The Take-Out: Are National Food Holidays Killing Food Culture?

Foods deserve to be celebrated in more than an artificial way

The Take-Out

One of the more popular theories explaining the existence of evil is that it proves the existence of God. When Donald Trump huffs and harrumphs to a packed crowd in Topeka, it gives us a point of comparison. We can't see the divinity in chips and queso without being shown the horror of a stale Dorito.

It's fine logic as a concept, maybe even comforting in these dark times. But it hardly lives up to scrutiny when you consider the mindless proliferation of national food holidays, an evil whose continued proliferation proves that God, if he or she ever existed, is now binge-watching Game of Thrones.

You can call me a drama queen, but consider this: There is now a day honoring the vanilla cupcake. The vanilla cupcake. Not any other kind of cupcake or desserts in general but the food equivalent of a Meghan Trainor song. We honor microwave ovens on December 6, assumably because we should all be overjoyed at the miracle of quick rubbery eggs. In February, we celebrate the gumdrop, a reminder that anything can be a treat if half your town is dying from pneumonia.

I get it. Publicists have a job to do. They are not likely to get any of that coveted "content" if they send a pitch without a hook. And these "holidays" give them an excuse to highlight chef specialties like, uh, turkey neck soup (we celebrate that one on March 30). And content providers (hey, thats me!) largely bite, spitting out slideshows and roundups and (if they can't be bothered) Instagram posts. And that's all fine and good when you are celebrating something as general as ice cream that still allows for some variance, but we are getting to a point where nothing, no matter how specific or unworthy, will remain unheralded. Soon we will see perfectly manicured hands reaching out to our feeds, holding a spongy slab of liverwurst.

And that's a problem for food writers – and food culture in general. Even before we gave them a title, influencers have always done just that – influenced. Those who wrote about food were expected to have at least a passable knowledge of food. Even those who found early success on visual social media got there because they were able to build an original POV. Part of a food journalist's job is identifying what is happening now. We can't do that if every restaurant in town is busy making specials to tie into some joyless observation of National Rice Ball Day, instead of creating the things they love.

American food has always been about originality. Sure, sometimes our maverick spirit manifested in aberrations like the KFC Double Down, but more often it gave us sweet potato pie or pok or biscochitos. Those foods deserve to be celebrated in more than an artificial way – by articles that detail the stories behind them, by dishes that are created out of craving instead of commerce, by traditions that can be shared from parent to child. National food holidays are the opposite of that – turning our desires into bucket lists then perfunctory checklists and our memories into mannered stage sets.

Maybe the snake has been here all along, but at least last time he seduced us into enjoying an actual apple. Now he has convinced us to leave all the knowledge that came with it.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More The Take-Out
The Take-Out: Responsibility in Food Writing
The Take-Out: Responsibility in Food Writing
How to talk more respectfully about global cuisine

Brandon Watson, Sept. 30, 2016

The Take-Out
The Take-Out
Restaurant interiors need a new look

Brandon Watson, Dec. 18, 2015

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

National food holidays

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle