Food Holidays

It’s Leap Year, time for the calendar that mankind created to catch up with “real time”; for that we need an extra day once every four years.

Seriously, who makes up this stuff? Only ONE extra day every four years???? Lord knows I could certainly use an extra day a little more often. In the corporate world we called them “mental health days”, sick days that we used not because we were physically ailing, but rather to prevent complete mental breakdown if we didn’t get away from the grind, or tidy up the house, or do the yardwork. Or, if you’re a personal chef, a “mental health day” might entail organizing all those recipes we cut out of magazines. Or spending hours in front of the computer looking up food-related trivia such as February 29 being “National Surf & Turf Day”.

One might think that when a “holiday” is labeled as “National Surf & Turf Day” that it must carry some sort of government approval. For example, the date for Thanksgiving was established by Congress. Of course in true government fashion it was changed from the fourth Thursday in November to the third Thursday, then finally back to the fourth Thursday.

So then did some Congressman from Maine decree that every Leap Day should be “National Surf & Turf Day”?

As near as I can tell, no. For starters, any Congressman who declares a holiday once every four years would not be reelected by a constituency of lobstermen dependent on, shall we say, more consistent sales?

There are well over 365 “national” food holidays, and very few have the government’s seal of approval. Which frankly doesn’t mean very much. Just because Congress passed a public law (102–468) and then-President Bill Clinton made a proclamation making the fourth week of February “American Wine Appreciation Week” does not mean we get an extra week’s vacation from work. I rather imagine the wine growers in California applied some pressure to their elected officials who spent valuable time and effort making a law praising wine, instead of fixing say, the healthcare crisis?

No, the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea of a government-sanctioned food holiday. In fact I suspect most of those 365+ food holidays (some days are bestowed with more than one food holiday, hence over 365) are simply marketing tools, created by ad agencies, marketing cooperatives, growers, and manufacturers. The month of March is “National Frozen Food Month”, sponsored by The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association on behalf of its some 400 member companies. As one of the more commercially visible food holidays, it features a $10,000 sweepstakes. And you don’t even have to create a recipe using frozen foods. Nice.

There are also “traditional” food holidays, which are some of my favorites. “Pancake Tuesday”, “Collop Monday” and a host of others mostly taken from religious calendars and celebrating the Saints’ feast days.

So get thee to the grocery store on February 29, buy a lobster and a filet mignon and celebrate “National Surf & Turf Day”.

Or hire a personal chef to cook it for you.


Chef Glenn Burgess

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