Did you celebrate World Pizza Day (Jan.17) or National Popcorn Day (Jan. 19)?
We eat traditional foods on holidays like Christmas, Hannukah, Ramadan, etc., but how about days that are special because of the food associated with them?
There is a fellow in the U.S. who started a website called the National Day calendar (link: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/ ) as a pastime, and it has become a very popular phenomenon. There is something to celebrate on every day of the year. Some are pure marketing schemes, but others have a more illustrious history.
Many of the days listed are in honour of food. I don’t suggest meal planning around this calendar, but it is a fun tool to add some levity into our everyday lives, if not our diet.
Some food days have a more serious origin. Have you ever heard of Robbie Burns Day (Jan. 25)? It is birthday of this Scottish poet, best known worldwide for Auld Lang Syne and is usually marked with a Burns supper. If you are a fan of haggis, with “tatties and neeps” and a wee dram, this would be your kind of thing.
For those uninitiated souls who are reading, a Burns supper translates as follows: a sort of sausage made from sheep offal and oatmeal, served with mashed potatoes and turnips. All of this is washed down with a shot of scotch whiskey. It may sound odd, and I suppose I’m biased being Scottish on my mom’s side, but I thought it was great comfort food.
Perhaps one of the most famous days for indulging in food is Mardi Gras (which is French for “Fat Tuesday”). You may have also heard it called Pancake Tuesday. With either name, the symbolism is to remind us to have one last indulgent hurrah by eating all those rich foods before Lent begins the next day, Ash Wednesday.
Sometimes, the indulgence with food at holidays is more about the symbolism. Did you know popular foods eaten during the Lunar New Year celebrations in China are sometimes chosen because their names sound impressive? Here are some interesting examples of dishes known as “lucky” foods:
• Steamed buns, or “f? g?o”, are lucky because both characters share other meanings. “F? cái” means to get rich, and “g?o” can also mean to rise. Therefore, eating steamed buns is said to remind people of wealth and rising up in the world.
• Fish is also lucky. The character for fish is “yú” , which is also how you pronounce the character that means surplus. So eating fish means you will have a plentiful year.
• Citrus fruits are another food eaten often during the celebrations. For example, an orange is “chéng zi”. The character “chéng” means achievement and success.
• Cabbage is another lucky food, even though it doesn’t make a perfect match with a similar sounding phrase, which means “many riches”. But it’s close enough that people will eat cabbage if they want more money.
• Bean curd, like cabbage, is not being a perfect match. But if you want good fortune then perhaps it’s OK to just be in the ballpark, right?
In Chinese, and in other languages and cultures, there are often traditions that help anchor a good feeling or encourage us to look on the brighter side. The theme I love here is that the words have meaning, whether for the foods they represent or the ideas. Taking part in the experience is what makes the meaning special.
In Ireland, they have a proverb: “Laughter is brightest where the food is best.” Julia Child said, “People who love to eat are always the best people.” And Caesar Chavez said, "If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him...the people who give you their food, give you their heart."
Maybe it’s not even so much about what we eat, as who we eat it with. Sharing the experience of good food is one of the basic joys in life.
Anything that encourages us to do more of that seems like a good idea to me.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.