I know something was off the moment the alarm clock went off one February morning. Did I leave the stove on? Were my keys locked in the car? As my spouse walked out the door he pointedly asked me if I wanted to do anything special for dinner. As I muttered, “nothing in particular” I wondered why was he asking that in the middle of the week and what I had forgotten.
As I checked all the appliances and found my keys, a much too awake morning news anchor announced that each year Americans consume on average more than 20 pounds of pizza, per person. That’s when it dawned on me, I was totally unprepared National Pizza Day.
As a passionate home cook, marketer and consumer, I started thinking about how food events became a thing. Many national food holidays were dreamt up by industry associations, agriculture co-ops, and others in the gastronomic supply chain. Super fans as well as government officials also tend to get in the act. Even presidents have proclaimed commemorative culinary holidays. President Reagan proclaimed National Catfish Day, and President Clinton advocated for American Wine Appreciation Week. As it turns out, executive departments also issue their own proclamations. Stephanie Chan, Deputy Press Secretary for the USDA, says the Agriculture Secretary issues about a dozen proclamations every year commemorating foods like peanuts or blueberries. (Bon Appétit April 2012)
Clearly supporting a food or industry is important to the economy. National Seafood Month launched in October more than 70 years ago to promote seafood in the fall to boost lackluster sales. (Seafoodsource.com) In the recent decade conservation groups and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have contributed to the event by promoting healthy fisheries and sustainable U.S. seafood.
I first became aware of food holidays growing up in central Illinois. When the world’s largest bagel producer moved its factory town, owner Murray Lender hosted a free breakfast for all of Mattoon. This was intended to be a onetime event to show good will and introduce the product to a town more familiar with bacon, eggs and coffee. Thirty-years later Bagelfest is a multiday summer festival.
National Pizza Day isn’t the only epicurean event on the February calendar. This isn’t surprising since food holidays give marketers something to talk about. All sorts of media types get in the mix. With social media, the hopes of getting a hashtag to go viral is all part of the plan. Before I made it to the office today, a radio DJ and a premier tequila company had invited me to cast my vote for the best cocktail as #InternationalMargaritaDay kicks off. In media terms that was a frequency of two, not bad for an hour.
By a strange coincidence marketing for that February holiday typically associated with candy hearts saved me from committing the unforgivable crime of missing pizza’s big day. Thanks to a perfectly timed email from Lou Malnati’s I had taken advantage of a pre-Valentine’s Day shipping offer. One round and one heart shape pan of deep-dish Chicago goodness would be on my porch resting in dry ice before I got home. My husband would never suspect I had forgotten a thing.