the question, but the point is valid. Today, as a stomach ailment (Was it the lox? It may have been the lox) derailed us from our lives, it felt appropriate somehow. Why? Well…

National Nothing Day

When one is slain by the snarling forces of upset-tummydom, the act of engaging in a whole heap of nothing comes remarkably easy. We called off any and all unnecessary activity, even that of going to work. We moved as little as possible, which served the dual purpose of diminishing our symptoms and allowing us to catch up on The Good Place. National Nothing Day was, in no uncertain terms, a success.

Our one regret is that this day didn’t show up a little later in the year, when the notion of a break from this madness of an unending party might have appeared as a respite. A genuine day off.

Except it wasn’t. I (Marty) still had an article to write and publish. We still had a video to shoot, edit and post. And while we excelled at achieving absolute minimalism throughout the day (even shirking our shoveling duties, because it’s still -30 and fuck that), there were other celebrations in which to engage. Such as…

National Fig Newton Day

It took more effort to whittle the appetite to consume Fig Newtons than did the actual consumption. Fortunately, by mid-afternoon I was feeling well enough to contemplate a snack, and the Newtons held their own. I was a fan of these as a kid, but hadn’t sampled one since elementary school. Jodie, not so much. She never saw the appeal, and yesterday’s morsel did little to sway her passions.

Sometimes the forces of what some call fate can lead us into a celestial guffaw. As our innards battled back whatever was ailing them, we were steered toward the fig. In the 1800s, figs and biscuits were both seen as an aid to digestion issues. When Philadelphia baker Charles Roser concocted a machine to squirt fig-paste into a pastry dough, the game was changed. This was back in 1891, before the age when pre-fab cookie treats were bursting off store shelves.

The biscuits were named Newtons in honour of Newton, Massachusetts, a town near Cambridge where the F.A. Kennedy Steam Bakery is located. Newton, MA is also known for being a one-time home to a bevy of talent: Matt Damon, Jonathan Katz, Amy Poehler, Christopher Lloyd, Matt LeBlanc, Jack Lemmon, Louis C.K. and John Krasinski to name a few. Must be something in the figs.

National Quinoa Day

Where was quinoa when we were growing up? And what the hell is quinoa, anyway? It’s a grain, but it’s a grain without gluten. It is born of a flowering plant, but it is not a vegetable. It is packed with protein, so while it’s obviously not meat, it can serve as a great meat substitute. It can be bland and flavourless, or if made properly it can carry a main course. And if you purchase a pre-made quinoa salad from the grocery store, you can enjoy it for dinner and still hold true to the spirit of National Nothing Day.

As for quinoa’s conspicuous absence from our childhood meal-plans, the stuff simply didn’t exist in North America until it was introduced to the San Luis Valley in Colorado back in 1983. If you’re looking for the ideal climate for spurting this crop from the ground, Puget Sound in Washington is roughly on par with the region in Chile where quinoa was born. 2013 was the International Year of Quinoa. I’m sorry we missed that. And if you’re looking to keep kosher, or to find a hearty alternative to the leavened grains that are forbidden during Passover, look to the quinoa. This stuff is fantastic.

Unless you make it wrong. Then the weird texture may overtake your experience.

Appreciate A Dragon Day

Hard to do this one with a real dragon, so we simply paired this with our nightly video and talked it over. Jodie’s dragon of choice was Smaug, and she shared a delightfully kooky tale about how she imagined Bilbo Baggins to be her childhood friend. I had no such contact with dragons as a kid, and I have remained tremendously neutral on the subject.

As for dragons we’ve encountered, apart from the Komodo dragons we’ve seen at various zoos and the actual-fire-breathing replica that used to hang from the ceiling of our local multiplex (that thing was pretty bad-ass), that’s about it. They are fine, noble pretend creatures, and we hope to encounter one in celebration of Chinese New Year next weekend. Who knows? I may meet my favourite dragon after all.

Home Safety & Security Week

This is a good thing to check in on. We checked out our locks, tested our home security system, sent our fleet of vicious attack dogs on a training mission, inspected all weaponry stashed around the house (including grenade launcher, katana and a good sharpening of the throwing stars), ensured the electric eels and piranhas in the moat were good and hungry, stocked up the panic room with fresh supplies (mostly our uneaten Fig Newtons), gave the emergency satellite phone a test to make sure it still had a direct line to the White House Situation Room, and we gave our guards up in the turrets a raise in their daily stipend.

Home safety and security isn’t a joke (though clearly jokes can be made about the subject if one so chooses). If your windows don’t have working locks, you’ll need to look into it. And if your fridge doesn’t have fresh lox, don’t eat stale ones on a bagel, lest you suffer a most unpleasant day or two as a result.

Anniversary of Prohibition

On this date in 1919 (well, yesterday’s date), the 18th Amendment was approved by the 36th state, which meant it was officially part of the constitution. According to this poorly-conceived amendment, America was to go dry one year later, which it did on this date in 1920. So yesterday we honoured the poor men and women of America who had to risk arrest by slipping into speak-easies for those dark 13 years in the nation’s history.

Or was it so dark? Everyone roars about those ‘20s – perhaps pushing alcohol underground was what set off the cultural revolution that included jazz, the Charleston, and (though we can probably attribute this more to women gaining the vote around the same time) a powerful feminine freedom. When the Depression hit, screeching the fun to a halt, it made sense to start the wheels in motion to legalize the stuff again. People were becoming incredibly wealthy from prohibition, and none of it was legitimate business. Not a sound economic policy when a real industry could take over instead.

Yesterday we stayed dry in solidarity. Today… not so much.

Today I’m feeling back on the top of my health game, once again alive and unfortunately well enough to go to work. Jodie was hit a bit harder, so she may not take part in all the fun today.

  • National Bootleggers Day. The bootleggers were among those making big bucks during Prohibition. Today we celebrate them with a bit of home-made hooch – probably much better than the bathtub sludge that got a lot of folks through those years.
  • National Hot Buttered Rum Day. Another recipe I’ve never tried before. But all three of those words just sing euphonic tones in my ears, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy this, even if Jodie isn’t up for it.
  • International Fetish Day. There are some bizarre fetishes out there, and more still yet to be uncovered. We will incorporate this into tonight’s video. Don’t worry – we’ll be talking, not acting them out.
  • Patras Carnival. This isn’t just a carnival, it’s a celebration that runs right through to the first Monday of Lent. We can’t be there to celebrate in person, but I’ll be dining on some delicious Greek food as a tribute.