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!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Thankfully, apart from some grotesque shovelling labour, we didn’t have to leave the house even once yesterday. Unfortunately a bit of tragic family news derailed our video yesterday evening, however our celebrations remained intact. And our celebrations were fantastic. Well, except…

National Kiss A Ginger Day

I suspect this holiday came about because of Eric Cartman. In a season 9 episode of South Park, which aired in November 2005, Cartman asserts that gingers – a.k.a. redheads – have no soul. Just over three years later a guy named Derek Forgie launched a counter-attack, encouraging folks to kiss their scarlet-tressed friends and family instead of mocking them to the point of bullying. This is the perfect redirection.

A few words about redheads from the great author, Tom Robbins:

To believe that blondes and brunettes are simply redheads in repressive drag is to believe that UFOs are kiddie balloons. All redheads, you see, are mutants. Whether they spring from genes disarranged by earthly forces or are ‘planted’ here by overlords from outer space is a matter for scholarly debate. It’s enough for us to recognize that redheads are abnormal beings, bioelectrically connected to realms of strange power, rage, risk and ecstasy.

What is your mission among us, you daughters of ancient Henna, you agents of the harvest moon? Are those star maps that your freckles replicate? How do you explain the fact that you live longer than the average human? Where did you get such sensitive skin? And why are your curls the same shade as heartbreak?”

We both wished we could give a genuine ginger a kiss yesterday, but with temperatures confining us to our home base, we settled for a more literal interpretation.

National Curried Chicken Day

We took a fresh take on a beloved dish yesterday, and tried out this recipe from the BBC. The result was creamy and just explosive enough to set our tongues ablaze. Curry is not a simply defined concept; there is no ‘curry spice’ that can wrap its arms around the breadth of recipes which carry the ‘curry’ moniker. For this dish we leaned on garam masala to sing the chorus, while turmeric, fennel, cumin and chili flakes sang backup. This also marks the first time I’ve ever used icing sugar in a main-course recipe.

Our only deviation from the roster of ingredients was to swap out white meat for dark meat – not out of allegiance or loyalty or a lingering memory of Breast Appreciation Day, but that was what we had available. With a sauce as boastful and bodacious as this, the meat-shade is easily swappable.

National Sunday Supper Day & National Sunday Supper Month

We have fond memories of Sunday suppers. For Jodie it meant the family gathering together with six children squawking at various levels of volume. For me (Marty) it meant schlepping over to my grandparents so I could play pool and read Mad Magazine in the basement while my parents talked grown-up stuff before and after the food was served. As parents, we didn’t prize the Sunday suppers as sacred, and perhaps that was the reason our kids phone us so rarely. Either that or we’re just assholes.

Sunday Supper is so prized, it is given both a day in January and a commemoration for the entire month, likely to remind families that even once the holiday season is over, they still need to tolerate one another and should do so over food at least on a weekly basis. With zero kids living within these walls, our Sunday suppers are just about us now. That said, we will be supping on the regular for the Sundays remaining this month.

National Pharmacist Day

I am fortunate to have an aunt and uncle (married to one another even!) who are both pharmacists. Well, my uncle *was* a pharmacist – he was granted admission into that glorious country club known as retirement not long ago. As they live in Calgary we felt no obligation to drop in and say hi (a three-hour commute is a bit much), but I gave them a call to talk pharmacy life with them.

I heard tales of regular customers and horrific crimes perpetrated by the desperate and habitually medicated. I heard of a lifetime of service, of compassion and connection over decades. If you are a regular recipient of pharmaceuticals, I hope you have found a dispensary that knows you, with a staff who exhibits this level of concern and compassion. A pharmacist is not merely the conduit between the doctor’s incomprehensible paper-scrawl and some medication; they should be seen as an integral human component to your well-being. All pharmacy counters ain’t the same – find yourself a good one!

National Youth Day

We were able to flee this day without having to see a single youth in person; even our dogs are technically both into dog-adulthood. Instead we opted to soak up a bit of youth music while I cooked and while we both ate. Here’s a sampling of our playlist:

  • Stevie Wonder: Fingertips parts 1& 2
  • The Jackson 5: I Want You Back
  • Lorde: Royals
  • Tiffany: I Think We’re Alone Now
  • The xx: Intro
  • Davie Jones & The King Bees (young David Bowie): Liza Jane
  • Helen Shapiro: Don’t Treat Me Like A Child
  • The Box Tops: The Letter
  • The Strypes: Blue Collar Jane
  • Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers: I Want You To Be My Girl
  • The Runaways: Cherry Bomb

Sadly, we didn’t get around to any young Donny Osmond. Maybe next year.

National Marzipan Day

Marzipan is a wildly sweet concoction made of sugar, sometimes honey, and ground up almonds. It has found its way into becoming a staple of dessert fare all across the European continent. Hungary and Italy both claim to have originated the treat, and it’s also possible that Spain and/or China may get some credit. One thing is certain – the American version of marzipan features more sugar, while the Europeans tend to include more almonds. This should surprise no one.

As it was, our marzipan looked… well, it looked a little phallic. Fortunately, that didn’t take away from the flavour (nor did it enhance it, or at least I don’t think so). It was quite sweet, but astoundingly perfect as a follow-up to the curried chicken.

I get an extended-play long weekend today, while Jodie must slog her way to her daily grind. Still, a challenge for both of us today.

  • National Gluten-Free Day. We are devourers of gluten, but we feel for our fellow humans who must abstain for health reasons. So today we join in unison, forego breadstuffs and other gluten sources. Gotta be easier than switching to vegan for a day, right?
  • National Peach Melba Day. Fortunately, any traces of gluten are MIA from this tasty dessert treat. Looking forward to this, after our carefully crafted supper.
  • National Sticker Day. Jodie has stickers at work. She will make good use of them today.
  • National Clean Off Your Desk Day. A much as we both bathe in the froth-waters of chaos and impulse, we emerge surprisingly organized. Our desks will require very little cleaning, but cleaning they shall receive.
  • Stephen Foster Memorial Day. A few choruses of “Camptown Races”, anyone?