Wednesday, January 15, 2020

We did it! We have reached the halfway point of our first month. So… 1/24th of this project is complete. If we were to adapt this project into a one-second-long movie, the first frame would be in place. And such a delicious frame it has been.

National Soup Month

No, we won’t be neglecting the week-long or month-long festivities this year. Jodie’s colleague, Annette, prepared this bud-quaking soup from leeks and cauliflower, with just enough veggies to make it heavenly. On a day when it would appear the sun has opted to fully shirk its planet-warming duties, a warm splash of soup is the perfect defense.

Soup comes with many faces and many flavours. Some prefer the bite of a bisque, others would sooner chow into some chunky chowder. Myself (Marty-self), I love a gumbo, bursting with sausage, shrimp and okra. Jodie’s favourite is that old-fashioned bastion of feel-goodery, chicken-noodle (though yesterday’s recipe is apparently climbing her charts). Whatever your fancy, I hope you take a meal out of your January and stack it up with soup – there is truly no better time of year for this celebration to land.

Speaking of apt arrivals:

National Dress Up Your Pet Day

Most dogs we’ve met have worn clothing only reluctantly, and it tends to reflect the image of the person on the other end of the leash when pups are made to appear ‘human-fashionable’. In this cold climate, an extra layer of cozy is a kind gesture to a pet, though. Trixie and Rosa – in particular Trixie, who does not appreciate any additional inconvenience in her already-burdened little life – are not big on getting dolled up. Today they obliged.

Dress Up Your Pet Day has been a fun hashtag to follow over the past 24 hours, but we won’t be making a habit of this. When it serves a function it makes sense, and they should certainly join in the fun when Halloween rolls around, but I doubt you’ll catch these two in any state other than au naturel for most of this year.

Then again, I’m not specifically the one who gets to decide this, so…

Poetry At Work Day

Jodie delivered a beautiful reading to her students yesterday morning, and their response was ecstatic. I work in a government office, so standing up and reciting poetry would have been deemed a distraction at best – a mental breakdown at worst. So I made sure all emails I sent were in haiku. No one noticed.

I then bombarded a few of my friends at work with some verse through our instant message software, until we all remembered that as servants of the taxpayers our time would be better spent napping. That way we’d be ready if a real emergency rolled around. Don’t forget – your government works for you, as much as they legally have to.

I composed this little stanza as a tribute to my unglamorous desk job in consumer protection, with a nod to how wonderful a teacher Jodie has become.

Consumer protection requires correction and that’s why I get out of bed;

I could be a teacher but I’d never reach her, she’ll always be eons ahead.

But I’m a debater, a good celebrator: I praise and I write and I eat;

For now here I’ll stay, in the beige and the grey, but the book ‘bout this gig will be neat.

National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day

We could bore you all with yet another diatribe about how “real” pastrami exists elsewhere and how this city can only muster up rubbery coldcut pastrami, but anyone who knows us will have heard that rant before. I present exhibit A above: the best we could find in town – a somewhat-thicker-cut vacuum-pack of pastrami that we steamed and served on rye with mustard. It was okay. The fatty parts were chewy, gristly and inedible, the seasoning was quite mild, but it held the flavour of actual pastrami.

This is exhibit B from Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The meat submits to the will of your teeth with an elegant curtsy, allowing its juices to swirl around your mouth like a cascade of seasoned glitter. The fat isn’t chewy, it’s effervescent, dissolving in a splash of umami wonder when it hits the tongue. If heaven was to manifest in sandwich form, it would bow down to this masterpiece.

Okay, we went on one of those rants. We apologize for nothing. If you live somewhere fortunate enough to boast a real deli serving real pastrami, don’t worry if you missed the sandwich’s big day. You deserve a hot pastrami sandwich. We all do.


Four items on the menu for today, and three of them are literally menu items. Bundle up and join in the party for these numbers:

  • National Hat Day. When the high is -30, everybody wears a hat. But do they wear hats indoors? At work? Probably not, and they probably shouldn’t. But today, we shall.
  • National Bagel Day. We leap from one staple of New York cuisine to another, only we won’t be settling this time. Bon Ton Bakery makes a fine bagel, and once the lox & cream cheese step onto the stage, it’s a show-stopper..
  • National Strawberry Ice Cream Day. Dessert! Really, some of these celebrations must have been concocted in Australia or somewhere in the southern hemisphere. We’re eating a lot of ice cream for the coldest week of 2020.
  • National Booch Day. Jodie has tried kombucha, I have not. Today we will enjoy some with dinner.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Yesterday squirreled its way in and out of focus like a hyperactive gadfly, with a surreal soundtrack, a massive dietary shift (for a day), and a dessert of unholy proportions.

National Gluten-Free Day

Checking for gluten in everything really clips the spontaneity out of the daily feast. Does rice have gluten? No, of course not. How about our leftover Cherry Blossom candy? Doesn’t look like it. A bowl of Shreddies? Nope, so long as you skip the cereal and include only the milk.

We like the idea of sacrifice as a celebration, as it can both morph and enhance one’s perspective. Attentively depriving ourselves of gluten yesterday reminded us of the struggles a lot of people have to wrestle to the ground before they can pop a morsel of anything into their gullets. As a lactose-intolerant (just Marty – not Jodie) since the iron gate of middle age had first clunked shut my young adulthood, I take for granted that a magic pill can temporarily restore my ability to snarf down some top-notch dairy. Those whose innards can’t cope with a gluten guest are not so lucky.

National Peach Melba Day

There is no gluten and no regret within the confines of a peach melba. This is good, because if there was gluten it would likely be in the form of melba toast, and that stale-ass cracker-bread belongs nowhere near this delicacy. Peaches, raspberries and ice cream are the star attractions. Sure, that means the dairy thing is a consideration, but I’ve got my magic pills. And yesterday I was particularly grateful for them.

Peach Melba is the brain-child of a French chef named Auguste Escoffier, who brightened the palettes of those fortunate to dine at the Savoy Hotel in London in the 1890s. When Australian soprano Nellie Melba came to stay at the hotel in 1892 or ’93, Chef Escoffier concocted this little beauty in her honour. Interesting note: Chef Escoffier, who must have been crazy-crushing on Dame Melba, created four dishes for her: this one, Melba Sauce (a purée of raspberries and red currant), Melba Garniture (chicken, truffles, mushrooms and tomatoes), and yes – Melba Toast. So we’ll be revisiting this bizarre Escoffier/Melba infatuation on March 23.

National Hobby Month

Our time allotted for such luxuries as hobbies ain’t much. But when we can scrape together an hour or so between devouring ice cream treats and throwing pies at each other, we enjoy jigsaw puzzles. I know, that is tremendously unsurprising for a middle-age couple whose kids have moved away. We sit around and try to fit pieces of cardboard into other pieces of cardboard. But dammit, it’s fun, you can drink while you do it, and it goes better with great music. It’s really the perfect hobby.

I love hearing about people’s weird hobbies. We posed the question to r/askreddit to see if people can offer up some strange ones. Some of the responses included collecting foreign money, learning swears in Latin, and studying spiders. We would love to hear from our friends, family and followers in the comments section or on social media. Do you collect stamps? Bottle caps? Matchbooks? Roadkill? Soiled napkins from behind southern BBQ restaurants? Tortilla chips that look like members of ‘N Sync? We want to know!

National Sticker Day

Were it not shamefully unfashionable (I’m willing to be unfashionable, even shameful, but rarely at the same time), I would still collect scratch ‘n sniff stickers. Who doesn’t love stickers? They accentuate, they ring praise and applause, and they spruce up everything from a laptop to a suitcase to a spice jar.

Jodie gave away some stickers yesterday to a few of her luckier (or perhaps more industrious) students. In the evening we went through our spice cupboard, found a bunch of spices we’d bought in plastic bags, then dumped them into new spice jars, using stickers to identify the contents. Stickers can be practical, but they are just as awesome if they aren’t. That said, if you’re going to stick one on the bumper or window of your car, avoid political statements, avoid demeaning jabs and just be funny. And not simply ‘funny’, but the kind of funny that still elicits a giggle a few years later. Those stick-family stickers are done. The Calvin peeing on another vehicle brand stickers are not only idiotic, but they are a copyright violation. Find something that will never go out of style. Like “Where’s the Beef?”

National Clean Off Your Desk Day

This celebration took longer to post to social media than it did to complete. Jodie is meticulous about her desk-landscape, ensuring it is as barren and unadorned as the flats of Tatooine. I’m not usually quite as fastidious, but I happen to be writing this article on a desk we purchased three weeks ago, and set up specifically for the start of this project. I haven’t had the time to really muck things up yet.

All that aside, we understand if cleaning off your desk simply isn’t within the realm of possibility. Some people soak in the clutter, and ascribe sufficient convenience to offset any claims of madness. I would never prescribe someone else’s workspace. But a desk, same as any space within one’s life, could benefit from at least a moderate tidying. At the very least, clear a place to rest your coffee, your phone, and your head when you need a quick nap.

Stephen Foster Memorial Day

He was the most famous songwriter of the 19th century. His songs have been a part of childhood education curriculum since before any human who is presently on this earth has been alive. If you took piano lessons as a kid, you learned some Stephen Foster tunes. The guy was incredible: he taught himself to play piano, flute, guitar, violin and clarinet. If the keytar had existed during his time, he’d have learned that too.

Listen to these chart-toppers: “Camptown Races”, “Oh Susanna”, “My Old Kentucky Home”, “Old Folks At Home” (a.k.a. “Swanee River”). Yesterday would have been Mr. Foster’s 194th birthday. Alas, he didn’t make it past 37. The story goes that he became ill, had a nasty fever, then fell in his New York hotel room and cut his neck, bleeding out. That seems unlikely, though maybe there used to be a dangerous amount of sharp objects strewn about hotel floors in the 1860s, I don’t know. But this dude drew the blueprint for American music in his century – we were happy to listen to a collection of his works yesterday.

Rumor has it Edmonton is supposed to be the coldest place on the planet today. So here’s how we’ll be keeping warm:

  • National Dress Up Your Pet Day. More specifically, this is how our puppies will be keeping warm. We’ve got some great yuppie puppy clothes for them to enjoy.
  • National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day. There is no greater hot pastrami sandwich than one you’ll find in New York, and the few I’ve enjoyed from Katz’s Deli still haunt my taste buds today. We’ll be enjoying a lesser alternative – all we can get up here.
  • Poetry At Work Day. Jodie will read some poetry to her students. I will compose all my emails in haiku, and try to pen a verse or two while I’m at the office. Should be fun!