Keep Calm and Kalsarikännit

This past week I learned about kalsarikännit, the Finnish tradition of getting drunk at home in your underwear with no intent to leave the house. Really. It seems that this tradition moved beyond Finland in the past year while over half of the world population was under stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kalsarikännit (how to pronounce kalsarikännit) literally means “drinking at home, alone, in your underwear” and I have also seen it loosely translated and anglicized as “pants drunk.”

The way I learned of the Kalsarikännit drinking “party” at home that never leaves home or gathers other guests is from the eighth collection of poems by Kim Addonizio titled Now We’re Getting Somewhere. I read that the collection is good companion reading to your practice of kalsarikännit.

In the U.S., this kind of behavior would likely be considered a sign of depression. Not so in Finland. Not so by Addonizio.

It is interesting that several other Nordic words came into wider usage the past few years. The Danish hygge referring to a certain kind of coziness and the Swedish lagom meaning “neither too much nor too little” have also had their social media moments the past few years. I doubt that all Finns are pleased with the image of this practice to outsiders of it being lonely people drunk at home on the couch.
Finland always gets high scores in the “happiness ratings” and they are often touted for having an excellent education system. As the not-so-serious book titled  Pantsdrunk: Kalsarikanni: The Finnish Path to Relaxation suggests, this is more about staying calm and relaxing in a stressful world. The “drunk” aspect probably is deceiving too as overdrinking is not a requirement of the practice.

Based on social media posts alone, I suspect that some of my friends have been stripping down to underwear, lining up some snacks next to the bed or couch, grabbing the TV remote or their mobile device and pouring their preferred alcohol.

And hasn’t this been going on in first-world countries for a lot longer than the past few years? I’m sure that Homer Simpson models this practice, even though he could never pronounce the kalsarikännit.

Must you be in underwear? I think pajamas are acceptable. Must you get drunk? No, though feeling the effects does seem to be key. Does it even have to be alcoholic beverages? In the strict sense of the practice, yes, but there are no kalsarikännit police that I have seen, so get that mug of tea or cocoa ready.

Have you been practicing kalsarikännit for years without even knowing it? Drop us a comment.

A Research Three-Pack

I follow way too many other bloggers and there’s no way I can read all the posts or even use a small percentage of articles that interest me as inspiration for my own posts here.

So, here are a few things that piqued my interest this week from just one site – discovermagazine.com.

clock
Image by analogicus from Pixabay

Roman numerals aren’t very useful. It’s a clunky system and by the sixth century A.D. the Hindu-Arabic number system was developed in India and it was better. It uses only 10 numerals – 1-9 and the wonderful 0.

And yet, Europeans still used them until the 13th century. Roman numerals were very limited for math, science, trade, and commerce.

The movie industry began using Roman numerals a long time ago as the way to show the copyright/release date of a film. Why? Since people can’t figure out the numerals quickly a film released the previous year wouldn’t be seen as “old.” Quick – what number is MCMLIII?

Just this month I saw the Super Bowl logo for this year which continues to use Roman numerals. When I first glanced at the logo I thought LIV which is 54. But that center I is actually the winner’s trophy and it is Super Bowl LV or 55.

That clock shown at the top has Roman numerals as other analog clocks sometimes do. It works because we can spatially know that a hand at III is in the position of 3 o’clock.


I also like reading about research and sometimes about things that make you wonder why it is being researched and who is funding that research. I was attracted to one piece titled “What’s Worse: Binge Drinking or Imbibing a Little Bit Every Day?” My first guess? They’re both bad for you.

You can read the results for yourself but I’d advise you to binge all the seasons of Schitt’s Creek instead of vodka. Maybe have a nice cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa while you’re watching.

Sometimes the silly-sounding research isn’t so silly when you dig in. So when I saw that scientists were studying if animals can be “Right- or Left-Pawed” I classified it as the silly stuff. But many creatures do favor one side of the body over another in the same way as humans do.

dog
Southpaw pooch?

It is not about figuring out if your dog or cat is a righty or lefty. What interests scientists is how that preference might give us insights into evolution and brain development.

Scientists thought that handedness was unique to humans, but new research shows many animals do have a preferred hand, limb, or even tentacle, and it likely starts in the brain.

I recently watched the really interesting documentary My Octopus Teacher on Netflix and another one on PBS Nature. Octopuses are really smart with brains in their arms and two in their head.

“As soon as you have two sides of the brain, they start task-dividing,” says Ruth Byrne, a biologist who’s studied handedness in octopuses.

I learned about biological chirality which is an asymmetry that can be expressed either physically (one of your feet is a little bigger than the other) or a behavioral tendency to favor the use of one side over the other.

You know, why more humans are right-handed is still not conclusively known. One theory: The left side of the human brain is the language side and maybe developing the left side of the brain for speech and language might have also led to our right-handed bias among humans.

There are also cultural biases that are pro-righties. like, scissors, doorknobs, zippers, writing in spiral notebooks and three-ring binders. It is even rougher in parts of Africa and the Middle East where there are taboos against touching communal food or shaking hands with the fingers on your left.

Let’s do more research and figure this stuff out!

Applejack and Jersey Lightning

applejack

A Scotsman in New Jersey back in 1780 named William Laird established America’s first distillery. He made an aged apple brandy that was called Applejack. It is still sold (as Laird’s Applejack), and as a born and bred New Jerseyan, I feel it an obligation to always have a bottle on hand.

I grew up in a home where there wasn’t a lot of booze. We had some beer in the summer (the Pabst, Schaefer, Rheingold, Piels and Budweiser of the NJ of that time), the odd whiskey sours for an “occasion,” but there was always brandy and schnapps. Brandy is distilled from many fruits. The fancier stuff  – French Cognac, Armagnac, Peruvian Pisco – comes from grapes, but my parents liked blackberry or peach brandy.  Laird’s sells an apple brandy (100 proof), while the Applejack is 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral spirits.

Schnapps also refers to fruit brandies, herbal liqueurs, infusions, and “flavored liqueurs.”  They are made by adding fruit syrups, spices, or flavorings to neutral grain spirits. We always had some peppermint schnapps on hand for “medicinal” purposes. That was a tradition my mother’s Austrian family brought with them. I still  keep a bottle in the house, just in case. “Schnapps” comes from the German word “schnappen“, which refers to the fact that the spirit or liquor drink is usually consumed in a quick slug from a small shot glass.

I heard about Laird’s Applejack in an undergraduate history class at Rutgers and bought my first bottle soon after.

When the Lairds established America’s first commercial distillery in the tiny community of Scobeyville, NJ, they obtained License #1 for a distillery in the state. Back then, Applejack was also imbibed in an unaged form dubbed Jersey Lightning. Laird released an official unaged Jersey Lightning in 2014.

The family tradition is even older. In 1698 Alexander Laird, a County Fife Scotsman, emigrated from Scotland to America with his sons Thomas and William. William settled in Monmouth County, New Jersey. William probably was making scotch back in the old country, but here he turned his skills to using the abundant apples of the New World.

Robert Laird was a Revolutionary War soldier serving under George Washington, and the Laird family supplied the troops with Applejack. Historical records show that, prior to 1760, George Washington wrote to the Laird family requesting their recipe for producing Applejack. The family gave it to him and entries appear in Washington’s diary regarding his production of “cyder spirits.”

lincoln-saloon-menu

I didn’t know that Abraham Lincoln had a “saloon” in New Salem, Illinois. His menu of 1833 shows Apple Brandy sold at 12 cents a half-pint. A half-pint would get you pretty mellow, so a night’s lodging would cost another 12-1/2 cents, and a meal was a hefty 25 cents.

An article in New Jersey Monthly gave some modern apple brandy drinks (Born to Run, Lincoln Park Swizzle, Ol ’55), but I say they have too many fancy ingredients (Aquavit, Framboise, Falernum, Peychauds) to seem like a real Jersey drink that honors the spirit’s traditions.

I have been known to move a Manhattan across the river by using some Applejack, and my wife likes a Jumping Jack (1.5 oz. Laird’s AppleJack, 1 oz. chilled espresso and .5 oz. cinnamon syrup). But most of the time the Applejack or brandy is either straight up or on the rocks just as it comes from the bottle, or, in winter, used in the hot toddies my Aunt Millie taught me to make. After all, traditions are traditions. And, yes, since I had to take a photo of the bottle, I did have some Applejack while I was typing this.