Today we’re feeling especially bubbly. Pop a cork and offer up a toast: we have successfully completed our yearlong celebration of food holidays in a most fitting manner. December 31 is National Champagne Day!
One year ago, we set out on what seemed like a monumental quest: to celebrate at least one American food holiday every day, for an entire year. The rules were simple: eat or drink the food or beverage of honor anytime within that 24-hour period. We could take a single sip or bite, or devour an entire plate (or pitcher) if we wanted. We were allowed to purchase items from the store, order them from restaurant menus, or create them from scratch. We did all of the above, regardless of circumstances. There were work functions, camping trips, family visits, and vacations out of state – not to mention our wedding. It wasn’t always easy, and at times felt downright tedious, but in the end the sense of accomplishment is enormous. Tara and I are proud to have done this, and have no regrets! We had fun, got to sample a lot of foods we might otherwise never have tried, and learned a lot about the history of the foods we eat, and how many popular dishes came to be named. There really was a Melba, for instance (of toast and peach fame). And an Alfredo (fettuccine). We even had the pleasure of speaking with the latter’s blood relatives, his grandchildren who stumbled upon this blog and gave us some additional insight into their famous grandfather. We were touched and honored; I think that alone made this project worthwhile. The rewards far outweighed the hassle. Yes, sometimes it felt like a chore preparing a labor-intensive dish like Coq au Vin late into the evening after a busy day at work, and the many (too many!) desserts stretched our patience, not to mention our waistlines. Thank goodness for that gym membership, at least!
If you’re thinking of doing a similar challenge, I’ve got some advice for you. The most important thing you can do is plan ahead! Because if you are looking for blueberry popsicles in the grocery store late at night on National Blueberry Popsicle Day, you’re going to be screwed since that flavor does not exist! But if you’re prepared, you’ll have made your own from scratch already. Also, don’t be afraid to take the easy way out. You don’t have to create a fancy dish that revolves around cashews on National Cashew Day, when a few nuts from a can will suffice. At the same time, don’t take too many shortcuts. Pudding cups may be your best friend one day, but try to mix it up and make pudding from scratch (or at least a box) the next time. It’s the best way to fully immerse yourself in the food that you are celebrating. Be careful about cutting corners: maple flavored syrup is NOT maple syrup! Think small when it comes to desserts: instead of baking a whole pie or cake, go for individual slices from the grocery store or corner bakery. This will save you a lot of time, money, and calories. Remember, cupcakes are really just individual cakes! Finally, above all else, prepare for a lot of work…but have fun! Doing this will take up a lot of your time. But when you’re kicking back in a tiki bar on a Tuesday night, sipping a rum punch from a glass with a tiny folding paper umbrella, you can’t help but laugh. It’s probably not even remotely close to how you’d normally spend an evening like that. EMBRACE IT! You’ll look back fondly afterwards. I already am, and this challenge just barely ended.
Here are a few words from Tara, my lovely wife and partner in this challenge. I never could have completed this without her, by the way.
I haven’t contributed as much to this blog as I had hoped to, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience this with Mark. I remember the weeks leading up to January 1st last year and feeling a sense of dread over how much time and effort this was going to take. When you look at a website with three hundred and sixty-five foods you’ll be eating, it’s a little daunting! Huge kudos to Mark for doing the bulk of the planning and writing for this project. I did lots of cooking and baking, but I know there was a lot more time invested in researching and typing up all those posts. It took a few weeks to find our groove, but once we did, it was pretty smooth sailing.
This past year has definitely opened my eyes and my palate to new foods, cooking techniques, and recipes. We’ve consumed foods that we never would’ve tried otherwise…and ended up loving. Mark hates watermelon, but loved Interurban’s Watermelon Salad with habenero, feta, and cilantro. Go figure. We were both surprised that the lima beans didn’t make us gag. And chocolate covered insects weren’t bad either! Some of our new favorites include the Chicken Curry Salad Lettuce Wrap, Coq Au Vin, Pepper Pot, and Welsh Rarebit. I’m especially excited to try even more new recipes next year and really challenge ourselves in terms of local cuisine and healthier eating.
I would also like to thank some of our supporters, without whose encouragement we could not have completed this challenge. Wendy, Jill, and Heidi – our real-life friends who offered lots of input over the course of the year. John from National Food Holiday Tour, who partook of this same challenge himself two years ago and was a source of inspiration from the start. The Muscleheaded Blog, for sharing so many of our posts with his readers. George B., whose continued presence did not go unnoticed. And everybody else who ever stopped by to read, comment, or even critique. You are all greatly appreciated. And of course, a big thank you to my parents: my mom helped us out several times (she made us a Baked Alaska from scratch, for crying out loud, not to mention roast leg of lamb, Mint Juleps, and others) and who got to share in many of the meals. And my MIL Tracy, who has been the most loyal blog follower of mine EVER…even long before I married her daughter! She also helped out, and lent us the use of her oven for our Cheese Souffle Challenge. Thank you all VERY much!
Normally at this point I would talk about the history of champagne, but I’m going to keep it simple. Champagne is a sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. The wine undergoes a process known as secondary fermentation to create carbonation. Purists argue that champagne must adhere to these strict standards in order to be classified as true champagne, while others use the term more loosely, referring to any sparkling wine as champagne.
This whole thing began with a raised glass and a toast: January 1, early in the morning, we began the challenge with Bloody Marys, clinking our glasses together and wishing each other luck, barely able to comprehend what we were getting ourselves into. Appropriately enough, things ended in a similar manner: with another raised glass and a toast – this time, to a job well done. In that regard, it feels like we came full circle.
We are in Ely, Nevada for New Year’s, and celebrating tonight at the Fireman’s Ball. But we didn’t wait for the clock to strike midnight to sip our champagne and risk elimination on a technicality! We actually brought along a bottle of French champagne, Nicolas Feuillatte, that was recommended to us by David, Tara’s stepfather-of-sorts. He’s a sommelier and knows his way around fermented grapes! And at $27 it was reasonably priced, and still tasted delicious. We toasted earlier in the day.
So, that’s it!!!
But, that’s not “it” for Eat My Words. As previously mentioned, we’re continuing the blog in 2014. Instead of celebrating daily American food holidays, we’ll be focusing on a whole new series of food-related challenges. We’ll take a fun, whimsical look at some popular dishes that don’t have food holidays devoted to them yet, giving you the scoop on their history. We’ll post food-related essays, pictures, cartoons, etc. We’ll even celebrate the occasional food holiday we overlooked this year, in favor of another. And most importantly, we’re on a mission: to have an official holiday created for the often lamented and overlooked king of condiments, ketchup. Follow along as we do whatever it takes, short of storming the White House, to get a resolution passed. So, if you’re a subscriber, stick with us. There’s plenty more fun ahead!
Happy New Year!
We did it!!