I’m way behind and I can’t seem to catch up. I know, I’ve been saying that for a while now, but every time I get close to getting all caught up, I end up taking a day or two off from writing the posts and the hole gets deeper. The celebrating is still happening. I’m right on pace there, it’s just the blogging part. I had to right the ship. With some hesitation, I have decided to pull the nuclear option. I’m just going to slam out one longer post which retells my celebration tale of the last nine days. Not the way I like to do things, but I feel this will be the only way I can get back to some kind of normalcy. Well, at least the kind of normal life where you are celebrating every day. So here we go. I’ve unlocked the football, I’ve put in the codes in, I’ve wished Godspeed to all those within ear shot and I’ve hit the button. I’ve gone nuclear.
Day 425 – National Coffee Day
Every day is Coffee Day, at least in our house. Although today, Lola wasn’t around. She had gone to New Hampshire to visit a friend. I woke up early and, as usual, made myself a cup of coffee using our Aeropress which is a contraption to give you good strong coffee. There’s a whole process to making coffee with an Aeropress that Lola likens to the dance of shooting heroin. You start by putting the filter in the bottom, then your coffee goes in, you pour boiling water over the top, stir, and then slowly work the top half of the contraption downwards into the bottom half like a plunger. That air presses the coffee out the bottom through the filter right into your cup. After I added my frothed milk (I’m a fancy boy), I grabbed the cup and walked outside to our deck to look at the sun which was rising in a particularly brilliant fashion. Later, on my way to work I stopped at Starbucks to get a Grande Non-Fat Latte (I speak Starbucksese). I don’t usually stop here as it is a bit out of the way, but I thought I’d make the special trip for National Coffee Day. I’m not sure if it was worth it. The coffee was fine – I really do like Starbucks coffee – but there were no other redeeming qualities about the visit. It was just business as usual. Later in the day, I made a cup of coffee at work. Nothing fancy here either. We have a Keuring machine and fresh cream in the fridge. It’s perfect for that afternoon pick me up which is what it gave me today. Last year on National Coffee Day I enjoyed nearly ten cups of coffee. This celebration was more sensible. I thoroughly enjoyed each cup for what it was. It helped me get through the day and I looked forward to that first sip from every cup. That was a celebration that was worth having.
Day 426 – National Chewing Gum Day
I had a long day ahead of me at the Vineyard and I was running late. (I could start every Saturday post with that exact statement). On my way out the door, I remembered it was National Chewing Gum Day so I grabbed a package of gum that has been sitting in our cabinet since the start of the summer. It was a pouch of Big League Chew. I can’t remember why I purchased this gum outside of thinking Lola would enjoy it. Apparently she doesn’t share the nostalgic fondness for this type of gum that I do. In any case, I tucked the pouch into my pocket and headed out the door. Later that morning, I remembered that I had the gum in my pocket, so I pulled it out and tore it open. I took a pinch of the strands and placed it into my cheeks. I don’t think there’s a way to do this without feeling like you’re shoving a wad of chew into your mouth. As a kid, that was a neat feeling because you had watched baseball players do this for years (with tobacco) and Big League Chew allowed you to mimic the same action (with less nicotine). I understood why I and every young baseball fanatic liked this gum. The gum is good too – fresh bubble gum flavor, very chewy, the pouch keeps it from drying out and it has excellent bubble blowing capacity. Not much more you can ask for. I asked a few other people if they wanted some. Not everyone did, but most were excited to see this blast of gum from their past. It evoked instant memories. Even the smell. It was a moment of joy. It reminded me of the time in our lives when gum was kind of a big deal. It was more than just something you toss in your mouth to give you fresh breath. It was a treat. It was fun. I shared that today with some people. That’s what celebrating gum is all about, and all it took was a pinch between my gum and cheeks.
Day 427 – National Homemade Cookies Day
Last year’s Homemade Cookie Day was kind of a big deal. It was the wedding of my young cousin Sam, so we were in Connecticut with my side of the family. I made cookies for the occasion that my sister-in-law Becky was nice enough to school me in (in fact, she made most of them). They were shortbread cookies that we decorated as musical notes reflecting the musical theme of the wedding. They were a smash hit. This year however, there would be no baking. My celebration would be just an appreciation for the homemade cookie. I did this by enjoying three cookies with milk after dinner. The first cookie was a Tollhouse cookie that I had made a few days ago for my sister’s birthday. She had requested them. I am not a famous Tollhouse Cookie maker by any stretch, but my grandmother was and it’s what my sister was craving. She even gave me one of Gram’s secrets to her cookie making – to use half butter and half shortening for the recipe. That’s what I did. The cookies were ok, but not like my grandmother’s. I’m not exactly sure why. Someday I’ll figure it out. The one I had tonight was fine. I just can’t seem to make a great Tollhouse Cookie. The second cookie was an Oatmeal Cookie which was made with love by the mother of one of Lola’s friends. This was the friend Lola had gone to visit in New Hampshire and one of the side benefits of those visits is that Lola is sent home with a plate of treats from her friend’s mom. We call them Jarvis Treats and they are the best. It’s always an array of goodies like chocolate bark, fudge, some kind of peanut butter thing and always some cookies. Whenever Lola walks into the house with them, we have an instant feast like we just found our Easter Basket. For my cookie from the plate of treats, I went oatmeal. That was actually the only cookie left although there were still other non-cookie treats that we could enjoy later. It was good – soft and chewy with just the right amount of crunch from the oatmeal on the outside. A few raisins mixed in and that’s not a bad place to find a raisin. Anytime you can have a Jarvis Treat is a big deal to us, so I savored this one especially because it was National Homemade Cookies Day and I was paying homage to one of the finest homemade cookie makers we know.
Day 428 – National Chili Week
October is not only National Chili Month, but the first week of October is National Chili Week. Monday night is also a good night to make a good hardy chili to have some for the whole week, so that’s what I made. I picked up some ground beef and tomatoes at the store. When I got home, I sautéed some onions and garlic. I had some fresh jalapeños in our fridge so I diced those up and sautéed them along with the onions and garlic to bring some heat. Then I added in the beef. I seasoned the hell out of it all and let it cook. Then I added in the tomatoes and beans and let it cook more. Pretty easy. I wanted a little more liquid in the chili, so I decided to pour a full beer in. Couldn’t hurt. All in all, it came out pretty good and I found it to be one of the tastier chilis I have made in a while. I made some Jiffy corn muffins on the side (which seems like a must-have for chili). I served us bowls of chili with cheese and sour cream. We enjoyed it on our couch watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Now we have chili for the week. We had a nice hardy and warming supper. And we celebrated this great food as if it was a holiday, which it was.
Day 429 – National Soft Taco Day – Caramel Custard Day
Not going to lie, this was a hard one. It was National Caramel Custard Day and to celebrate that, I was going to pick up some flan at Whole Foods. I looked online and they said they carried flan there so I drove to the spot in Cranston after work. That’s when I realized that Whole Foods lied to me because they did not carry flan. With tears in my eyes, I left and headed for home. I would have to break the news to Lola. She takes her flan seriously. I couldn’t think of any other place to get flan outside of a Mexican restaurant which seemed too far out of the way to go pick up, so I decided to celebrate the fact that it was also National Soft Taco Day. This was an easy fix because I had soft tortillas, I had chili for a protein and I had all the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese to make a taco. When I got home, after a half-hour verbal berating from Lola on why we were flanless, I started to make dinner. The tacos came out looking pretty good. However, in practicality, this was a fail because the chili was a bit too liquidy for tacos, especially soft tacos. Once they sat for a minute, all the chili soaked through the tortilla and the tacos came crashing apart. I was able to get a few taco bites in, but then I essentially had an open-faced taco which I ate with a fork. I should have known better, especially as someone who considers himself knowledgeable in taco making. The taste was great, I just failed in my construction. Not a banner day of celebration, but still I paid tribute to the greatness of tacos. If only I had more time to celebrate them.
Day 430 – National Taco Day
Well look at that! Another day to celebrate tacos! This was the big taco day. The one that was trending on social media. The one that almost every restaurant was yammering about. The day that would be filled with stupid taco puns. This was the big daddy of taco holidays. Lola had a meeting in Boston and was heading back in to town at about 7:30, so we decided to go our for some taco fun. We went to a place in Bristol called Casa Margaritas. Lola had been here before but it was new to me. When we walked in, we were greeted right away by a super friendly host who may have been the owner. That was a good start. Then, because it was Wednesday, they had a margarita special which meant their large margaritas were the same price as their regular ones, so we ordered up a couple. (Excellent margaritas 👍)
We ordered fresh guacamole which they made table side. Lola asked our server how she likes her guacamole and she told us that she puts a special hot pepper in hers that is lightly fried to bring out more flavor. The server was nice enough to get us one so we could try. We mixed that right into the guacamole. It was spicy – not in the front but kept intensifying on your tongue. It was good. I would have liked more cumin and salt in the guac, but that’s just me. Then we ordered tacos to which our server remarked that it was National Taco Day. We told her that we knew this. Lola went with all pork carnitas tacos while I went with an order that had one carnitas, one chicken and one steak. The tacos were good and fresh. Each had beans and rice in the taco along with fresh salsa and sauce. All cooked perfectly too. Great flavor in all and I was a fan. This will be a place we will come back to for our next Mexican food craving.
We were stuffed as a wood tick, but then they showed us the dessert menu and there it was – Flan! I knew it was a day late, but I decided to order it and celebrate National Caramel Custard Day too. It was a great flan served with caramel over the top plus some chocolate and strawberry sauce on the side along with ample amounts of whipped cream. The texture of flan is always alarming – it tastes like you’re biting into phlegm. But once you get past that, the sweetness of it all gets better. A good flan. All in all, I think we did a nice job at celebrating National Taco Day. We found a new local, authentic restaurant. We toasted with big margaritas and we capped it off with a delightful flan. That’s a good day on any day, but particularly special for National Taco Day.
Day 431 – National Apple Betty Day
Betty and I go way back. I recalled this special treat from last year and when hearing about it, not knowing what it was. It’s pretty much an apple crumble. As far as who Betty is, no one really knows. Only the legacy of her special treat carries on. When I got out of work, Lola was over her sister’s house so I decided to head there to say hello. We ended up getting home at about 8 PM which meant I still had to make an Apple Betty. Thankfully, it’s super easy to make. I had picked up five granny smith apples at the store along with some vanilla ice cream. I peeled and pared the apples and tossed them in a pie plate with some orange juice. Then I made the crumble from butter, flour, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon (Full recipe from Genius Kitchen). I sprinkled that over the top and then tucked it in the oven for about 45 minutes. It made the house smell awesome – baking apples tends to do that. When it came out, I let it sit for a minute or two, but then I scooped out a couple of pieces and topped them with some vanilla ice cream. Honestly, this is everything you could ever want in an apple dessert. The apples get soft while the crumble gives you a more hardy texture. You get the sweetness coming through from the crumble (and from the apples) and it is all paired with the creaminess of the cool ice cream. It’s perfection, and perfect on a nice Fall night, even if that night is seventy degrees. I am always amazed at how much the apples break down. They almost turn to mush, but not quite. When you bite down, it just melts in your mouth. I still don’t know who Betty is or was, but I’ll forever be grateful for her contribution to the dessert table. It really is one of the best tasting desserts you’ll find for the simplest of cooking procedures. Thank you Betty, for your apples and your crumbles. Today you were celebrated with spoon and ice cream, and life was a bit more joyous because of you.
Day 432 – National Noodle Day
I learned today that there is a difference between noodles and pasta. It has to do with the type of flour used in the noodle making. Noodles are actually thousands of years old and come from China. Italians started making noodles after Marco Polo brought them back from his adventures in the East. The Italians started making their noodles with durum or semolina flour and that’s what would become known as pasta. Today however, I would be using spaghetti which is a pasta but made in the tradition of a classic noodle. We were still celebrating National Chili Week as we had been all week with the batch of Chili I made earlier in the week. We find that chili spaghetti is a great way to get another meal out of a batch of chili. It brings a little variation to the party after having had straight bowls of chili all week long. I think chili spaghetti is a Cincinnati thing, or at least that’s where we first saw it featured on a cooking show. It intrigued us, so we made it one time and it got a big thumbs up. There’s nothing fancy about it or no special preparation. You make the spaghetti as normal. When it is drained, I like to add some butter to the hot noodles just to give them some flavor. Then you top each portion with some heated up chili. You dress it like you would your regular chili with cheese and sour cream, but then you are ready to go. It’s essentially a thick meat sauce on your pasta, like a bolognese but more hardy. Tonight’s offering was particularly tasty. We both remarked on this although we couldn’t figure out why. I felt like the pasta was cooked perfectly while Lola hypothesized that the chili was a bit more saucy than normal which helped. Whatever the reason, this was a great dinner. It’s filling but oh so tasty. The noodles absorb the flavors of the chili so each strand brings a little flavor to the party. Plus the chili gets mixed throughout. It was really great and I always recommend serving your chili this way when you are laboring your way through that week of chili. By the third or fourth day, you just want to mix it up, but you also want to use up all your chili. This gives your meal another life and I may even say it’s the best way to eat it. For National Noodle Day, this was a great way to honor the noodle and what it brings to the table. The noodle soaks up all the flavors that you are working with and delivers. That’s why the Chinese created this wonderful food and why the Italians took the recipe and ran with it. Maybe that’s what the Cincinnatians did too when they thought of chili spaghetti. Who knows, but all we know is that we celebrated with glee.
Day 433 – National Frappe Day
There are essentially two kinds of frappes. The first kind is an iced coffee beverage made from instant coffee originally from Greece. This is the drink that you get at Starbucks. The other kind of frappe is a milkshake or more specifically, it’s what a New Englander calls a milkshake. I’m not sure who this New Englander is because all the New Englanders I know call them milkshakes (or cabinets, but that’s a Rhody thing). In any case, I was going to enjoy my Frappe after work and because I didn’t need a boost of caffeine at that time, I decided to celebrate the milkshake type of Frappe. I always tend to lean towards celebrating with ice cream when I can. After work I headed towards Frosty Freez thinking I could get a fine frappe made just to my liking. I soon discovered that Frosty Freez has closed for the season. A sad day here on the island. I was picking up some Chipotle for dinner, so I decided to check one other spot for a Frappe to go: Newport Creamery. They were open, but the ice cream line was too long for my patience. I decided to just make a frappe at home. I picked up our burritos and came home to Lola and we feasted on our dinner in style. Later in the night, it was time for my frappe. Lola asked me if I was making it the way her friend makes it: with Nestle Quik and a little bit of vanilla. I wasn’t going too, but that sounded like a good idea. I grabbed the blender and filled it with milk, vanilla ice cream, generous amounts of Quik, a capful of vanilla, a few squirts of chocolate syrup and then for fun, a scoop of Fluff. I blended away and then poured it into my glass. It was nice and thick and it passed the straw test – that’s when you put the straw in the middle of the drink and it stays there (it doesn’t fall to the side of the glass). This was actually one of the finest milkshakes I have ever made. It was really chocolaty thanks to the syrup and the Quik. There were lots of creamy elements to it with the slight tinge of vanilla as a nice finishing touch. The Fluff didn’t really blend well so that was floating around in chunks and getting stuck in the straw, however, it was nice to have the little bites of marshmallow when you got them. A little more sweetness never hurt anyone (except a diabetic). It had been a long hard day at the Vineyard and this was a nice way to end the day – with a cold, creamy thick frappe. I may be that New Englander that starts calling these things frappe – it just sounds a bit more celebratory.
I’d like to apologize for two things to my loyal readers. First, I’m sorry I have fallen so far behind at getting these posts up here. I know you have bigger problems to worry about then why I haven’t posted, but I do feel like I was letting you down. I’m going to get better at it now that I’m back on track. Second, I apologize that this post is so long. I didn’t get into much detail with each day of celebration and I may have overwhelmed you with nearly 4,000 words. This isn’t the norm – it’s the nuclear option and you really can’t use that all that often. So thank you for your patience and understanding. I’ll get better. The celebration continues and I am grateful for all your support.
Next Up: National Fluffernutter Day