Tomorrow is International Towel Day! For all you geeky folks I need explain no further but to any readers who aren’t officials on their British SciFi—Towel day was started in 2001 to commemorate the passing of author Douglas Adams. Adams wrote perhaps one of the keystones in geek lit—“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”—which has failed for the most part in making a popular film adaptation and so most folks still haven’t heard of it. That’s not to knock the film made a few years back; it just hardly reached the same level of non-geek audiences that say Avengers did last summer.
Hitchhiker’s Guide begins with the demolition of earth for the construction of an interstellar highway—galactic eminent domain. Unfortunately humanity failed to notice the memo (hey it WAS posted) and gets subsequently wiped out. All humans that is except for Arthur Dent who discovers in his local pub that his good friend Ford of many years is in fact, an alien, and is whisked away just moments before earth goes all kablooey. Thus begins their travels hitchhiking across the universe. Along the way they travel with the President of the Galaxy (who has kidnapped himself), a stolen ship operating by Improbability Drive, the last remaining human female in the galaxy (I see where this is going), and a depressed robot named Marvin. You find out a certain species of whiskered four legged animal is smarter than humans and very, very evil? Can you guess which animal this is—hint it’s NOT cats. The second smartest species being Dolphins (humans are third you see) also escape the demolition of earth after thanking humans for all the fish we fed them over the years.
Oh and the earth was actually just a giant supercomputer designed to determine what the ultimate question is after a super computer determined the answer to the ultimate question regarding life, the universe and everything is….42. It’s pure, delightful space nonsense. Yet it manages to also pack some really great punches that are surprisingly on point, make you think and will be quotable even in non-geeky circles.
Tomorrow will also be “Geek Pride Day” which I just always kind of lump into Towel Day. I mean what could be more geek pride-yer than running around singing So Long and Thanks for All The Fish? If you planted a geek flag it would be a towel, with the words “Don’t Panic!” waving proud and high for all passing spaceships to see. Why a towel? Ah I see you haven’t read the book. Well did you know that a towel is the most important thing for a space traveler to carry?
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
Hitchhiker’s Guide is pretty pervasive in our culture even though you might not have noticed it. I know of a chemistry professor for example that made sure that he always had a question whose answer was 42 out of homage to the book. Most of the kids in the class didn’t get it…. It’s somewhat sad to me that so few people still seem to have heard of this book—at least in America—when it’s such an international phenomenon. Originally written in the 70’s, Hitchhiker’s Guide has been made into several radio shows, stage adaptations, lp compilations, films, tv series, comic books…. I’d argue it’s the British culture equivalent to Star Trek except they also have Doctor Who so I’m not sure which one wins out there for most popular, British geeky space epic. I wonder if they have the animosity competing Star Wars and Star Trek fans do….
If you are looking for something to do to celebrate the holiday tomorrow there are numerous events going on globally if you check the official holiday website. Me? What will I be doing? What do I ever do when I have a day or even to commemorate? I cook of course! Since the book is oh so british, and Arthur Dent is always on a quest for that good English Cuppa, and since the dolphin song is so infectious, I offer to you the official dinner of Towel Day: Tea Steamed Mackerel. Mmmmmmm. Tea because duh, British and Mackerel because it’s not only one of the fish that Dolphins in captivity are fed, but because they are one of the more sustainable options at your seafood counter. I love it when all my passions collide on a plate. While a good solid English Breakfast tea is great, I really wanted something that would stand up to the strong salty flavor of mackerel. After sniffing my way through the loose leaf tea section at Whole Foods, I discovered this smoked variety: Lapsang souchong. It is remarkable with the fish. Really, truly remarkable. As it turns out this variety of tea was Winston Churchill’s favorite so I officially consider it British enough. The best part is that this recipe is simple and fast, so you can easily make it with only a few minutes to spare before the demolition of your planet.
Hitchhiker’s Tea Steamed Mackerel
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