Current Event Friday #92

A day to celebrate groundhogs is apparently dangerous to groundhogs

February is upon us and with it, Spring will soon be approaching. Many will turn to rodent meteorologists this weekend, but not everybody is looking forward to that. Why one group is denouncing the practice of Groundhog Day is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

Groundhog Club handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 131st celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. (Associated Press)
Punxsutawney Phil, being shown to the crowd by his handler from the Groundhog Club on Groundhog Day

As every February 2 comes and goes, if the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow this weekend in the small Pennsylvania town, he will retreat, and winter will continue for six weeks. If Phil does not see his shadow, spring will be here soon. Maybe not the most scientific system since we’ve basically agreed that March 21/22 is the vernal equinox regardless maybe Groundhog Day is a strange practice. The folks at PETA tweeted about the practice and believe it’s not only odd but it’s dangerous for Phil.

PETA argues that Phil’s artificial habitat for 364 days out of the year doesn’t provide him with true environments to be a groundhog. Not only that, being picked up, shown to crowds, and photographed like a Hollywood celeb is scary and unnerving for Phil.

As a possible solution, PETA has suggested using a robot groundhog that could predict the weather thanks to artificial intelligence. Using this animatronic groundhog, PETA argues would still celebrate groundhogs and drive tourists to Punxsutawney, PA for the celebration. The Groundhog Club president Bill Deeley responded to PETA’s suggestions that people want to see Phil, a living, breathing, actual groundhog and not some robot.

Frankly, I’m surprised PETA hasn’t made this push before. It’s not a recently created event, so they’ve had decades to protest the celebration and suggest a different approach. Maybe, the advances in robotics would have prevented that until now but can’t imagine that PETA really cares whether there’s a robot or not. Like many others, looking at a calendar and doing some quick math is a lot more realistic than watching a groundhog see its shadow.

Although, I may not celebrate Groundhog Day like those in Punxsutawney or other locations celebrating the day, I’m not going to be a jerk about it. PETA like many other ‘woke’ or PC organizations and groups have become unbearable and lacking nuance in their arguments, appealing to emotional manipulations and insults rather than discussion. So, instead I’ll just treat Groundhog Day like any other obscure holiday and live it like any regular Sunday in the year.

Should Groundhog Day celebrations include a robot groundhog instead of a living one?

History Monday #87

History is made with the first celebration of a federal holiday

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! enjoy the paid federal holiday that you have today. As it is a significant holiday, it’s worth discussing it in today’s #HistoryMonday that was first celebrated as a federal holiday on this date.

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On this day in 1986, the holiday was first celebrated as a federal holiday after being approved and signed into law on November 2, 1983. This was after the first introduction of the notion of recognizing King for his Civil Rights efforts in 1979 by Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan & Sen. Edward Brooke (R) of Massachusetts.

The passage of a bill establishing the holiday was not easily accepted despite Rev. King’s Civil Rights contributions and eventual memorials. Objections to a federal holiday included the cost of paying for employees to have a vacation and whether a private citizen merited a federal holiday. At the time of discussion of establishing a holiday honoring Rev. King, only George Washington and Christopher Columbus had been recognized with federal holidays.

Senators Jesse Helms and John Porter East (both Republicans from North Carolina) led objections to passage of legislation establishing the holiday that Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t necessarily important enough to deserve a holiday. Sen. Helms added further objections that were more specious and scurrilous, accusing King of Communist sympathies which were the reasons why King questioned American involvement in Vietnam. Most Senators who promoted the holiday rejected Sen. Helms accusations and pressed forward in their efforts.

As the holiday was signed into law, it established a Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission as well as establishing the day as the third Monday of January each year. Shortly after the commission was established, Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr. was appointed to the commission.

fast forward

While the holiday was first celebrated on this day in 1986 as a federal holiday, state legislatures decided individually whether they would recognize the holiday as well. Eventually each state established the day following similar guidelines laid out in the federal legislation with the last two establishing the holiday in 2000, being New Hampshire and South Carolina. New Hampshire’s passage of legislation was a technicality and named the day for Martin Luther King Jr. after celebrating the day while it was named Civil Rights Day until 1999. South Carolina did allow citizens to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. or one of three Confederate holidays which creates a unique dichotomy.

Southern states of course had some challenges celebrating the day given their negative involvement with Martin Luther King Jr and other Civil Rights leaders and already established holidays dedicated to Gen. Robert E. Lee, born on January 19 and Gen. Stonewall Jackson, born on January 21. As you can imagine celebrating Generals leading the Confederate Army while celebrating the hero of the Civil Rights movement creates some issues. These original holidays generally were dedicated primarily to Robert E. Lee, except in Virginia.  Eventually, most Southern states moved a celebration of Robert E. Lee to a date in October commemorating the occasion of his death. Virginia celebrates Lee-Jackson Day as the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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Many public-school systems decide whether to celebrate at a local level. Growing up in Southern Indiana, which is 97% in most communities will opt to conduct classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, except in more diverse school districts who use it as a snow makeup day if needed. Personally, there is more education about Martin Luther King when school is in session than when kids are home on vacation and pay little attention to the holiday’s namesake. This is typically true of most public schools around the nation and not just in my neck of the woods.

Does your community do anything special for Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Oh Bologna!

A day to be tickled pink about

This day could be sponsored by the first name O-S-C-A-R and a second name M-E-Y-E-R, but it’s not. Regardless, it is National Bologna Day and that is an occasion to celebrate for many. So of course, I sandwiched this post about an obscure holiday between Poetry Wednesday and #CurrentEventFriday.

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Mortadella from Bologna, Italy

Bolognas can sometimes be spelled baloney which makes more sense given that is the pronunciation of this lunchmeat. The more common spelling Bologna is attributed to the city of its origin —Bologna, Italy. Related to the Italian sausage mortadella, Bologna is usually finely ground pork, beef, or a combination of both. After being formed into a thick loaf, bologna is then smoked and cured.  Interestingly, U.S. regulations require American-style bologna to be finely ground and without visible pieces of fat. American-style bologna many times is also made from chicken, turkey, venison or soy protein.

Full disclosure, I’m not the biggest fan of bologna. During my childhood I was opposed to bologna because of its slimy texture and the odd red casing encircling it. Might be somewhat odd since I liked eating old-fashioned franks with a similar red casing. Now in adulthood I still don’t eat bologna that often, except when it has been cooked. I do like fried bologna and smoked bologna which change the flavor and texture of bologna that I actually like.

Some brothers at lodge were interestingly discussing bologna habits over dinner. One mentioned his mother preparing bologna roast when he was a kid. Using bologna in place of a roast during leaner economic times, she would brown a whole bologna loaf and then add it to a roasting pan with potatoes and ketchup and preparing it like a roast. This actually sounded like a preparation I would like. Another preparation included frying a slice of bologna that would curl up the slice turning it into a serving cup for potato salad, slaw, or other fillings.

What are your favorite preparations for bologna?

This Day Is Bananas

Daylight come and me wan’ go home to tally me banana

Whether you’re a Hollaback girl, Harry Belafonte, Guy Fieri, a monkey, or just another hominid today is likely the day for you—Banana Lover’s Day. Seemingly a favorite fruit of most anyone, the humble banana finds its way into many food applications besides just straight consumption. The average person eats about 33 pounds of bananas a year—roughly 100 individual bananas per person!

Interestingly, the banana we consume is the only extant banana variety. While our grandparents and earlier ancestors ate another variety several decades ago, a massive plague wiped out that variety, so an entirely new banana was introduced and is now the one that we enjoy today.

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The Banana Plant from my trip to Key West earlier this year

Botanically speaking, the fruit of the banana plant is similar to a berry. While technically termed a tree, the plant is actually an herbaceous plant. The plant has the appearance of a stem or trunk that are tightly compacted leaves while the actual stem exists underground like a potato.

Contrary to popular opinion, bananas are only a moderate supply of potassium. Raw spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, Portobello mushrooms, and processed tomato sauces contain more potassium than bananas. Despite these other plant-based options containing higher potassium amounts, the banana was often recommended as part of a diet to prevent dehydration especially with gastrointestinal disorders such as the Banana, Rice, Applesauce, & Toast (BRAT) or Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast, Tea, & Yogurt (BRATTY) diets. However, the use of these diets for those suffering from gastrointestinal disorders has not been proven and doctors rarely recommend this diet any longer

Besides eating bananas in whole form, folks enjoy making banana quick breads either as muffins or loaves. My personal favorite is making banana pudding which involves prepared instant pudding, whipped topping, sliced bananas and vanilla-flavored cookies. Worth mentioning, I’ve only ever had the cold version of this recipe, but I understand there is a warm version that replaces the whipped topping with meringue. It does sound appealing, but I’ve just never had it. Responsible adults also enjoy the New Orleans staple Bananas Foster which is  bananas in flambéed caramel served with ice cream.

A list of recipes for Banana Lover’s Day to try can be found here

I will admit that I do enjoy bananas as part of my breakfast at least a couple of times a week, but with my time management struggles in the morning I only purchase two bananas for the week or else they over-ripen, and I don’t get them eaten in time.

 

What’s your favorite way to eat bananas?

Get a Cob

Today is a corny day indeed

“There’s more than corn in Indiana.” That’s at least the saying almost any Hoosier has said defending their state should be famous for more than agriculture, but most of us readily admit that corn is king in our state. Usually the sarcastic Indiana resident will add the words, “yeah, there’s soybeans too.” But like I said corn is king around these parts.

Indiana is not alone, much of the Midwest is dotted with corn fields during the Summer. As this year’s Spring planting season has been particularly too wet, much of the corn may not get planted. Hopefully farmers will get some dry days to plant corn and wait for the market to determine corn prices.

All this to say, that corn is important to regard today because it is Corn on the Cob Day. Like any good Hoosier during the Summer, I look forward to the season which means corn on the cob will be plentiful at farmers’ markets and even supermarkets.

Growing up, corn on the cob during the Summer is boiled whole and served with butter and salt. Many times, mom would round out the meal with fresh tomatoes with bacon and lettuce for BLT sandwiches. That’s one of the reasons I look forward to Summer is all the fresh produce coming in.

As I got older, corn on the cob has become a little harder to eat. I first experienced this when I had braces. Mom would still cook the corn on the cob, but I would have to scrape the kernels into a bowl to eat them.

As maize/corn is a New World product it plays an important part in Latin America as well. Mexican cuisine serves corn on the cob in a street food known as elote. Rather than boil the corn like Americans, the Mexicans roast the corn over a grill. After cooking, the corn is slathered with mayonnaise, and sprinkled with a crumbly cheese called Cotija, fresh lime juice and chile powder then top the corn. I like to do the same with corn on the cob when mom cooks it. I usually still scrape the kernels into a bowl and add the toppings that Mexican street vendors would use to make the elote.

 

elote
Elote (Mexican Street Corn)

I know some enterprising corn producers have found a way to make popcorn on the cob. I’ve never had it, but it seems interesting. I’d try it if someone offered it to me though.

Besides humans, squirrels enjoy dried corn on the cob and people will often use corn cob squirrel feeders to distract the bushy-tailed rodents from pilfering bird feeders and depriving avian eaters of their food.

Here’s some hints and ideas for cooking corn on the cob from Pillsbury:

Corn on the Cob Tips

What’s your favorite corn on the cob preparation?

A Brisket, a Basket

Don’t risk it by missing out on the cut of beef that is celebrated today.

Hope everyone enjoyed Memorial Day weekend. Maybe you gathered the family for a cookout, maybe you attended a parade, maybe you decorated the graves of deceased military veterans, or maybe a combination of all of the above. Whatever you chose to do, I’m sure it was spent with family and memories were recalled while new memories were made.

For those of you who chose to cookout, maybe you should have included brisket on the menu. If you didn’t include brisket, maybe partake of some today since it’s National Brisket Day. I will admit I had brisket Sunday evening for dinner at the local barbecue restaurant in my hometown with mom. I also had brisket for lunch yesterday with dad as we attended the annual Memorial Day Car Show also in my hometown.

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For those of you who didn’t graduate from butcher school, the brisket is the cow’s breast or sternum area. Beef breast isn’t all that appealing of a term thus the term brisket. If you think about the fat in our breast areas it explains why cows have a fatty and tender area at the brisket.

Brisket benefits from slow cooking more than other barbecue cuts and is usually served in slices that allows the fatty cut to not overwhelm when being eaten. Although, the brisket sandwich I had yesterday for lunch was chopped and it was still good. It also echoed a preparation of brisket with pastrami as it included a hefty dose of black pepper.

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While I enjoy brisket when barbecued to be sure as I’ve mentioned, pastrami and corned beef are also favorite preparations. Corned beef or pastrami preparations of brisket are especially good when paired with Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut on griddled rye bread on a Reuben. The local barbecue restaurant in my hometown combines the barbecue and pastrami prep for their Reuben to be the best of both worlds.

I’ve also taken leftover brisket from barbecue restaurants and included it on mini flour tortillas for street tacos. Topping the leftover brisket with sauce that can add sour and/or spicy flavors works well for the street tacos.

One of my regrets from our vacation to Texas was that we didn’t try any Texas barbecue restaurants in the Texas Hill Country. The Salt Lick, Black’s Barbecue, and Franklin Barbecue between Austin and San Antonio are some of the most well-known joints for Texas Brisket. Next time I visit Texas, I am making sure to include their barbecue on the itinerary.

At least in the meantime I can get my brisket fix at local barbecue restaurants and sampling Reubens at restaurants usually doesn’t disappoint. So, I can get good brisket even around my neck of the woods.

What’s your favorite brisket preparation?

In a Pickle

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers and maybe today as a day to celebrate all things pickle

Today we are in a pickle, not in that we are in an untenable situation, but because today is International Pickle Day. I’m sure I will find a way to celebrate somehow.

Regarding their etymology, pickles derive from the Dutch word pekel, meaning brine. Pickles were made a popular food nearly 4,000 years ago, when cucumbers in parts of Asia. There is some dispute whether in China, India, or the Middle East. As cucumbers, and by consequence pickles made their way through the Arabian Peninsula and the Mediterranean Cleopatra claimed her looks and youth to pickles in addition to other beauty regimens

I have always liked pickles even in childhood. Worth clarifying, I mean only the sour pickles such as kosher dill, polish, or dill pickles. I know other people like sweet pickles, bread-and-butter, and other offerings but I’m not a huge fan. I can remember when I was young eating the giant pickles at football games. I still find them at grocery stores, and I’ll eat them to this day. Many Strouds also will drink pickle juice. Others have started drinking pickle juice for supposed health effects, but my family drinks it for the taste alone.

Pickles are especially helpful additions to burgers and hot dogs. The sour taste can cut the fats when topping burgers and hot dogs. Chicago style hot dogs feature both sweet and sour pickles.

Pregnant women are often said to crave pickles and other strange combinations including ice cream or peanut butter being the most popular counterparts. I can’t say I understand the ice cream exactly. I have had a burger that replaced mayonnaise with peanut butter and the pickles and onion somehow paired well with the peanut butter.

Speaking of odd pickle combos, consider the Koolickle. Originally a specialty of the Mississippi Delta region, Koolickles are formed draining the brine from a jar of pickles and mixing it with Kool-Aid. The resulting liquid is poured back over the pickles and allowed to marinate in the sweet-sour solution. I’ve made my own and it’s definitely an acquired taste. For those that like sweet pickles Koolickles aren’t all that different.

So, eat one of the giant ballpark pickles, toast with a pickle juice shot, or if you’re with child eat some pickles and ice cream.

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Do you like sour or sweet pickles or both?