Harold Coffin, American Hero; Or, Every Day Is National Capitulate-To-Inane-Press-Releases Day
Did you know that today is National Whiskey Sour Day? Or that August is National Brownies At Brunch Month?
I don’t get it. It’s easy to imagine who might have lobbied for June to be named National Dairy Month, but it’s less clear who benefits from the designation of August 12 as National Julienne Fries Day. The Consortium for Intricate French Knife Cuts? Or was this a joint venture between the Potato and Mandoline Councils of America?
There is no end to this tripe. I recently learned that every state but Wyoming–a state I now look upon with renewed respect–has at least an official fruit, if not an official muffin and dessert. (Jell-O, if you’re wondering, belongs to Utah.) There are even official state beverages, although the laureates betray a real failure of the imagination: 19 of the 28 participating states–even Kentucky!–picked milk. The only state with the gumption to choose booze was Alabama, which, against the strenuous objections of teetotaling governor Bill Riley, who really picks his battles, named Conecuh Ridge Whiskey its liquid emblem in 2004.
While “state” foods have to be written into state law, “national” food commemoration days are a free-for-all. Make a check out to Chase’s Calendar of Events, send out a few press releases, and, hey presto, a day just like Crabmeat Newburg Day (September 25) or National Baklava Day (November 21) can be yours! As you ponder the dish or ingredient you’d like to commemorate (don’t let me influence you, but monosodium glutamate is probably due for some loving), let’s take a moment to appreciate the visionary who made February our National Snack Food month. If not for this important nutritional campaign, our notoriously abstemious citizenry might long since have wasted away.
I don’t know about you, but if I see one more food-commemoration press release masquerading as web content, I might just need a few of those whiskey sours. So I’m dedicating this post to the late Harold Coffin, a humorist who, for thirteen years, emitted topical one-liners in his Associated Press column, ‘The Needle.’ (“It’s not the heat OR the humidity,” he wrote, at the height of the Vietnam War. “It’s the draft.”) In 1973, fed up with the daily hijacking of the calendar by frivolous interest groups with fatuous agendas, Mr. Coffin named January 16 National Nothing Day, at the same time establishing a National Nothing Foundation to promote his cause. Promote, that is, by example: “Total number of members is unknown. Publishes nothing. Holds no meetings or conventions.”
“The only regret of the negative thinkers in the Nothing Foundation,” a spokesperson for the organization lamented, “is that in order to combat the proliferation of special days they were forced to create an additional special day.”
Despite these noble efforts, January 16 would go on to be co-opted by both the Fig Newton and the Hot & Spicy Food lobbies. The declaration of a National Printing Ink Day was the last straw for Harold, who voluntarily retired his festival in 1980.
I’m bringing it back, Mr. Coffin. Who’s with me?