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.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

This was an unusual day. Most of our celebrations circulated the dinner hour, yet one National Day stood out as a perpetual reminder that I (Marty) was, for this day, in a state of constant revelry, even to the point where it became obnoxious. Jodie? She was fine.

National Hat Day

Where once my wiry dirty-blond tresses could fly free with the wind (and fly they did, taking flight in greater numbers than I’d anticipated), yesterday they remained clamped to my head ‘neath a flat cap. A bunnet. A scally cap. A cheese-cutter. Wait – in New Zealand they call these hats “cheese-cutters”? Great. I spent all day with a fart atop my head.

I made the lifestyle adjustment to honour the day; Jodie had no need to follow suit, however. Her school’s rule-book forbids the wearing of hats, probably because one rotten kid showed up with some witty but naughty saying (like “Send Noodz” or something), and they ruined it for everyone. I don’t look great in most hats, but I like this one – albeit for a short stint. Wearing a hat all day whilst toiling away in a cubicle tends to make the minutes tick by a little slower. So instead I’ll raise my glass (stinky as it may be – more on that below) to the tuques and wool caps that are keeping us Canadians from tripping over fallen ear-parts in the streets. Stay warm, everyone.

National Bagel Day

For all its flaws, this universe is fairly well designed. We get two doughnut days this year, and – because one was originally known as “Bagels & Lox Day” – two bagel days. It’s the February 9 National Bagel Day that used to insist on a smoked salmon companion, but there is truly no greater way to enjoy a bagel so we’ll simply perform an encore that day.

The noble bagel has Polish origins, specifically among the Jewish communities. This is likely why my (Marty’s) most prized bagel memories are the ones baked by my Polish grandmother. Those puffy bread-rings were perfection: they required no toasting (no good bagel should require toasting), and tasted heavenly on their own. Apparently bagels used to be given as gifts to women in childbirth back in the 15th century, so if any OB-GYNs are reading this, that could be a hilarious piece of trivia to drop in the middle of your next patient’s labour. If you use it, let me know how it lands.

I don’t care for those sweet berry-filled spreads, and I won’t go anywhere near those pulled-taffy dough-globs they call bagels at our local fast food outlets. But otherwise, be it sesame seed, poppy seed, naked and free or loaded with everything, you can’t go wrong with a great bagel for any meal. Next, however, you must decide with what you shall wash it down…

National Booch Day

It’s not an ideal pairing, but the bagel with kombucha is where the fates steered us yesterday. Jodie had tasted the stuff before and wasn’t a fan. It was my first kombucha rodeo.

On the one hand, I liked it. It smelled a little like fart, and that didn’t go away, but the taste was fruity and refreshing. That said, it was a bit much for the evening repast. It had a humble fizz to it, and would probably be a tasty mid-morning beverage for a bit of a natural lift. It just didn’t pair with smoked fish.

Kombucha is a fermented tea originally enjoyed in Manchuria, a region of northeastern China known for its… candidates. There have been numerous claims of health perks from drinking the stuff, but no scientific proof that I can find. That said, if you’re going to consume something with some flavour you could do a lot worse. Interesting note, if you extract the kombucha culture and dry it, it becomes a leather-like textile that you can use to make seamless clothing. I respect a beverage I can wear as pants.

There are a few warnings of some rare possible side-effects, but the one I would watch out for are the people who call it ‘Booch’. Just… just call it what it is, let’s not get pretty about it. But if you haven’t tried it, grab a bottle and give it a shot! Sure, you might spit it out, or reject it outright once you catch a whiff of that fart-smell, but life is short and you may as well sample everything at its buffet, right?

National Strawberry Ice Cream Day

For example, sample some strawberry ice cream, like we did yesterday. Strawberry is one of the three Neapolitan pillars of creamy magnificence. It was the third option for milkshake buyers for years, until science opened up a wider world. It’s classic and retro, yet shockingly vibrant and alive. And sure, the weather may suggest that downing a scoop or two would only increase Mother Nature’s January fisticuff of frigidity, but don’t be fooled – ice cream is a fine winter treat.

Trust us, we’ve been eating the stuff all week.

Today we aim to do as little as possible, not only because we both awoke with some unpleasant stomach concerns (we blame neither bagel nor booch, and don’t even think we’ll pin this on the ice cream), but because today’s star demands minimalsim:

  • National Nothing Day. How do we celebrate multiple things while celebrating nothing? By celebrating only nothing-ish things.
  • National Fig Newton Day. It won’t take any effort to toss a few figgy newtons down our throats today.
  • National Quinoa Day. Another quick and easy solution; we’ve even bought a pre-made quinoa salad so we don’t have to put any effort into making it.
  • Anniversary of Prohibition. Out of respect for those poor Americans who had to endure 13 years of a bad political decision, we will not consume any alcohol today.