Everything you never knew you needed to know about food, beverage, and lifestyle.
Ah, February. A month of love. A month of presidents. A month of lingering cold. But what is February, really? What makes February so Februaryish. How did February come into being? Why is there even a February?
Well, apparently, February got it’s name from an ancient Roman purification holiday. Romans would go around burning sage or incense or whatever they used to burn, saying things like “I’ve really been naughty lately,” in an attempt to appease their multiple gods. Then they’d drink whatever version of a barolo they had back then and get back to their conquering, gladiatorial ways.
That Roman version feels like it bears little resemblance to what February is now (the month where a majority of people come to terms with giving up on their New Year’s resolutions). I guess February still feels a little purifying, though. If you allow me to extend the metaphor: it is the last month of winter, which leads into Spring, the symbolic season of rebirth and growth. But one must get rid of all the old detritus in order to grow again. To start new, one must have a clean slate. One must purify themselves…. ideally over the course of twenty-eight days.
So there you have it! I have cracked the code that no one was asking to be cracked. So how can you purify yourself in preparation for Spring and keep in accord with the ancient traditions of February?
Read the Blue Lifestyle Update! So read on, readers. Purify yourselves in the warm words of irony!
This is your update.
One Balloon To Save The World
Sometimes, in the eternal struggle against Mother Nature, what you need is a little ingenuity, a little bit of helium, and a balloon. At least that is what winemakers in St-Emilion, a region east of Bordeaux, are betting on.
After hailstorms destroyed large portions of their crop earlier in 2020, the wineries of the region decided to create a system to prevent a hailstorm from ever doing so again. The solution? A semi-automatic system of helium-filled balloons, which are released by wineries when the region is threatened by a storm front. The balloons float on up into the clouds and neutralize the hail.
How, you ask? Each balloon is filled with two hundred grams of hygroscopic salts, which are then released when the balloons reach a specific altitude. These salts, which easily absorb water, break up the hail and turn a potentially destructive storm into one bringing, from what I understand, perfectly seasoned rain. Isn’t science cool?
Next up on St. Emilion’s scientific agenda, death robots for unfavorable critics and self-planting vines with wifi and espresso capabilities.
Ideas For A Socially Distanced Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is typically one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants. Love-drunk honeymooners, tentative first-daters, and stalwart old couples alike descend upon the industry, relying on restaurants to provide a little Valentine’s magic.
Obviously, things will be different this year. You might have to get takeout. You might have to cook for a significant other. My god! The horror!
At ease readers, I have a few suggestions to calm your quarantine addled minds:
- Netflix and vaccinate.
- Discovering the magic of Omegle.
- Sitcom-esque cooking disasters that endear you to your significant other.
- Lonely whimpering into the void.
- Tinder speed dating.
- A dozen roses and a case of hand sanitizer.
- Edible masks.
- Nursing a scotch all night like a tender lover.
- Poems about what the sun used to feel like.
- Love letters to Pfizer and Moderna.
- Chocolate effigies of Trump.
- Chocolate effigies of Biden.
- Calling your mother.
- Learning to love yourself.
- Probably just takeout.
I’m as lost as you all are.
A Caribbean Office
Maybe you just really want to get away from it all. Forget Valentine’s Day, forget the pandemic, forget everything. The Caribbean island of Montserrat, a British territory, is hoping for just that.
Montserrat is currently offering a “Remote Work Stamp” for adventurous, office-free workers desperate to get away. Essentially, it’s a year-long work visa, designed to get people back onto Montserrat, which has been devoid of tourists since the start of the pandemic. The tiny Caribbean island is dependent on tourism for its economy, and bringing in foreign workers is seen as a good stopgap measure, especially given their excellent Covid-19 record.
Here’s a promo video they shot for the program.
Just look at that promo video. That could be you riding your new ATV to work. That could be you watching your local neighbor show off his cabbages and papayas. That could be you having your two young daughters (perhaps provided by the tourism board?) clinging to you like a couple of Koala bears. That could be you desperately trying not to laugh as the same tourism board begs you to do another take for their next promo video.
I mean come on. Who are they kidding? Their “well-kempt” roads section features a guy on an ATV consulting with a local worker about a detour, while other workers clear trees from the roadway. Their “charming locals” was just one old guy meekly waving at a couple of indifferent school children (I’m sure the people of Montserrat are very nice).
Still, the island itself hasn’t had a reported case of Covid-19 since July and only 13 in total. So think about it this way: you either are going to be the biggest statistical change in the island’s Covid records in six months, or you are going to procrastinate the hell out of your “remote” work while sipping on coconut mai tais and waiting for the wi-fi to kick in.
Montserrat here I come!
Digging To The Bottom Of Our Foods
The month of February is noted, among other things, for being Black History Month. Alongside praising Black leaders and historical movements, I want to take some time to praise the impact of Black food culture on American history as well.
Believe it or not, the majority of Americans start their day off with a little piece of Black food culture. No, it’s not Attiéké or Fit-fit…. you guessed it…. it’s coffee!
According to legends, coffee was discovered by an Ethiopian farmer who noticed his goats were getting a little more than rambunctious after they consumed some raw coffee berries. From those humble origins, coffee has gone on to become one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world. American coffee giants like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and others have gone even further, creating a multi-billion dollar industry, employing thousands upon thousands of people, and generally lowering everybody’s standards. And to think it all started from one curious Ethiopian farmer.
Wow, I never would have guessed, I hear you say as you sip on your triple shot, non-fat, two-pump, vanilla latte.
How about some history a little more directly related to America. Take Creole cuisine, a fusion of West African, French, Native American, and Spanish influence that grew out of New Orleans. The cuisine was largely created and cooked by Black slaves. Creole dishes such as jambalaya, okra stew, gumbo, red beans and rice, and crawfish étouffée, are cemented in the American culinary lexicon.
What we think of as Southern Cuisine in general was also largely influenced by Black Americans both before and after the civil war. Dishes like collard greens (and other stewed greens dishes) were pioneered by enslaved Black Americans, who brought the cooking technique with them over the Middle Passage.
Other staples of what we now call Soul Food, such as sweet potato pie, fried okra, black eyed peas, the various long-stewed, odd-end bits of pork, BBQ, hush puppies, cornmeal fried catfish, etc., were produced as a result of the hardship faced by Black Americans during and after slavery. They were foods made out of necessity.
What’s remarkable, then, is that despite the hardship, Black Americans were able to not only preserve their traditional cooking methods but adapt them in a new land and a new culture, one that was harshly oppressive, and before long, able to watch the cuisine flourish. Now you can probably find some deconstructed stewed greens and a pig trotter for thirty something dollars (not including the wine pairing!) at some trendy downtown, it restaurant.
I guess what I’m trying to say, or maybe just point out, is that history isn’t a nebulous object out of our daily reach. History isn’t easily tucked away in photo albums or cabinets. History isn’t something that you need to go to the library to get at. No, history lives with us everyday. History runs alongside our daily lives like an orbiting star, sucked in by our own gravity. It’s in the way we act, the way we speak, the way we treat one another, and yes, even the way we eat. It could be staring right back up at you from your plate and you wouldn’t even know it. How’d my dinner get here? What’s the long story behind my breakfast?
So no, you don’t need to head straight to the closest, black-owned restaurant and order one of everything off the menu (although that might be a tasty proposition). No, you don’t need to finally commit to reading Malcolm X’s autobiography or re-watch most of the Tyler Perry movies. Black history, and by default American history, isn’t something we can choose to turn off or on. All of that would be good if you can and want to but a penny for your thoughts on how your favorite foods got to your plate, how they became some of the most famous dishes in American history, which is Black history, which is all of our history…. well that’s the start of something.
In this country that has always been hell-bent on surging forward, always looking out to the receding horizon of the future, we have to set aside our own time to look back, even if that’s just pausing for a second before you take your next bite. Even if it’s just a momentary pause to give thanks to the insane cacophony of history for bringing you to that next one delicious moment.
By Aldo Moreno