Saturday, February 22, 2020

It was a sketchy day yesterday, the first real test of our ability to see through the toughest terrain of this project. Fortunately there were only two items on the menu, and one of them needed to be skipped. You can’t do National Grain-Free Day if you’re also doing:

National Sticky Bun Day

Full disclosure – we spent yesterday sad that we were shipping our daughter back to school, busy running dogs to vet appointments, and I am still gliding down the slope of a chest-based illness. I am prone to bronchitis and a couple years overdue for my next bout, which will make it tough to keep celebrating. But dammit, we are troopers, and just like troopers we are here for a good time (not a long time), and to raise a little hell like any boy in a bright white sportscar. So we shall power through it, Canadian classic rock puns be damned.

Of course, it’s a lot easier when “powering through it” means eating something as divine as a sticky bun. Sticky buns have been around since the middle ages – once cinnamon became a widely-used ingredient, it was the easiest way to spice up bread and concoct a dessert. Apart from fruit, this is probably one of the oldest consistent desserts in western human history.

We opted for a trip to the High Level Diner for lunch today, not only because they use killer locally-sourced food and make the greatest homemade ketchup I’ve ever tasted, but because their sticky buns are the stuff of local legend. They tower over a plate like some fluffy, imposing monolith. They are served with a bourbon caramel sauce that dares every taste bud not to fall into a bliss-induced coma. Unfortunately, their immense stature means they don’t work as dessert. Abbey enjoyed hers as a main course. We took ours home for a treat later, as we were foolish enough to order actual food for our meal.

They were worth the wait. These things are pure doughy heaven.

National Grain-Free Day

Okay, we opted out of this one, given our sticky bun treat. Even dinner was Chinese food, which my wife pointed out was partly breaded, and included rice. Rice is absolutely a grain – I looked it up.

So is the point of this day to go full-on Atkins and stick with meat and veggies only? No, that probably shows up on a different day, and so help me if it’s one of the doughnut days it can rightly go fuck itself. This was concocted just last year by Siete Family Foods, a family-run company who makes grain-free tacos and other such products. They wanted a day to honour the items made for folks who can’t process grains.

I love this idea. As someone who got thwacked with lactose intolerance at age 30, I can appreciate that the struggle to adjust one’s diet to conform to one’s digestive capabilities is a tough one. And where I can pop a few pills and dive into ice cream consequence-free (most of the time), there is no such magic for those who must shy away from breadstuffs. So sure, Siete Family Foods is trying to make a buck with this day, but they are creating products that absolutely deserve the publicity. Just so all y’all with grain intolerance know, we were with you in spirit yesterday.

If the Atkins Diet is more your thing, I’d like to introduce you to the original grain-free weight-loss regimen: the Drinking Man’s Diet from 1964, invented by a forward-thinking San Franciscan named Robert Cameron. He pushed low-carb, manly foods (this was fully intended for men, and the weird gender-bias is evident in his writing). He said we should eat steak, eat fish, even eat salad if it’s smothered in Roquefort dressing. And drink, dammit! But just the low-carb stuff: gin, vodka, rum, whisky, and so on. So on you’ll go, not counting calories, not adding up “points”, just eating your manly meat foods and drinking your hard liquor.

Like a man, I guess. I’ll take the shot of whisky, but give me a grain-free taco instead.

Drink Wine With Your Cat Week

My beloved cousin Shelby helped out with this celebration, as we have no cats on the premises (and could not bring one onto our premises, at the risk of offending Trixie beyond repair). She enjoyed a tasty malbec with her cat Harriet and graciously sent me a photo.

Cats and wine make sense as a pairing. Cats are a more emotionally complex pet than dogs, just as the flavours of wine are intricate and often complicated. A cat requires patience and understanding, while a dog just embraces you with love and drool. A wine is meant for sipping and savouring, not gulping. Wine, like cats, is jazz. Dogs are rock ‘n roll. Hopefully this analogy makes sense to someone outside of my skull.

I’m happy we could acknowledge both this week, and in a way that causes no additional stress to our puppies. I’d encourage every cat lover to share a glass (well, don’t actually share it) with their feline companions. You both deserve it.

Today I’m not sure I’ll be up to much. We’ll see how this cough and its accompanying pains will treat me. Here’s what’s up:

  • National Margarita Day. If I have to pass this one up, I will make up for it in the near future. So help me, this will be celebrated.
  • For The Love Of Mike Day. Another odd celebration from that guy who made up a bunch of odd celebrations. We’ll send a little love to the Mikes we know.
  • National Walking The Dog Day. We have three to choose from. They’ll likely all get a turn.
  • National Cook A Sweet Potato Day. I suppose I’ll be making these with dinner.
  • National California Day. Our once-a-week journey around the US cuisines takes us to the sunny west coast. I’ve got a good recipe planned for dinner tonight.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Yesterday was a fine day for laying around the house, as I felt a slight plague begin to creep into my system, only to force its way out periodically through coughs. Fortunately, this day was all about love and food.

National Love Your Pet Day

So, Hug Your Puppy Day was January 21, and Hug Your Dog Day is April 10… there’s really no shortage of days tuned into celebrating our adoration of the creatures that surround us. This one seems to have quite a fair amount of traction though. It was all over social media yesterday morning, in posts from the Chicago City Clerk, the Obama Foundation, The Sims, and even @DCBatman, the official Batman twitter account.

Of course if you’re waiting for a special day just to love your pet, you probably shouldn’t have a pet. We showed some extra love to our three she-beasts today, but they get that every day. There is no ‘extra’ – what, do we buy them jewelry?

I suppose we could. I’ve always felt Rosa would like dapper in a tiara, and Trixie’s neck is just crying out for a bejeweled choker. Liberty would probably try to eat anything we gave her, so the diamond tennis bracelet will have to wait. But jewels are not love, contrary to what a lifetime of Kay Jewellers commercials may suggest. Give ‘em some hugs, give ‘em some treats, and just love them. Pets are what gives life purpose. They are comfort and compassion, wrapped up with absolute devotion.

Well, dogs are anyway – cats serve a more esoteric purpose. Fish? Quiet entertainment. Hamsters, gerbils and other rodents? Fuzzy adulation. Birds? Great companions, especially if you want to pretend you’re a pirate. Snakes and spiders? Those aren’t pets, they’re ill-advised animal boarders. Ferrets? Okay, we’re done here.

Just go hug your pet. It’s the best thing you’ll do all day.

Hoodie Hoo Day

Once again we travel to Pennsylvania and the realm of Thomas Roy, that guy who invented 80+ weird holidays. Some we’re ignoring, but this one kind of makes sense in a weird, unapologetically goofy sort of way.

The purpose of Hoodie Hoo Day is to welcome forth the shift into spring. As anyone who lives in this tundra can understand, spring is still a ways off no matter what we yell at the heavens. But yell we must – at least this year. Yesterday I walked outside, raised my arms above my head and cried, “HOODIE HOOOOOO!!!!!” to the sky. Then I came inside and had lunch. It’s a simple celebration.

Hoodie Hoo Day shows up twice this year: once yesterday, and again on August 22 for the folks in the southern hemisphere to cry out for their spring. I won’t be joining them, as the weather slated to show up here after August 22 is not something I want to hurry along. But yesterday, for a brief moment removed from time, I felt spring was listening. My voice cut through the crisp air, rose high above the reach of snow and entered the ear-holes of the heavens. When spring does decide to ring our bell, I’ll hope it’s because it heard my call.

Probably not, but we can pretend.

National Muffin Day

The beloved muffin truly deserves a day. The cupcake is blunt, it’s almost unpleasantly obtuse with its intentions. But the muffin sidles onto your plate with an air of potential complexity. Will your teeth be plunging into a sweet berry or chocolate concoction? Will there be a bite of cornbread, biting you back? Or will you be experiencing the bland (but well-intentioned) taste of bran? You really can’t lose with a muffin.

You can splash some butter on a muffin. You can spruce it up with some cream cheese if you’re feeling particularly insouciant. But a cupcake? A cupcake will deliver what it promises: sweetness and sweetness alone. There’s no adventure there, no passion. My mother delivered a batch of her incredible lemon-blueberry delights last night, and they will keep our taste buds giggly and giddy for days to come.

Of course the muffin’s top portion is the star of the show. But a muffin is an experience, and shutting out the stump means filtering a journey. It’s like listening to the AM radio edits of great classic rock songs – oh, sorry, is that keyboard solo too interesting and long for your attention span? Here, listen to the 2:52 version of “Light My Fire” and munch on a muffin top; you don’t really care about biting into life anyway. No, in this house we eat the entire muffin, and we take our 1967 Doors singles in their 7:06 format.

The quick bread muffin (what some Brits call ‘American muffins’ and what we just call ‘muffins’) date back to 19th century American cookbooks. The flatbread muffin (what we call ‘English muffins’) goes back at least a century before that. I enjoyed one of each yesterday. It was a muffin-tastic little Thursday.

How best to celebrate this day? By covering the muffin gamut as I did, that’s a good effort. But San Franciscan tech lawyer Jacob Kaufman truly does it right: he bakes muffins then hands them out to the hungry and homeless on the streets. Actually he does this all the time, but on National Muffin Day he encourages people all over the world to do the same. He also celebrates this day on March 1 for some reason (we’ve got enough planned for that day), but any day is a great day to do this.

National Cherry Pie Day

Another day without a specific origin story that I could find, but the cherry pie deserves a day. According to the American Pie Council (and one does not dare contradict the APC), fruit pies date back to the 1500s. It’s said that the first ever cherry pie was baked for Queen Elizabeth I.

The pie is a perfect encapsulation of dessert. The sweetness derives from the fruit or cream (or whatever) inside, but it’s surrounded by a pastry that gives it form and purpose. Pie goes brilliantly with ice cream, which is further proof of its perfection. We sampled a delicious pecan pie back on January 23 (National Pie Day #1 of 2 this year), but since this is a more specific day, we had to shift gears.

Thankfully my mother, who has proudly declared herself to be the official bakesmith of this project, came through with a terrific creation from her oven. This day encapsulates this project beautifully: an over-indulgence of tasty foods, plus dog hugs. 2020 has been a pretty great year so far.

National Cherry Month

The cherry is truly the fruit of utter magnificence. If there’s an assorted fruit-flavoured anything, the cherry is most reliably the greatest. We’ll call this a double celebration, and I will finish every bite of this pie.

Today leads us into a bizarre contradiction we’re not entirely certain how we’ll overcome:

  • National Sticky Bun Day. The High Level Diner in Edmonton makes sticky buns that are the stuff of legend. Easy to celebrate.
  • National Grain-Free Day. How the hell do we go grain-free *and* eat a sticky bun? We don’t. The sticky bun wins. Perhaps the rest of the day will be breadless.