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January 5 is National Whipped Cream Day

national whipped cream dayToday is National Whipped Cream Day. It commemorates the birth on January 5, 1914, of Reddi-Wip founder Aaron “Bunny” Lapin and honors his contributions to the world of dessert.

During the food-rationing years of World War II, Lapin introduced vegetable-oil-based Sta-Whip as a cream substitute. After the war, he used real cream to invent Reddi-Wip.

Around the same time, Henry Ford’s soybean laboratories developed Presto Whip, packing it in pressurized cans designed for military use as anti-malarial insecticide sprays.

In 1955, Lapin secured a patent for a new type of dispensing valve, with fluting to create patterns and a tilting nozzle that clicked closed to preserve propellant gases. Reddi-Wip became a national success.

Lapin sold his interest in Reddi-Wip in 1963 but continued to manufacture and sell the valves until his death on July 14, 1999. According to a 2015 survey, Reddi-Wip is the whipped topping of choice in 20.57% of U.S. households polled, second only to Cool Whip (44.75%).

In November 2017, owner Conagra Foods revealed plans to develop vegan Reddi-Wip in an effort to attract millennial customers interested in “clean” plant-based foods. (So-called “non-dairy” Reddi-Wip contains sodium caseinate, a dairy protein.) The new formula will be made with almond milk and/coconut milk. (Hat tip to the marketer who originally determined that nut milk sounds a lot more appetizing than nut juice or squeezings.)

Celebrate Lapin’s achievement by shaking up a fresh can of Reddi-Wip…or just whip up your own and have a happy National Whipped Cream Day!

 

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays

January 2 is National Buffet Day

Today is National Buffet Day. It’s about time the U.S. recognized its favorite low-impact, dangerous sport: overeating! The essential feature of the various buffet formats is that diners can view the food, immediately select the dishes they wish to consume, and can also usually decide how much food they take. Whether it has a chocolate fountain or a sneeze guard, there’s a buffet for everybody.

National Buffet Day

In 1946, Herb McDonald introduced the $1.00 all-you-can-eat buffet at El Rancho Vegas, the first hotel-casino on what would become the famous Las Vegas Strip. The low price brought people in to be ensnared by the games. It also kept hungry gamblers from leaving the casino at all.

national buffet day

The publicist’s idea was a hit. It became a feature of every casino that followed and continues to be the best “deal” in Las Vegas. With varying levels of excess–Las Vegas steam tables are a modern bacchanal–the buffet caught on across the United States.

It conjures a uniquely American image of obese families trundling along a seemingly endless line, clutching plates, resolute in their determination to wring value from the proprietors by eating as much as they possibly can. Otherwise, they’re not just getting ripped off; they’re facilitating it.

 The History of Buffet Day

The buffet table dates back to the 16th-century Swedish brännvinsbord, or Schnapps table. Despite the name, it also included bread, cheese, fish, sausages, etc.

In the 19th century, the brännvinsbord turned into the smörgåsbord, a table where guests gathered for a pre-dinner drink and light meal; it was not part of the formal dinner to follow. The smörgåsbord was often held in separate rooms for men and women before the dinner was served.

Smörgåsbord became internationally known as “smorgasbord” at the 1939 New York World’s Fair exhibition. The Swedish Pavilion had a restaurant called The Three Crowns that included a revolving smorgasbord. Removing accents was meant to make the word less confusing to visitors.

Sometime in the mid 20th century, buffet, yet another table–this time a French sideboard–nudged out smorgasbord as the most popular term for the meal. Since then the offerings have expanded along with our waistlines.

How to Celebrate National Buffet Day

There’s only one rule to follow when celebrating this holiday: Consume! Whether you celebrate Swedish tradition by drinking a bit of schnapps and finger food or celebrate the American Way by strapping on a feedbag, have a happy National Buffet Day!

Remember to save room for Ice Cream for Breakfast Day on February 4, National Jerky Day on June 12, Eat an Extra Dessert Day on September 4, National Cream-Filled Donut Day on September 14, and International Beer & Pizza Day on October 9. Bon appétit!

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays

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