Saturday, February 29, 2020

Yesterday I made a passing joke about how instead of scribing 3,000 words (which would be madness!) I clocked in at only 2,466. Ha ha. So that’s where my day went. For this one I’ll actually be exercising a little brevity, because the dogs are off at daycare, I’ve got the house to myself, and this nap ain’t gonna take itself.

National Skip The Straw Day

Somehow the issue of plastic drinking straws has been politicized. It’s overblown, we’re told. It’s killing sea turtles, we’re told. People approach the issue with their own sources in hand, other fist raised and shaking in the air…

But you know what? It’s a single-use plastic, and if you can avoid adding another one of those to the unstoppable mountain of waste in our world, that’s a good thing. Jodie has her reusable straws (she has sensitive teeth) and I can live without them. On January 3 we took part in Drinking Straw Day – with washable, reusable straws because we’re not hypocritical monsters – and drank everything through a straw. Today we simply did the opposite.

It’s remarkably easy to *not* use a straw. Just don’t use a straw.

National Public Sleeping Day

I’m going to file this particular day under ‘ill-advised’. Falling asleep in public opens you up to theft, assault, and strangers drawing dicks on your face. We can’t find who originated this particular celebration, but I’m going to assume it was a petty criminal, hoping for a profitable trip through the park or mall on February 28. Well, screw that guy. Or gal. Or non-binary jerk-face.

Having once suffered through medication-induced narcolepsy, I’m not inclined to try to re-experience the weird disorienting feeling of popping awake in a strange place. Jodie was at Teacher’s Convention yesterday, so nodding off wasn’t possible. Instead we opted to simulate a public snooze. Fortunately, no one in the restaurant tried to snag our stuff.

The only place I’ve felt comfortable napping in public was back at University. There were couches strewn about campus (inside – not, like, scattered around the quad), and always a few students catching up on some long-forsaken Z’s atop them. Unfortunately I spent a lot of time in the Arts Building (I have a degree in Film Studies, which has been extremely useful in my professional life), and the couches in that building feel only slightly more comfortable than cinderblocks. The science and business folks were kind though – they provided an abundance of tolerable rest-spots.

So if you plan on doing this one, be careful. Leave your valuables behind and be smart! Also, don’t draw dicks on strangers.

National Tartar Sauce Day

Tartar sauce, or “tartare” sauce as they call it in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, is a fairly limited condiment. You can use it on fish, or… nothing. Just put it down. If you’re not having fish – and even then, it’s generally just deep fried fish – you probably won’t use it. This is why we opted to get some on the outside instead of making our own. We don’t have a deep fryer, and tartar sauce goes best with fish & chips.

I suppose we could have made our own tartar sauce and brought it to a fish & chips restaurant, but we aren’t that kind of weird. Joey’s Only fries a decent fish, and it’s hard to screw up tartar sauce. It’s mayo and capers, possibly with some pickles and herbs tossed in. You can get fancy with some hard boiled eggs, maybe some Dijon mustard or onions, but for the most part the parameters of tartar sauce are pretty well set.

We considered making our own (I found a recipe right here), then purchasing two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches from McDonalds – one with their sauce and one plain so we could add our own – and doing a taste test. But then we’d have to eat two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, and that would have made for a rather unsatisfying meal. We regret nothing.

Did the tartar sauce get its name from the Tartars – the Golden Horde from Mongolia who invaded Europe in the 13th century? That seems really unlikely. The more plausible notion is that it was named because the sauce is tart. We’ll go with that theory. Either way, nothing does fish & chips better than some vinegar and this stuff. Happy fish Friday.

National Floral Design Day

I originally feared I’d have to obtain a bunch of flowers and arrange them just so in a vase or as some sort of makeshift centerpiece. This is not my forte (though Jodie would enjoy laughing at my efforts). After all, this day was meant to coincide with the birthday of Carl Rittner, who apparently was like the Elvis of floral art in the 20th century. In 1995 it was proclaimed into being by Governor William Weld of Massachusetts.

We simply could not compete with Mr. Rittner’s work – check him out with a Google search. Nor do we have the materials to work with. Fortunately, a number of posts on social media has shown us that people are honouring this day, not with flowers, but by wearing floral designs, or showing off blankets and shower curtains and all sorts of merchandise with floral designs painted upon them. That we can do.

I wore the same shirt I wore yesterday for National Retro Day. Don’t fear for my hygiene – I only wore the shirt for the photo on Thursday. It was another day of doctor-prescribed isolation, so it was a quick change into my slovenly PJs right afterward.

National Chocolate Soufflé Day

Here’s a little-known fact about the soufflé – it’s actually of French origin! Okay, that’s not exactly a stunner of a factoid. The roots of this dish can be traced back to master cook Vincent La Chapelle in the early 1700s. But the person who gets credit for making it a true French masterpiece is Marie-Antoine Carême, one of the first big superstar chefs. This guy used to make massive pastries – like, several feet tall. He gets credit for being a huge part of the grande cuisine movement, using fresh herbs and veggies. He’s the one who categorized all sauces under the four “mother sauces”. He also pushed for the Russian style of serving food, meaning each course one at a time rather than everything at once.

Oh, and he created what we all know as the standard chef’s hat. The guy was a master of fashion and function.

As for the soufflé, it features a flavoured cream sauce or puree as the base, along with some fluffy egg whites plopped on top. We couldn’t find a place that served both fish & chips and chocolate soufflé (they don’t really fall into the same food genre), so after our trip to Joey’s Only it was a quick jaunt to Chop for some fluffy chocolate goodness. Theirs was more a cake-like concoction, but the fluffy and puffy part was perfect, and our evening was gloriously souffléed.

National Margarita Day

Better late than never – and never would have been downright tragic in this case. National Margarita Day pulled into town last Saturday, the 22nd, but we were in no condition to host. With the shroud of grotesquerie raised to allow a smidge of sun to squeak through, we felt healthy enough to suck back some tequila and toast this sacred celebration.

As with most every mixed drink we have toasted this year, there are numerous origin stories for the margarita. Rather than pick one as the gospel truth, let’s look at the similarities between the stories. The margarita was an evolution of the brandy Daisy drink, but made with tequila instead. It was most likely created in Mexico (possibly Texas, but the Mexican stories seem more legit), probably around 1936-1945, and it was either named after a woman named Margret (or Margarita), or else after the brandy Daisy – “Daisy” in Spanish being “Margarita”.

Once the first sip of a delicious margarita jazz-hands upon the taste buds, it’s hard to care who invented it. It’s tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice, and it’s perfect. I’m glad we didn’t miss it.

I kept things short yesterday and avoided adding anything extra to my original plan. Here’s what we’ve got for today:

  • Leap Day. We’ll look at some leap day history and facts. And maybe leap over something, we’ll see how we feel.
  • National Bachelor’s Day. Well, I’m not one of those, though I do have that kind of degree I guess.
  • Open That Bottle Night. A night to crack open that bottle we’ve had sitting around for a while.

Also, we can switch our answering machine messages back to normal today. That’ll be a relief.

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.