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The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - EATING OUT | SEVEN DAYS -

PANCAKETUESDAYAND NATIONALFOODDAYS This com­ing Tues­day is an­nual Pan­cake Tues­day. Some say the ori­gins of this cel­e­bra­tion has its roots in pa­gan tra­di­tion, adopted by Chris­tian­ity and given the name Shrove Tues­day, from the word shrive which means “ab­solve”.

The ba­sic prin­ci­ples of Pan­cake Tues­day were to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk and sugar be­fore the fast­ing sea­son of Lent, in a sort of dairy-based last hur­rah be­fore a post-Easter binge.

Many other food rituals are steeped in religious sym­bol­ism, such as the Passover seder feast or the suhoor and the if­tar of Ra­madan. But few share the same sec­u­lar ap­pro­pri­a­tion as Pan­cake Tues­day. Well, apart from per­haps the Easter Egg. Though the date of Pan­cake Tues­day is still tied to Easter, fall­ing the day be­fore Ash Wed­nes­day, it’s fair to say that many of us who cel­e­brate Pan­cake Tues­day have jumped on a de­li­cious band­wagon with­out much spir­i­tual aware­ness. I don’t mean that in a judg­men­tal way. I love Pan­cake Tues­day as much as the next non-church goer.

Not far be­hind folks who just like pan­cakes are PR com­pa­nies. Pan­cake Tues­day is up for grabs by egg, milk, flour, sugar and even fry­ing-pan com­pa­nies as a sweet lit­tle mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­nity. “When­ever you’re cel­e­brat­ing a food hol­i­day, you’re cel­e­brat­ing a great mar­keter,” wrote food writer Michael Y Park in a 2014 ar­ti­cle in Bon Ap­pétit mag­a­zine .

Park isn’t re­ally re­fer­ring to Pan­cake Tues­day, but rather to the abun­dance of na­tional food days that have sprung up par­tic­u­larly in the United States in the last cen­tury.

I bet you didn’t know that to­mor­row is “Ice Cream for Break­fast Day”, an event that is cel­e­brated on the first Satur­day of Fe­bru­ary and re­port­edly in­vented in the 1960s by a New York house­wife to cheer up her kids. In the United States, al­most ev­ery sin­gle day of the year is some sort of Na­tional Food Day. Th­ese days are au­tho­rised at var­i­ous dif­fer­ent lev­els of govern­ment, from town may­ors right up to the Pres­i­dent of the United States.

Park’s ar­ti­cle ex­plains the bu­reau­cratic process of hav­ing a day recog­nised as a Na­tional Food Day in the US, and high­lights the mostly non­sen­si­cal na­ture of this prac­tice, and how it can re­sult in mul­ti­ple days cel­e­brat­ing the same food.

Along­side the tra­di­tional Pan­cake Tues­day, Septem­ber 26th is a widely recog­nised though un­of­fi­cial Na­tional Pan­cake Day in the US, and the In­ter­na­tional House of Pan­cakes launched their own Na­tional Pan­cake Day that has been cel­e­brated in March since 2006.

As Park sug­gests, you can scratch the sur­face and the ma­jor­ity of th­ese days are thinly veiled mar­ket­ing ve­hi­cles. In the case of the In­ter­na­tional House of Pan­cakes ini­tia­tive, its dual pur­pose is to raise funds for char­ity.

Oth­ers are more bla­tant, such as In­ter­na­tional Choco­late Day, cel­e­brated by the US Na­tional Con­fec­tion­ers As­so­ci­a­tion on morn­ing and you just need a caf­feine hit, stat, a five-minute ar­ti­sanally brewed coffee is enough to make you lose your mind. But when you have the time, why not in­dulge in the art of a care­fully poured hot drink?

It’s this I’m think­ing of as I take in the dé­cor of Belfast’s Es­tab­lished Coffee, while wait­ing on my coffee. Opened in Belfast’s Cathe­dral Quar­ter of in 2014 by coffee en­thu­si­ast Mark Ash­bridge, its pol­ished con­crete floor re­minds me of the Fum­bally in Dublin 8, while its min­i­mal­ist fur­nish­ings evoke the Kin­folk style of their brethren in beans, Dublin’s 3FE. Es­tab­lished stock coffee beans from 3FE along­side Lon­don roast­ers The Work­shop, with spe­cial guest bags pop­ping up from the likes of Heart Coffee in Port­land, Ore­gon.

In Es­tab­lished, I have a choice of two daily coffee beans or a de­caf made how­ever I like, or the Barista Sur­prise, wherein Septem­ber 13th, which also hap­pens to be Mil­ton S Her­shey’s birth­day. Her­shey was the founder of the Her­shey Choco­late Com­pany in the late 1800s. There’s noth­ing eth­i­cally awry with th­ese days but, you have to ask your­self, is there any point to them be­yond con­sumer aware­ness?

Of course, buried among op­por­tunis­tic na­tional and in­ter­na­tional food days are ad­mirable sto­ries. Na­tional Dough­nut Day, which sounds very silly, was ac­tu­ally set up by the Sal­va­tion Army to re­mem­ber their vol­un­teers who handed out dough­nuts to sol­diers in France dur­ing thre first World War .

Since 1945, the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion of the United Na­tions aims to raise one of the Es­tab­lished crew picks a bean they’re ex­cited about and makes a fil­ter cup of it. Sure, I wait longer for the fil­tered Barista Suprise but think about what is go­ing into this cup of coffee. The barista chooses which bean; they grind and weigh out the beans; and then fil­ter at their Aeropress sta­tion, a process that takes at least two min­utes alone.

Good things come to those who wait. My coffee (£2.90) is served, delectably cloudy, in a lit­tle glass jug. The barista spills the beans on the coffee as he de­liv­ers it to my ta­ble; it is a Rwan­dan Work­shop spe­cialty, and the barista felt its fruity flavour shone through in a fil­ter cup. I had to agree as I sipped it, black and sug­ar­less.

Coffee is king here but there’s no mess­ing around in the kitchen ei­ther. I love how the sweet­ness of the roasted sweet potato in my veg­e­tar­ian sand­wich (£4.80) is bal­anced by aware­ness in­ter­na­tion­ally around the is­sues of poverty and hunger through World Food Day on Oc­to­ber 14th. An­other United Na­tions ini­tia­tive is World Wa­ter Day, which takes place on March 22nd with the aim of high­light­ing the im­prove­ments nec­es­sary for wa­ter san­i­ta­tion and hygiene in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

In Ire­land, the trend for na­tional food days is catch­ing on. In 2011, Keogh’s Fam­ily Farm cel­e­brated the first Na­tional Potato Day. Bord Bia and the Ir­ish Potato Fed­er­a­tion have since taken on the event, with the day pro­moted in the More Than Just A Bit On The Side cam­paign last year on Oc­to­ber 2nd. A re­ported ¤1 mil­lion has been in­vested in the cam­paign, co-funded by the Govern­ment, the EU and Ire­land’s potato in­dus­try, to be rolled out over three years, with an ul­ti­mate goal of sup­port­ing the Ir­ish potato in­dus­try. Find out more on potato.ie.

Also spud-re­lated is the Ir­ish Tra­di­tional Ital­ian Chip­pers As­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual Na­tional Fish & Chips Day in May, an idea im­ported from the UK. In­ci­den­tally, ITICA have my favourite web­site in Ire­land, per­haps the world. Visit them on itica.ie. Just make sure you have your vol­ume turned up.

The UK based Tripe Mar­ket­ing Board (tripemar­ket­ing­board.co.uk), which refers to them­selves on their web­site as “the voice of tripe”, are be­hind the most un­likely of all cam­paigns around food.

They launched the in­au­gu­ral World Tripe Day on Oc­to­ber 24th 2013. I’m pretty sure the whole thing is just a big joke but, at any rate, a World Tripe Day is just never go­ing to catch on, is it?

I’ll take pan­cakes over tripe, any day.

Aoife McEl­wain

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