February 19, 2010
Happy Chocolate Mint Day, everyone. I know, you’re still recovering from Drink Wine Day and Crab-Stuffed Flounder Day yesterday. But don’t forget about National Margarita Day on Monday (or tomorrow, depending on which sources you consult). That is one I definitely plan to observe.
If you’re looking for excuses to indulge, the American food holiday calendar is chock-full of faux-lidays celebrating some specific item of food. What’s a faux-liday? Some people would consider Valentine’s Day and Secretary’s Day (which I believe is now called Administrative Assistant’s Day) bogus celebrations cooked up by greeting card companies and florists. Yet these faux-lidays have caught on with the public and become relatively legitimate. As I gaze at the pretty flowers still sitting on my coffee table from last week, I’m not going to complain.
Well, imagine you are a food producer (or widget maker, or disease prevention association), and you want to draw attention to your particular product or cause. How do you get the press (and, these days, blogs) to write about you? Declare a holiday! It’s not as hard as you might imagine. You don’t need an act of Congress (and who knows how long that would take, anyway). All you need to do is send out a press release. As the consulting firm Gropen Associates asserts on its Web site, “Journalists love news. Give a journalist anything that sounds new, and you’re guaranteed to get coverage.”
Hey, I take offense to that! Then again, they are not entirely out of line—I am sure I have been as guilty as the next food writer of, occasionally, focusing on something in a press release because it sounded novel. Admittedly, food blogging is not the same as reporting about war or the deficit. But we—journalists and readers—should at least be aware of the way marketing influences what appears in the media.
That said, I see no harm in a little food faux-liday fun. If I lived anywhere near an IHOP, I might partake in National Pancake Day on Tuesday. IHOP has taken the holiday marketing ploy to the next level, with the double-whammy of free pancakes and charitable donations. In fact, although IHOP has only been celebrating it since 2006, Pancake Day has some historical credibility. According to The Glutton’s Glossary by John Ayto, Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras—which was actually this week) has been celebrated in England with the eating of pancakes since at least Elizabethan times, as a way to use up the rich ingredients that would be prohibited during Lent.
That doesn’t make it news, but I’ll eat some pancakes anyway.
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