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November 6 is National Nachos Day

Today is National Nachos Day and should not be confused with International Day of the Nacho (October 21) or with the International Nacho Festival (October 13-15). To be honest, we’re a bit confused ourselves. To get to the bottom of this delicious mystery, let’s dig in (sorry).

Although we’re not sure why it’s celebrated on November 6th, the origin of National Nachos Day is this: In 1943,  Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya inadvertently invented nachos at a restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico. (To pinpoint the exact date it happened would strain credulity, wouldn’t it?)

A group of officers’ wives whose husbands were stationed in Fort Duncan Airbase in Texas crossed the border to have dinner at the famed Victory Club. The women were more than fashionably late: the restaurant had closed and the cook had gone home. The ladies were hungry.

Anaya’s son related the legend in an interview on the History Channel.

“My father was maître d’ and he said ‘Let me go quick and fix something for you.’ He went into the kitchen, picked up tostadas, grated some cheese on them – Wisconsin cheese, the round one – and put them under the Salamander [a broiling unit that quickly browns the top of foods]. He pulled them out after a couple minutes, all melted, and put on a slice of jalapeno.”

Whether Mamie Finan, one of the wives, or Anaya himself christened the dish Nacho’s Especiales is a matter of debate among snack historians. This much is certain: the dish was a hit. Somewhere along the way, the name was shortened to nachos. Anaya’s original recipe appeared in St. Anne’s Cookbook in 1954.

national nachos day

Ignacio Anaya went on to work at the Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras, which still uses his original recipe. He later opened his own establishment called, appropriately, Nacho’s Restaurant, also in Piedras Negras.

By 1960, when he sought to claim ownership of the nacho, it had already been around for seventeen years and was in the public domain. To honor Anaya’s creation, Piedras Negras hosts the International Nacho Festival every year.

The snack’s popularity grew in 1976 when businessman Frank Liberto began selling a modified version at sporting events in Arlington Stadium, home of the Texas Rangers. That first year, sales totaled $800,000.

Liberto’s secret? He altered one ingredient, creating a pourable processed cheese product with a long shelf life that didn’t need to be heated. We can’t tell you the formula’s secret proprietary ingredients; just that, by the standard of the Food and Drug Administration, it legally can’t be called cheese. But that’s never stopped anyone from tucking into a bowl of nachos. Better snacking through modern chemistry, right?

In 1978, the treat became available at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, where iconic sports announcer Howard Cosell was covering Monday Night Football with Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. At some point, a plate of nachos was brought up to the booth.

national nachos day nachos

The broadcasters needed to fill some dead air time, so Cosell decided to riff on the snack’s name. “‘They brought us this new snack—what do they call them? knock-o’s or nachos?’” recalls Liberto. “He started using the word ‘nachos’ in the description of plays: ‘Did you see that run? That was a nacho run!’”

Cosell and others used the word for weeks afterward, helping Liberto’s nachos branch out from their Texas birthplace. Ignacio Anaya invented the original nacho. Frank Liberto modernized them, turning them into a concession snack and a profit machine.

Ignacio Anaya died in 1975. A bronze plaque erected in Piedras Negras honors his memory and October 21 was declared the International Day of the NachoWhy was that date chosen? Was it his birthday? The date he died? We don’t know.

So there you have it, folks. Hungry yet?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 3 is National Sandwich Day

Today is National Sandwich Day. On November 3, 1762, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, invented the—you guessed it!—sandwich. But why, where, how and who?National Sandwich Day Earl

Why?

He was hungry. That’s just about the only subject upon which everyone agrees.

Where?

He was either working long hours at his desk or playing poker in a gambling hall.

How?

He ordered a servant to fetch him salted meat between two slices of bread so he could continue working (or gambling) without smearing grease on his papers (or cards).

A version of events that spread the gambling rumor was reported by P.J. Grosley in his travelogue Tour to London:

A minister of state passed four and twenty hours at a public gaming-table, so absorpt in play that, during the whole time, he had no subsistence but a bit of beef, between two slices of toasted bread, which he eat without ever quitting the game. This new dish grew highly in vogue, during my residence in London: it was called by the name of the minister who invented it.

N.A.M. Rodger dismissed this account in his biography The Insatiable Earl:

The alternative explanation is that he invented it to sustain himself at his desk, which seems plausible since we have ample evidence of the long hours he worked from an early start, in an age when dinner was the only substantial meal of the day, and the fashionable hour to dine was four o’clock.

Who?

Thankfully, the 1st Earl changed his mind about taking the title of Earl of Portsmouth and decided to honor the town of Sandwich instead, possibly because the fleet he commanded was tied there in 1660. Ordering a Portsmouth would be tricky to pronounce correctly, depending on which side of the Pond you’re on.

His great-great-great grandson John, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, probably got the idea for his creation on a trip to the Mediterranean, where Turkish and Greek platters of dips, meats and cheese were served with layers of bread. The first known use of the word “sandwich” in its current context is attributed to historian Edward Gibbon, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, who wrote in a journal entry dated November 24, 1762:

That respectable body, of which I have the honour of being a member, affords every evening a sight truly English. Twenty or thirty, perhaps, of the first men in the kingdom, in point of fashion and fortune, supping at little tables covered with a napkin, in the middle of a coffee-room, upon a bit of cold meat, or a sandwich, and drinking a glass of punch.

By 1773, the word “sandwich” had been used in a cookbook for the first time and would forever be associated with Montagu.

Of course, he didn’t invent the sandwich. Rabbi Hillel the Elder is said to have begun, in the 1st Century B.C., the Passover tradition of placing lamb, nuts and herbs between two pieces of unleavened bread in the 1st Century BC. In the Middle Ages, thick slices of stale bread were used as plates for cooked meats and vegetables. The Dutch have a long tradition of serving bread & butter with meat, fish or other fillings and toppings.

But the name stuck so that’s what we call it and it is, for most of us, the only reason we know anything about John Montagu. Though he must have been a big hit with bakers, he was branded as immoral and incompetent by many of his contemporaries. Recently, some historians have suggested that previous accounts have relied too heavily on sources from his political enemies.

Lord Sandwich was also haunted by his troubled personal history. His wife Dorothy became increasingly mentally ill during their marriage. They separated and she went on to live with her elder sister, continuing to deteriorate until she was declared insane and committed.

Montagu took a mistress, singer Martha Ray—reputed to be the inspiration for “My Fair Lady”— and lived with her and their children openly. Divorce was not an option, let alone living in sin. His reputation was irreparably damaged.  It ended in tragedy when she was shot to death by a clergyman who was later rumored to be her lover, although there was no evidence of anything more than a crush on his part.

There’s also the fact that he was First Admiral of the Navy during the American Revolutionary War. That didn’t go so well for the British Empire, as you may recall.

Clearly, there is too much meat in this story to fit between two slices of bread, metaphorically speaking. You can learn much more at  PBS.orgEncyclopaedia BritannicaMontague Millenium, Open Sandwich and Your Dictionary,

Happy National Sandwich Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 28 is National Chocolate Day

Today is National Chocolate Day. There are thirty “national” chocolate-themed holidays celebrated every year in the United States: dark, bittersweet, milk, white, cream-filled, to name a few, with Chocolate Covered Anything Day taking care of whatever else may have been lost in the shuffle.

While it’s unclear if these holidays originated with a candy manufacturer, it can’t be denied that chocolate is big business. According to statistics published by Forbes.com, Americans consume about 9.5 pounds of chocolate per person each year. (Switzerland leads the world, averaging 19.8 pounds!)

In the early 1900s, Milton Hershey and Frank Mars battled each other for the hearts and taste buds of the American public. They could never have imagined the influence the industry would have today. The National Confectioners Association (NCA) has its own Political Action Committee (PAC) called CandyPAC.

According to CandyPAC, it uses donations to support political campaigns based on:
national chocolate day candypac image

  • The candidate’s position on specific business and policy issues that have an impact on our industry.
  • The candidate’s overall support for the confectionery industry.
  • The candidate’s leadership and membership on key committees with jurisdiction over issues affecting the candy industry.
  • The candidate’s character, integrity and leadership abilities.
  • The candidates position on general business issues.

The annual NCA-sponsored Sweets & Snacks Expo takes place in a different city each May and features “more than three and a half acres of candy and snack items in one place!”

But there’s no need to wait that long to celebrate the chocolate business if you have an invitation and a valid passport. October 28th is the first day of Le Salon du Chocolat in Paris, a five-day event at which hundreds of international chocolatiers, pastry chefs and confectioners invite participants to taste their most indulgent creations.

national chocolate day fashion show

Still think all conferences are boring? This one includes the Chocolate Fashion Show. Check out this clip from 2016:

So basically this is an orgy for the sweet tooth that the most decadent Roman emperor would approve. While we’d like to condemn this sensory overload on moral grounds, we’d also like to know how we can snag a ticket for next year.

Happy National Chocolate Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 24 is World Tripe Day

World Trip Day Tripe Clubworld tripe day 2015If dedication and effort are any indication, the holiday known as World Tripe Day is as real as it gets. Since 2012, the Tripe Marketing Board (TMB) has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the hidden virtues of consuming, or at least discussing, the stomachs of ruminant mammals.

The TMB was set up in 1992 to replace the Tripe Council which in turn traced its lineage back to 1926, when the Association for the Legal Disposal of Unwanted Cow Products began a concerted effort to market tripe.

world tripe day marketing-boardVisitors to TMB’s website will find everything tripe from recipes to job opportunities. Chairman Sir Norman Wrassle oversees the site as well as its book publishing and merchandising arms. It’s entirely likely that Sir Wrassle does not exist, but the site is so entertaining, we’re willing to suspend disbelief.

Here are some answers to everyone’s burning questions about tripe:

Does tripe taste as good as it looks?
Yes.

Is tripe kosher?
It depends on the religion of the cow.

Is tripe safe to eat?
That depends. Tripe has to be cleaned meticulously before it is fit for human consumption.

Where is my nearest tripe retailer?
It depends where you live. Visit Tripe Adviser for your local stockist.

Can I buy a CHOOSE TRIPE t-shirt?
Yes. Literally dozens of people already have.

Is the Tripe Marketing Board publishing a 2016 Diary?
Yes – and it’s more than just a diary. It’s chock full of dates and fascinating tripe facts, articles on tripe and lots, lots more.  It’s on Amazon.

Is the Tripe Marketing Board on Twitter?
Of course.  We’re @TripeUK.

When is Tripe Tuesday?
The first Tuesday in December.

Bon appetit!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays