We Americans love food. We love food so much that we can’t seem to stop eating it. Not to mention the way we glorify and obsesses over it, too. I am not complaining. To be honest, health aside, I don’t see it as much of a problem. What is a problem is that our country lacks imagination when it comes to celebrating our National Food Holidays.
I am not talking about Thanksgiving. Everybody and their mother knows about Thanksgiving. I am talking about National Cabbage Day (February 17). I am talking about National Peanut Day (September 13). I am talking about National Cotton Candy Ice Cream Burrito Day (patent pending).
These are the unsung and unnoticed food holidays of America, and they deserve our attention. America already ranks low on the list of public holidays per year. I mean, if Cambodia can have 28 holidays in a single year, why can’t we just have a couple more? And why not base them around our favorite things to eat? It’s a win-win situation.
So, let’s take a look at the best possible National Food Holidays for each month of the year to see which ones have the best potential for upgrading to a National Public Holiday.
National Bagel Day – January 15
There is no better breakfast food than the bagel. This is fact. This is not up for debate. Not only are bagels good on their own merit, but they can become vehicles for other excellent food items such as eggs (scrambled or otherwise), meats (sausage, bacon, etc.), smoked fish, vegetables, spreads of many kinds but most notably cream cheese, and the list goes on and on. Bagels themselves can also be made in a variety of flavors, from spinach parmesan, to the tried-and-true everything bagel.
Bagels are part of the historical fabric of America. Invented in Poland, the first historical references to bagels were as a gifts to woman who had recently given birth. Bagels were then brought by Polish Jews to America, mostly to New York City. Since then, bagels have become synonymous with city and its deli culture. There was even a registered trade union for bagel makers at the beginning of the 20th century.
If you have ever had a truly fresh baked bagel, you will know there is little better, and so bagels top the calendar as our first National Public Food Holiday.
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 8/10
National Fettuccine Alfredo Day – February 7
This would have been a lock for pizza, except our “national” pizza day (February 9) is only dubbed “Pizza Day” not “National Pizza Day.” That’s an automatic DQ. You have to play by the rules to win. Sorry pizza.
Looking over pizza’s broad Italian shoulders, is Fettuccine Alfredo, everyone’s favorite childhood dish that they no longer eat as an adult. We are bringing it back. It has everything it needs to be a champion. Simple recipe – check. Filling – check. Authentically American – eh, half check. There’s typically no cream added in the traditional Italian recipe, whereas US recipes often incorporate some cream into the pasta. But the American Alfredo is all the better for it.
Add some sauteed mushrooms or grilled chicken and you have some real good cooking. Still, if I’m being fair, there is a lot of competition from other staple of Italian American dishes. YOU HAD ONE JOB PIZZA! ONE JOB!
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 3/10
National Chips and Dip Day – March 14
Now here is a tried and true dish that probably didn’t pop into your mind on first examination of the question, but undoubtedly deserves to be there. Chips and dip might just be a real darkhorse contender for the top food holiday across all months.
Think of all this day encompasses. Tortilla chips and salsas. Guacamole. FRENCH ONION DIP (that alone deserves it’s own holiday). Bean Dip. Spinach Artichoke Dip. Queso. Potato Chips. Ranch dressing. Pita chips and hummus.
At every party you go to there is some form of chips and dip. Every sporting event has chips and dip. Nachos themselves are just chips and dip with the dip on top. Chips and dip is the silent majority of snack food, and I wasn’t about to let a whole month go by without recognition.
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 7.5/10
National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day – April 2
Now, to be honest, this is a big nostalgia play. This is our President’s Day of National Food Holidays. We honor it even if we can’t name the last time we had a PB&J, just like most people can’t name the first four Presidents.
PB&J deserves recognition because it is foundational. It is in the fabric of our national palette. The person who never had a PB&J as a child has missed something essential in their development. From a culinary standpoint, it’s a great mix of salt and sweet, and if you like your peanut butter crunchy (which really is the only way) it is a great texture experience, too.
Thus, April 2nd provides a nice opportunity: one, to celebrate our forefather of American palette development; and two, to provide every American the chance to have a classic PB&J on some plain old white bread. We could drop them from a re-commissioned B-52 bomber. Brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 7/10
National Apple Pie and International Hummus Day – May 13
Ok, another nostalgia bomb. One that I am not as fond of. Apple pies are good. I have never had one that is transcendent. Apple pies are as American as, well, apple pies. I don’t know exactly what that means in a country that has apple pies for sale from a fast food place that are less expensive than actual apples, but nevertheless, to not include National Apple Pie Day would be to turn our backs on our own values. I will not do it.
But maybe we could slip in International Hummus Day, which also takes place on May 13, to liven up the festivities. Hummus is good, and depending on what you pair with it, it can be close to transcendent. I think the pairing works well. Tahini and apples is like a distant cousin of peanut butter and apples. This way we honor America’s time bound past as well as its beautiful present and future.
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 0/10 so long as warm blood runs through Mitch McConnell’s veins.
National Donut Day – June 7
Representing the other end of the circular bread-based breakfast spectrum, opposite bagels, is the donut. Dream food of children and bane of calorie-counting office workers, the donut can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. Nothing beats a good old fashioned donut or a balanced apple fritter, but if you want bourbon maple syrup injected donut holes with dehydrated bacon on top, be my guest.
There are two versions of the donut: yeasted and cake donuts. Yeasted donuts are your classic glazed Krispy-Kreme esque ones. Pillowy and light, they have the characteristic “ring” around their center. Cake donuts are the kind you imagine Homer Simpson eating. More dense and more filling, cake donuts are one of the only food items with sprinkles an adult can eat without seeming foolish.
Considering the donut industry is worth well over five billion dollars, I think an early June tribute to this economic driver is well worth taking into consideration. Donuts = jobs, for bakers and doctors alike.
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 6/10.
National French Fries Day – July 13
There was a lot of competition for July. National Fried Chicken Day (July 6), National Pecan Pie Day (July 12), National Cheesecake Day (July 30), National Chicken Wing Day (July 29), and National Hot Dog Day (July 17) are all A-list contenders. Even National Caesar Salad day (July 4) is something of a darkhorse. But nothing beats out National French Fries Day. No other food is as ubiquitous as the mighty French Fry.
In fact, fries make up a sizeable portion of the total vegetables consumed by Americans each year. McDonalds French Fries alone account for 7% of the total potatoes grown annually in the US which makes sense when you consider how many things they pair well with. Burger and fries. Hot dogs and fries. Pizza and fries. Wings and fries. Kabobs and fries. Steak and Fries. Salad and fries. Sandwiches and fries. Some people even swear by milkshakes and fries! You get the idea.
Thomas Jefferson himself is accredited with popularizing the dish in America. He brought the dish back with him from his diplomatic work in Europe, away from the squabbling Belgians and French to become an all-American food. I know the Louisiana Purchase and Declaration of Independence were great and all, but his legacy really lies with the fries.
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 9/10 with ketchup on the side.
National Watermelon Day – August 3
UPSET ALERT!!! National Watermelon Day beats out National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (August 4) for the simple reason that Watermelon > Chocolate Chip Cookies—every time.
Originally cultivated in West Africa, watermelons are enjoyed throughout the world, but especially here in America. The US produces 40 million pounds of watermelon a year. That’s just over 8 pounds of watermelon for every person in America. True to name, a watermelon is 92% water. They are also filled with important nutrients like Vitamins A, B6, and C.
But really we all like watermelon because they are sweet, refreshing, low in calories, and they just look darn good. Plus, you can stick a bottle of vodka in one and then take it to the beach, park, office, wherever. Now that’s exactly what we are looking for in a national holiday.
Also worth noting in August is National Bacon Lovers Day (August 20). Not National Bacon Day (that’s on December 30), Bacon Lovers Day. What’s next? National Water Enjoyers Day? Next.
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 4/10.
National Guacamole Day – September 16
This list has featured very little spice, but National Guacamole Day is about to change that. Guacamole reigns as the most popular dip in North America thanks to its creamy texture and tangy flavor. Originating in Mexico, guacamole was just too good to stay in place.
September 16 also happens to be Mexican Independence Day, and in the spirit of promoting cross-cultural unity, we might as well take part in the festivities. But to quell any manifest destiny feelings arising within you, don’t worry, guacamole is properly American at this point. The Apollo 11 astronauts even brought some guacamole up with them into space. That’s one small step for avocados, one giant leap for all of dip-kind.
As a personal note, I hate when guacamole is shortened to guac. The name is actually derived from the Aztec Nahuatl language, guac meaning avocado, and mole meaning sauce or concoction. So to just call it guac is missing half the idea. People who call guacamole guac, especially with the hard “g,” are the people who incessantly call their SO “baby,” re-use dirty Kleenex, and put cream in their carbonara. Don’t be that guy. Not on this day.
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 5/10.
World Bread Day – October 16
It is a historical given that all things tend towards bread. We live in a material world in which the only real driver of history is food-divisions. Meats and sweets take all the attention while working off the broad caloric back of bread.
Seriously though, bread is the best food. Hold a gun to my head and I am always picking a great loaf of sourdough. Sure, bread can encompass a lot of different food items. One could argue it already has had a chance to shine on this list with entries like bagels and donuts, but bread is just too good not to mention in its totality. Am I being biased here? Yes. Do I care? No.
If you insist on something with a more nationalistic flavor, though, take National Submarine-Hoagy-Hero-Grinder Day (October 9), which is at least tangentially related to bread (in the sense that the bread is the proletariat that the bourgeois vegetables and capitalist meats ride upon).
Bakers of the World Unite!
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 2/10 unless the branding is made considerably less Marxist.
National Baklava Day – November 17
Another upset. In a month that contains National Sandwich Day (November 3), National Nacho Day (November 6) and a SECOND National Donut Day (November 5… WTF is going on with that???), all bow before National Baklava Day for the simple reason that baklava is better than all that other stuff. One could make an argument for National Sandwich Day, but then we would be stuck honoring things like Lunchables and limp ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread, as much as corned-beef Rubens or BLTs. Baklava it is. This list needed a curve ball anyways.
If you have never had Baklava, here’s a haiku to demonstrate the food’s vitality:
Flaky layered dough
with buttery toasted nuts
soaked in spiced syrup.
It’s so good it’s poetic.
Baklava is addicting. Baklava makes my heart wince with separation when I don’t have it near. Baklava is good with just about everything, but especially a cup of hot tea or coffee on a cold November night.
Originating in the Middle East around the time of the Ottoman Empire, baklava has had centuries of time to hone it into the buttery, syrupy, nutty flotilla that it is today. Really, it’s everything you want in a dessert or quick snack.
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 3/10.
National Biscuits and Gravy Day – December 14
Rounding out the year is something that will keep you warm during the cold winter months—Biscuits and Gravy. The dish is a great example of the sum total of somethign being greater than its parts.
Biscuits are delicious. So is gravy. Put them together and what do you get? Deliciousness x 2.
A staple in diners and breakfast joints nationwide, biscuits and gravy got its start like so many other great dishes—out of necessity. Following the Revolutionary War, food stocks were in short supply. Southern plantation workers and slaves needed a cheap and filling breakfast to last them throughout the day of hard work. So biscuits and gravy was born.
The biscuits weren’t always the fluffy and flaky kind we know today either. It wasn’t uncommon for biscuits to be made solely of flour and water. So, gravy became a kind of necessary addition to make the tough biscuits palatable. An ounce of sauce covers a mile of trouble, as they say.
Chance at becoming a National Public Holiday: 5/10 but it better be sausage gravy.
Well I hope we have all learned something by now, or at least antagonized our appetites a bit.
I know for myself, in exploring all these wonderful food holidays, I’ve come to realize that there are real people out in the world working to make these holidays a reality. Somebody is out there right now with a clipboard and email list looking to make April 11 National Buttered Toast Day or September 22 National Fried Alligator Tail Day. It’s only through their effort that we can get free pancakes from IHOP on National Pancake Day (February 25), or break out the marshmallows and firewood for National S’mores Day (August 10).
So with that in mind, I am announcing my campaign for making my birthday, October 25, to become National Tres Leches/Negroni/BLT day.
Call your representatives, people. The revolution will be blogged about.
By Aldo Moreno