Monday, January 20, 2020

As of 9:00 last night we had celebrated absolutely nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Bupkis. Whoops! A bit of National Thesaurus Day bleeding over past the weekend. No, we had only one National Day today, and it didn’t show up until bedtime.

National Popcorn Day

So many options with popcorn – a veritable buffet of bountiful bizarrities can be splattered upon the stuff. Caramel? Sure! Cheese powder? Why not? Actual cheese? No ref will intervene on that one. Soy sauce? I mean… you could. I’ve tried it, and found it somewhat foot-like, but why let that stop you? Popcorn, like pizza, is a palette. It waits for nothing but the creativity of the person preparing it.

We are tragically old-fashioned with popcorn, and prefer to let it soak in its familiar jacuzzi of generous butter and salt. On its own, popcorn is a passable snack; with some seasoning it gets elevated to the divine, apart from the inevitably obnoxious tooth-snagged husks. Popcorn is perfection, and thanks to psychological conditioning for all our years, it accompanies a film unlike any other noshable treat.

As for its origin, we have to look at the ancient peoples who used to inhabit the land we now call Mexico. They figured out the crop of corn about 10,000 years ago, but it couldn’t have taken long for a kernel or two to drop onto a hot surface and explode into something yummy. Remnants of popcorn have been found there dating back to about 3600 BC. Charles Cretors from Lebanon, Ohio was the first to patent a machine to pop corn in oil, back in 1885. Thanks, Charlie.

To quote the late great James Brown, in his loving tribute, “Mother Popcorn”:

“Look-a-here! Ha! Good lord!

Hu! Hu!


Do the popcorn and do the horse

Show everybody where you at!

You gotta be boss

The way you do your little thing

Step in a small ring

And jump back, baby!

James Brown gonna do his thing!

Popcorn! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”

Truer words were never sung. Thanks for that one, James.

National Glaucoma Awareness Month

It’s not so much a celebration, but a commemoration. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, and unless you know someone who has suffered from this condition you probably have no idea what it is. Maybe you’re aware that it has to do with the eyes. Maybe I’m wrong – maybe you have done your research so you could fake the condition to get a medicinal marijuana prescription. I’m not judging.

Good news! Glaucoma does not cause you eye pain. The bad news: you’ll lose your peripheral vision, then your central vision, then you’ll be totally blind unless you seek treatment. You know that little blast of air you get at the eye doctor? If the doctor spots an abnormal amount of cupping in your optic nerve, he or she may want to dig a little deeper. Treatment can include medication, lasers or surgery – you can slow this disease or even stop it entirely, so if you suspect it might be affecting you, get off your ass and get it looked at.

The early symptoms are just that: a bit of vision loss. It’s gradual, so you may not even notice its beginnings, which is why popping into the eye doctor on a regular basis is crucial. This one does tend to run in the family, so call up your older relatives and ask them if it might come up. You may get treated to an extensive chat about whatever actually is ailing them at the moment, so that might be fun.

Sugar Awareness Week (UK)

Are you aware of sugar? I am as well. Great, can we call this thing celebrated and move on?

No, we have to do right by this week, and maybe try to learn something. According to the American Heart Association (sorry Canadians, this statistic popped up first, and sometimes we have to go for expediency), men should be eating 37.5 grams, or 9 teaspoons of sugar per day. Women should keep it to 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons. Now, unless you’re the type to plop a bag of sugar in your lap and mindlessly scoop it into your mouth with a teaspoon, this won’t mean anything to you. So let’s look a little deeper at what this means.

  • A 3 Musketeers candy bar contains 8.14 teaspoons of sugar.
  • A can of Coke contains 7.25 teaspoons.
  • A single bowl of Honey Smacks cereal? 11.4 teaspoons.
  • A serving of grapes (FRUIT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE OUR FRIEND!): 3.14 teaspoons.
  • A single cup of low-fat yogurt can contain 12 teaspoons.
  • A bottle of any “ade”-type sports drink may contain 8 teaspoons.
  • Vitamin Water – which sounds like a health food – contains about 8 teaspoons.
  • A caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks contains over 18 grams.

So the lesson here is just… don’t eat anything. Everything good contains sugar, and if you eat more than one serving you’ll be over your recommended limit for the day. Maybe that’s not the lesson, but that’s what I’m digging from this mess. It also makes me think that the hot buttered rum I drank on Friday night probably contained 30 or 35 grams of sugar. Yikes.

Happy Monday! We’ve got some fun ones to get to today.

  • National Penguin Day. Unfortunately, work must intervene in this life of utter revelry. So we may not have time to meet any penguins in person. But we will pay tribute to their majesty, because how could you not?
  • National Disc Jockey Day. A good day to stick to the radio. We will be sampling some of our favorite jockeys throughout the day.
  • National Buttercrunch Day. A Skor bar is made of buttercrunch. A Skor bar is a wonderful bit of candy.
  • National Cheese Lovers Day. We are. We shall behave as such. A sampling of fine cheeses with dinner.

Also, for the sake of completeness I should add that we sampled the Trader Vic’s version of the Hot Buttered Rum last night, which involved scooping some of the premade “batter” from the freezer into a mug, then adding rum and hot water. It was much less sweet than the Rachel Ray version, and would serve as an adequate alternative to a hot rum toddy. If you’re interested in the recipe, check out the link in Saturday’s article.

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.