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120/365: National Raisin Day

You might just shrivel up and die if you don’t get to experience the sweet succulence of today’s food holiday. April 30 is National Raisin Day!

I talked about the history of raisins back when we were eating them dipped in chocolate, so I won’t rehash all of that. It does explain why some of these posts are shrinking in size, however (hey, just like dried grapes!): we’re starting to get into variations of the same things we’ve already eaten. This is where it’s time to get creative. So, here goes:

Man, I got nothin’.

OK, I kid. I did learn that National Raisin Day is one of the older American food holidays that we celebrate. It dates back to 1909, when Fresno resident James Horseburgh Jr., in an effort to save the fledgling San Joaquin Valley raisin industry and raise awareness of the dried fruit, held a giant festival celebrating all things raisin. Local hotels and the railroad industry pitched in, and residents were served raisins with every meal. The festival was a success, and the industry took off in central California. To this day, the San Joaquin Valley is the world’s largest raisin producer.

There are so many different ways to enjoy raisins, we weren’t sure what to do to celebrate today. But one thing was certain: we are getting sick of desserts. (This does not bode well for June, where at least 10 of the first 15 food holidays are dessert-centric). So Tara took some in to work to snack on, and I added a generous handful to a bowl of oatmeal this morning.

Raisins

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108/365: National Animal Crackers Day

It’s a real zoo around here today. We’re busy celebrating National Animal Crackers Day!

Animal crackers were first developed in England in the late 19th century. They were called animal biscuits, or simply “animals.” When they were imported to the United States they became an instant success. People couldn’t get enough of the sweet and crunchy elephants, giraffes, and manatees, so in order to fill the demand Stauffer’s Biscuit Company in Pennsylvania began making their own version right around the turn of the century. In 1902 the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco) introduced “Barnum’s Animals,” animal crackers sold in a colorful train-themed box decorated with pictures of circus animals. They attached a string so the box could be used as a Christmas ornament and hung on the tree. Prior to that, crackers were usually sold in bulk or in large tins. The box, which sold for a nickel, became a huge hit, and is still manufactured today. (Sadly, it does not still sell for a nickel).

Originally, the animals were stamped out of a sheet of dough with a cutter, and had little detail. In 1948 Nabisco began using a rotary die cutter, allowing bakers to add detail to each cracker. Meaning, if they ever come out with a great white shark cracker, you’ll see the gleam of malevolent evil in its eye and the sharp razor points of each individual tooth. Come to think of it, that might be too scary for kids! But the animals do change over the years. Since 1902, there have been 54 different animals featured on the crackers. The newest addition, the koala bear, was added in 2002. Each box contains 22 crackers of a different variety, and part of the fun is the fact that you never know what you’re going to get, much like when you buy a pack of baseball cards or pick a hooker at random from the phone book.

I had a nice variety of animals in my box, including a camel, hippo, giraffe, lion, rhino, buffalo, a monkey eating a banana (great detail, thanks to those die cutters!), and – yes!! A koala bear!!

Best of all, they were every bit as good as I remembered.

Animal Crackers

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The Countdown Begins…

In exactly one month, we will begin an exciting year-long challenge known as Eat My Words. 

The idea has been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years. Facebook was trumpeting National Doughnut Day, and one of my coworkers apparently heard the message; he treated the office to several boxes of the sugary treats. “I wish every day was National Doughnut Day!” I thought between chewy bites of a maple bar. Once I came down from my sugar high, however, I realized that doughnuts would quickly lose their appeal if we celebrated them all year long instead of setting aside one special day to love, cherish, and honor them.

I started to wonder if there were other food days celebrated during the year. A quick Google search confirmed that not only was each day of the year dedicated to a specific food, but there were food weeks and food months, too. It turned out there was a veritable smorgasbord of food holidays worth celebrating. But how to pay homage was the question.

The answer, it turned out, was obvious. Eat that food on its given holiday.

But that seemed like a Herculean task, one that would require a lot of planning and extra expense. Most importantly, you’d have to have support, and I was single at the time. Doing it on my own seemed too overwhelming, so I shelved the idea for a couple of years.

And then I met my girlfriend, who was intrigued by the idea and enjoys food (and adventure) just as much as I do. Suddenly, it was Game On. 2013 is going to be our year!

Will it be easy? Not a chance…but that’s kind of the point. (I’d be lying if I said Julie & Julia wasn’t also an inspiration – not the book and/or movie per se, but the idea of attracting an audience for this endeavor while it’s taking place. I’m a writer, after all. If this is successful, I’ll have a year’s worth of material to turn into a book).

So, here’s hoping we can get it done! We’ve come up with a specific set of rules to guide us along our way.

Season’s eatings, everyone!

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