MONEY Budgeting

Wine and Dine Your Wedding Guests for Less

Signature Cocktails
With a fun signature cocktail, you can skip other hard liquor. Charlotte Jenks Lewis Photography

The average bride and groom fork over $66 per guest on food and drinks alone. Learn a few tricks for getting that tab down, way down.

Couples spend nearly $30,000 on average to get married in the U.S., according to TheKnot.com. In this three-part series, we asked in-the-know wedding bloggers to share their best ideas for throwing a great party on a budget. Part one offered tips on picking the place, which is your single biggest expense (typically about half of the budget). Part two below serves up eight ideas for saving money on food and drink. Coming tomorrow: the all-important dress.

1. Entertain Off-Hours

“Skip a sit-down dinner and have a cocktail reception with only hors d’oeuvres, or just have a punch and dessert reception. If your wedding isn’t happening at mealtime, who is going to complain about getting to eat a bunch of delicious desserts or snacks?” — Meg Keene, A Practical Wedding

2. Make Your Bar Sparkle

“Oh man, options are endless! Aside from potluck or self-catering, think picnics with finger foods or brunch with a mimosa bar. The earlier time will save you on liquor and dinner-like meal costs. For a mimosa bar—could even be a Bloody Mary and mimosa bar—buy a case of $5 sparkling wine and a decent vodka and the fixings in bulk at Costco. Set them out in a pretty arrangement, and let guests help themselves. Considering that open bars can run in the thousands of dollars, this is a very affordable option that covers a multitude of bases, and allows for ‘virgin’ options of the drinks, since it’s a build-your-own type of deal. Never be afraid to buy beer and wine at Costco or Sam’s Club.” — Dana LaRue, The Broke-Ass Bride

3. Truck It In

“An idea for more laid-back and less formal affairs is food trucks. They are so fun and are a great alternative to the stale concept of a buffet. Hire several to offer guests a mix of different flavors, and have a few dessert trucks on hand too! I’ve seen a wedding where a food truck that made doughnuts was brought in after the reception. They add a fun and different touch. And because food trucks will save you from a sit down meal, you won’t need to pay for servers. Unless you get several food trucks, this is probably best for weddings with a smaller guest list.” Sarah Darcy, Classic Bride

4. Add Your Signature

“If you decide to have an open bar, you can limit what is available. You can restrict it to beer and wine only, or add house liquors. If top-shelf liquor doesn’t fit your budget, don’t serve it. Your guests won’t mind. If a complete open bar doesn’t fit in your budget, consider beer and wine plus a signature cocktail. Name it after the couple, incorporate local flavors, anything can make it really unique. And, if all else fails, close the bar for an hour during dinner and save yourself a bunch of money.” — Lisa Sokolowski, A Bride On a Budget

5. Feed Fewer Folks

“Simply put, food and beverage is meant to be consumed by your guests, right? So it’s logical that the more guests you have, the more money you’re going to spend. If you need to cut your costs (or just want to get the most bang for your buck), then start by taking a look at your guest list. Make cuts there first so you won’t have to make severe cuts to your food and beverage budget.” — Lauren Grove, Every Last Detail

6. Order In

“Consider choosing a local restaurant to prepare food for your wedding. Sometimes their prices are cheaper than a traditional wedding caterer.” — Jessica Lehry Bishop, The Budget Savvy Bride

7. Skip the Steak

“Many sit-down weddings give options for entree choices, and one of those is almost always steak. Don’t feel pressured to serve a filet mignon over a prime rib. The filet option can add around a $10 per head cost, regardless of if your guests choose it. Make delicious choices for the cocktail hour and your guests won’t even think about the cut of meat at dinner.” — Lisa Sokolowski, A Bride On a Budget

8. Bring Your Own Bottles

There are a variety of ways to DIY the bar. You can totally do it yourself by buying your own alcohol and mixers, and then hiring people, like college students, to serve. You can do a half DIY, where you buy your own alcohol and then the caterers provide the bar set-up and servers. We did this for our wedding, and it was great. All we had to do was buy the alcohol and drop it off at the venue, and we saved so much since venues sell alcohol at a huge markup. They will charge maybe $10 a cocktail, where you can make it for $4.” — Meg Keene, A Practical Wedding

 

TIME health

How Dieting Changes Friendships

Dinner table illustration
Illustrated by Sydney Hass

Diet, whether we like it or not, plays a role in our social lives. Think about the culture of your office lunch — there’s the gluten-free faction, the microwave Easy Mac-ers, and those February Fridays when everyone just goes crazy and orders burgers because it’s snowing again?? Remember that one group dinner when no one could tell if anyone else wanted dessert, so you all just stared each other in silence while the waiter stood, clutching menus, hating you harder by the second? And, how about the dietetic minefield that is brunch?

Food has a way of drawing lines between friends, and it sucks. How many times have you started a diet with a friend in the hopes that you’d support each other and keep each other honest? Sometimes it works, and you spend a few weeks hitting the gym together, reporting every froyo skipped and every cocktail made “skinny.” And then, someone starts to deviate. Here’s a semi-true text I’ve both sent and received on more than one occasion: “My back is really bugging me. I think I need to skip yoga tonight. I’m so, so sorry! Are you mad?!” (Side note: My 30th birthday present to myself and all my friends was to quit it with the “are you mad” stuff.) Sometimes their response is “Thank God, I WANT WINE NOW PLEASE,” and then you just bring your mats to the wine bar and everyone is happy. Other times, you’re not on the same page. That’s when you’re no longer cheating on the diet, you’re cheating on your friend. At least, that’s what it feels like. And, it feels like that because that’s how you set it up.

(MORE: 10 Buzzy Superfoods That Work)

Okay, that’s not entirely fair. (Man, is anything fair with this food stuff?) Even when we’re not doing the buddy-diet thing, the way we eat always seems to be a part of the conversation. It’s a natural social inclination to discuss this kind of stuff, but it’s certainly been perverted by the diet-centric culture in which we live. Our great-great-grandparents might have sat around each other’s kitchens discussing food in different terms — the best recipes, the nutritional content, the economic value — and we might as well, to a degree. Goodness knows I get pretty excited when I find an avocado for less than $3. But, I’m pretty sure my great-great-grandmother never boated ‘cross the fjords to tell her bestie she’d found a sick recipe for low-carb smørrebrød.

(MORE: The Mindful Eating Trick That Saves Me)

People often say that it’s hard to have a social life when you’re on a diet: You can’t go out for cocktails because of the cals, you go home early so you can hit the gym early, you opt out of your own birthday cake. It sucks. The rude awakening I’ve had over the last six months is that giving up dieting is the opposite side of the same sucky coin. Have another cocktail, sure. Have a mudslide, if that’s what you really want! But, be prepared for raised eyebrows — even if you’re only imagining them.

 

Dinner table illustration
Illustrated by Sydney Hass
Illustrated by Sydney Hass

Food-related socializing can be challenging now. Even trickier? I’m finally realizing just how many of my social interactions are food-related. In the old days, I had friends with whom I was “bad” — those friends I’d associate with cheeseburgers and a back-up bottle of wine in the fridge. Then, I had friends that spoke the language of food-fear, and together we made guilt-free soups and counted out portions of baked chips. In all these relationships, we had more in common than food, thankfully. Though, because food was the axis I spun on, it became the center of these interactions, too.

(MORE: The Science of a Perfect Relationship)

But, the more I become an intuitive eater, the less food is my anchor. I don’t “cheat” anymore, and so gone is the thrill of the “cheat night.” I don’t constantly crawl the internet for low-point guacamole recipes, and now guacamole is just the thing we eat while we hang out, not the entire reason for hanging out (spoiler: that’s kind of the goal). Sometimes it’s as simple as not being hungry at the same time as my friend. I know, call Dr. Phil, how will we ever get through a crisis of this magnitude?

When you go against the grain, you will be challenged. Your usual support system might take a while to adjust. The one in your own head is what you really need to focus on. Because there will always be naysayers. There will always be moments when a friend might set you off on a diet-minded tailspin with her no-cheese, no-yolk omelet, accompanied by salad with the dressing firmly on the side. Faced with your perfectly acceptable pancakes in those moments, there’s no other back-up but you. And, you, if you’re me, is the toughest nut to crack.

My friends have been there for me from day one, but some of them didn’t necessarily get it. If I’m honest, I think some of them still don’t. But, what a relief to discover that that’s okay. My friends, my coworkers, my boyfriend and I don’t necessarily need to be on the same track about absolutely everything. Just because I’ve jumped off the bridge doesn’t mean my friends have to, too. This feels like something I should have learned in middle school, but I’m glad I’m getting it now.

This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME Food & Drink

America’s Coolest Rooftop Bars

Frolik Kitchen and Cocktails, Seattle Courtesy of Frolik Kitchen and Cocktails

Soak up the scenery and the creative cocktails at these cool new rooftop bars

When the golden hour hits on summer evenings, a ritual unfolds in cities across America: cubicle dwellers rush for the exits; lines form waiting for elevators to open; and social media is flooded with images of backlit skyscrapers and bright cocktails. It’s rooftop time.

Frolik Kitchen and Cocktails
Seattle
Summers on the Puget Sound are downright idyllic, and downtown Seattle’s new—and only—rooftop bar breaks with the city’s rough-hewn mold. On the fifth floor of the artsy, just-opened Motif hotel, Frolik’s splashes of bright color (purple stools, yellow-accented couches) and modern flourishes (LED-lit bar) evoke Hollywood glitz more than Pacific Northwest chill. The patio is more playful, outfitted with orange Ping-Pong tables and shuffleboard courts. And if it does get damp and chilly, huddle up next to one of the glass-walled fireplaces and order another Dark and Stormy.

The Skylark
Manhattan
A slew of chic rooftop openings—including the Refinery Hotel in 2013 and the Archer Hotel’s Spyglass—has revived a once-dormant section of town with some after-hours buzz. And newcomer The Skylark is the crown jewel. Nightlife veteran David Rabin (Lambs Club, Jimmy at the James) is behind the concept, which pairs an upscale summer cookout menu (mac and cheese cupcakes, root beer Old-Fashioneds) with 270-degree views encompassing the Hudson River, Empire State Building, and Times Square. Raining? Head downstairs to the Mad Men–mod lounge outfitted with Midcentury Modern furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows.

MORE: America’s Coolest Breweries

High at Hotel Erwin
Venice Beach, CA
Did the moniker of Venice’s only rooftop bar come from High’s enviable post above the legendary boardwalk or the ever-present wafts of California’s famous cash crop? Ponder it over a double IPA from San Diego’s Stone Brewing Co. or a jalapeño strawberry margarita alongside the beachy-bro Angelinos who spend languid afternoons watching sailboats ply the Pacific.

IO Urban Roofscape
Chicago
Acidic-level testing, measuring ingredients by weight, infusing drinks with exotic hybrid fruits and habanero salt air foam—chef Riley Huddleston’s affinity for experimentation is on display at the Windy City’s most eye-catching new addition, the retractable-roofed IO Urban Roofscape, in River North. After an education in molecular mixology at Grant Achatz’s Aviary, Huddleston conceived “cocktails from the kitchen,” a philosophy that turns to obscure methods and mixers (mangorange, mandarinquat) for inspiration. Its location in the new cubist, ultramodern Godfrey Hotel is a fitting match. The solarium-esque space is embellished with video installations, a waterfall wall, and soaring stingray-shaped canopies.

Juvia
Miami
The coterie of chefs at Juvia may hail from royal culinary houses—Boulud, Morimoto, Ducasse—but it’s the sleek aesthetic that earned this quintessential SoBe spot a James Beard Award. On the penthouse level of a Herzog & de Meuron–designed parking garage, Venezuelan architect Alejandro Barrios-Carrero channeled Miami’s Latin spirit: Brazilian wood floors, a violet amethyst-topped bar, and a spectacular 22-foot vertical garden. At night, the South Beach It List comes out for house-music DJs and overflowing bottles of Veuve Clicquot. Bring your black card.

FOR THE FULL LIST, CLICK HERE

MORE: 25 Ideas for Your Best Summer Ever

MORE: America’s Best Towns for July 4th

Nate Storey, Travel + Leisure

TIME health

Why Organic Is the Right Choice for Parents

STasker—Getty Images

Just in case you're undecided, we will make the case on why your kids should be eating organic

A poll out last week from the Organic Trade Association found a sharp decrease in parents who say price is a key factor limiting their organic purchases. “Parents in charge of the household budget recognize the benefits of organic,” said the trade group’s Laura Batcha. “And they’re willing to pay a little more to know that they are giving their families the highest-quality and most healthy products being offered in their local store.”

We can already hear the organic food naysayers: Highest quality? Healthy products? Hogwash — the organic industry just wants you buying more of its goods.

But the truth is choosing organic-certified foods — when you can and can afford to — is one of the best choices you can make for your children. We should know: as a mom of two girls and an author of books about sustainable food (Anna) and as a pediatrician and father of four (Alan), we have a handle on the research as well as firsthand experience.

We choose organic because we know, for example, that children fed an organic diet have much lower levels of metabolites of high-risk insecticides in their bodies. We also know that choosing organic food reduces the risk of exposure to toxic pesticides in our diet. The 2008–09 President’s Panel on Cancer report stated, “The entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals.” Many of these chemicals are known or suspected to cause cancer or disrupt our hormones, mimicking testosterone or estrogen, its authors continued. “Nearly 1,400 pesticides … registered by the Environmental Protection Agency for agricultural and nonagricultural uses … have been linked to brain/central nervous system, breast, colon, lung, ovarian cancers … as well as Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma” and more.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has also warned about the exposure to pesticides. “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity,” it wrote in 2012, and “chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging.”

While we can’t limit all of our children’s exposures to toxins in the environment, we do have a say in the food they eat. And one of the best ways to limit their exposure to these chemicals is to choose an organic diet. Because of the persistence of pesticides in the environment, no food is 100% residue-free, but Chuck Benbrook of the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University has found that organic food has significantly lower pesticide residues than conventional food.

Choosing organic meat and dairy for your kids is also the best way to ensure that they’re not exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals like the synthetic hormones given to nonorganic livestock to speed growth and alter reproductive cycles. And choosing organic meat and dairy means your children are not fed meat that was raised on daily doses of antibiotics to speed growth, leading to dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Your kids will get more of the good stuff too. A recent study comparing organic and nonorganic dairy production, commissioned by the farming cooperative Organic Valley, found a medically significantly higher concentration of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in organic products. “Organic Valley is proving what our farm families have known for a long time,” said George Siemon, a founding co-op member. “Not only is high-quality pasture and forage better for cows, it produces nutritionally superior whole milk.”

Organic food is a healthy choice for all of us but especially for kids. Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to chemicals, in part because their immune systems are still developing and in part because, pound for pound, they’re exposed to more chemical residues than adults. Another reason is that children and babies tend to eat a lot more of certain foods than adults — think bananas or apples.

The developing fetus in the womb is perhaps most vulnerable of all: three studies by scientists at Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Mount Sinai Hospital tracked women exposed to higher amounts of organophosphate pesticides while pregnant and found that once those children reached elementary-school age, they had IQs averaging several points below those of their peers.

We make the choice for organic not just for the health and safety of our own children but also for the health and safety of all children, especially to help protect the children of the people who grow and harvest our food. We know, for instance, that children born to women exposed to pesticides in agricultural fields or communities have lower IQs and other troubling health outcomes.

What about that 2012 Stanford study that purportedly found that organic food is no better for you than conventional food? The metastudy — or study of studies — was reported widely in the media to have found little evidence of health benefits from organic foods. While it found that conventional produce is five times more likely than organic to contain pesticide residues, the authors dismissed this conclusion based only on the total number of pesticide residues in food, not their toxicity. Critics of the study stressed that toxicity — the health risk posed by a particular residue — is what matters. According to Benbrook, an assessment of the same data set based on the known toxicity of residues reveals a 94% reduction in health risk from these pesticides among those who eat organic foods.

This summer, you can join with families across the country in heading out to farmers’ markets or supermarkets and seeking organic food, knowing that when we can and can afford to, organic is one of the best choices we can make for the health of our families.

Lappé is the co-founder of the Small Planet Institute and a nationally best-selling author, most recently of Diet for a Hot Planet. Greene is a leading pediatrician and author of Feeding Baby Green, among other books.

TIME Food

Eat More Gluten: The Diet Fad Must Die

Yum, right? Well, eat up!
Yum, right? Well, eat up! Getty Images

For more than 93% of the world, gluten is perfectly fine. But marketers don't mind a bit if we all think otherwise

If you’ve got a hankering to make some money, now might be a good time to trademark a brand name for gluten-free salt. If they’re all taken, try gluten-free sugar or gluten-free water. And if they’re gone too, well, there’s still gluten-free shoes.

What’s that? None of those things had gluten to begin with? Well neither did Chobani yogurt or Green Giant vegetables or a whole lot of other foods that have nothing at all to do with wheat or rye or barley—where gluten lives—yet shout about that fact all the same in order to catch a ride on the no-gluten train before the latest nonsensical health fad pulls completely out of the station.

Gluten is to this decade what carbohydrates were to the last one and fat was to the ’80s and ’90s: the bête noir, the bad boy, the cause of all that ails you—and the elimination of which can heal you. As has been clear for a long time, and as the Wall Street Journal reports today in a splendid and about-time piece, a whole lot of that is flat-out hooey, a result of trendiness, smart marketing, Internet gossip and too many people who know too little about nutrition saying too many silly things.

Gluten is not entirely without blame in this, and for some people it comes by its nasty rep rightly. Celiac disease—an immune reaction to gluten that damages the small intestine—is a very real thing, affecting between two and three million Americans. Gluten ataxia is a scarier condition that attacks the brain, leading to problems in gait and muscular control. I’ve seen that up close, in a now-8-year-old nephew who exhibited terrifying symptoms at age 2 and today must avoid foods that contain wheat, barley and rye, as well as any pots or utensils that have come in contact with them, at least until he is done growing and his brain is through developing. Another 18 million Americans may have some lesser forms of gluten sensitivity that cause intestinal discomfort but no damage.

So, crunch the numbers and what do we get? Perhaps 1% of Americans definitely need to be gluten-free and another 5.7% ought to be careful. As for the other 93.3% of us. Break out the Parker House rolls.

But that’s not how things are working out. It’s not clear just when talking heads and bloggers caught the gluten fever, but once they started buzzing about how avoiding the stuff can help you lose weight, fight infertility, overcome fatigue, treat diabetes and—again and always—reduce the symptoms of autism, there was no going back. The website Glutenfree.com offers tips on “Preparing Your Gluten-Free Kitchen,” “Going Gluten-Free For the New Year” and, for nutritionists, “Empowering Clients in Their Gluten-Free Lifestyles.” There’s also “The Gluten-Free Guide for Guys,” because…well, who knows why.

But here’s one reason, at least for marketers: gluten-free is big money. As the Journal reports, U.S. sales of products carrying the gluten free label jumped from $11.5 billion to $23 billion in just the past four years. General Mills alone has added 600 such products to its inventory since 2008, when it first marketed its gluten-free line of Chex cereals. But while the manufacturers are getting rich on the craze, consumers might be getting sick. Not only will gluten-free products do you no good if you’re not gluten-sensitive, taking out the offending ingredient requires replacing it with something else for texture or taste. A whole range of products, including spaghetti, pancake mix and potato chips, therefore have less fiber and protein and more sugar and sodium in their gluten-free formulation than in their supposedly less healthy one.

As a representative of the Center for Science in the Public Interest told the Journal: “The gluten-free fad has actually undermined people’s health because now there are gluten-free varieties of all that junk food. Whether your doughnut is gluten-free or not, it’s still a doughnut.”

The anti-gluties will surely tell you they feel better, fitter, more energetic, that their withdrawn child has suddenly blossomed and that their man—following the Guide For Guys—is healthier and happier. But the placebo effect—even the placebo effect by proxy, seeming to see better health in someone else—is a very real thing. Most of the time, however, it has nothing to do with the perceived cause.

Food fads are nothing new, and they do run their course. Eventually, the gluten-free cookbooks will wind up in the same river of pop detritus as the no-carb wines and the fat-free cookies and the crock pots and fondue sets and woks everyone in America seemed to buy at once in 1988 and stopped using sometime around 1989. When that happens, the people with celiac or gluten ataxia or genuine gluten sensitivity will still have to wrestle with their illnesses, while everyone else returns happily to their baguettes—searching for the next big thing to exorcise.

TIME Food & Drink

Kraft Recalls Velveeta Cheese Because It Doesn’t Have Enough Preservatives

Kraft Foods Warns Of Possible Velveeta Shortage
Scott Olson—Getty Images

In several Walmart stores around the country

If you were planning on doing your Velveeta shopping today, just a friendly heads up: Kraft Foods has recalled a batch that was shipped to Walmart stores around the Midwest, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The company said this particular batch of the pseudo cheese didn’t contain enough of the preservative known as sorbic acid, meaning it can spoil prematurely and possibly lead to food borne illness. The product was shipped to three Walmart distribution centers and could have been shipped to as many as 12 states: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The code on the package should read 021000611614, Kraft told the Associated Press. The containers will have a “Best Used By” date of Dec. 17, 2014.

Who knew sorbic acid was so crucial?

 

TIME Food & Drink

Ben & Jerry’s Introduces Two New SNL-Themed Ice Cream Flavors

They're called Gilly's Catastrophic Crunch and Lazy Sunday, and they both look delicious

Ben & Jerry’s was inspired by Saturday Night Live back in 2011 when it introduced a flavor called Schweddy Balls, a nod to a classic SNL bit. Now, the Vermont company is back with two new SNL-themed varieties in honor of the show’s 40th anniversary this year, the Huffington Post reports.

The first is called Lazy Sunday, based, of course, the on the famous skit of the same name starring Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell. It features vanilla cake batter ice cream with chocolate and yellow cupcake pieces and a chocolate frosting swirl.

The second is Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch, paying homage to the character made famous by Kristen Wiig. It’s got chocolate and sweet cream ice creams with caramel clusters, fudge-covered almonds and a marshmallow swirl.

Both are on sale now at scoop shops across the U.S., but sadly, they’re not available by the pint at grocery stores. You can, however, purchase a pint at a scoop shop, so you can still reclusively eat an entire container all by yourself on your couch while watching SNL re-runs, just the way it was intended.

TIME Fast Food

Popeyes Spent a Crazy Amount to Buy Back Its Own Recipe

Popeyes Buys Its Own Recipe
A sign displayed outside a Popeyes outlet in Los Angeles, California. David McNew—Getty Images

A recipe isn't always owned by the restaurant

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. announced on Monday that it purchased many of its core ingredients’ recipes for $43 million. The recipe was previously owned by manufacturer Diversified Foods and Seasonings (DFS).

“This transaction now brings important intellectual property—Popeyes’ core recipes—under brand ownership for the first time in our Company’s history,” CEO Cheryl Bashelder said in a press release.

As a result, Popeyes will no longer pay DFS a $3.1 million annual royalty, part of a contract that gave Popeyes licensing rights to the manufacturer’s recipes. The agreement would have extended until 2029.

The recipe licensing deal dates back to 1991, when Popeyes founder Al Copeland filed for bankruptcy. Copeland, who founded DFS in 1984 to supply ingredients to his fried chicken franchise, lost ownership of Popeyes in the settlement, but retained DFS and rights to several of Popeyes’ recipes. After Copeland died in 2008, DFS was passed to his estate.

Popeyes is named after Popeye Doyle, a character in the 1971 film The French Connection.

TIME relationships

Taylor Swift and Barefoot Contessa Diss Men Who Go on Diets

The effervescent singer and the culinary star discuss boys and food (what else?) in the Barefoot Contessa kitchen

Taylor Swift joined her ‘hero’ Ina Garten in a Food Network Magazine’s special issue that paired up culinary stars with their musician friends. The affection is mutual; Swift owns the complete collection of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, and Garten owns all of the country-pop singer’s albums.

Barefoot Contessa and the Nashville native laughed about dieting over mustard-roasted fish, berry-topped pavlova, and Ina’s favorite drink — Whiskey sours. Their mutual love of food was evident.

“I’ll cook for these boys, and they’ll be like, ‘I’m on a diet’,” the singer says, “I’m like, ‘I can’t hang out with you.'”

 

 

MONEY Food & Drink

Meet the Guy Who Totally Makes Up the Fake Holidays We Celebrate

140317_EM_FAKEHOLIDAYS
Shayla Hunter

OK, we dig National Donut Day, too. But what's up with "holidays" like Oreo Day, Froot Loop Day, and Tater Tot Day? One food blogger can explain all.

If you have ever Googled the name of a holiday—one that’s traditional and familiar, or one of the quirky ones out there like Talk Like a Pirate Day—you’ve probably come across a holiday-themed website with a calendar listing a staggering number of events, annual celebrations, and “holidays” that you never knew existed.

This month, for example, kicked off with National Heimlich Maneuver Day on June 1. June 2 was dedicated to National Bubba Day—to, you know, celebrate all the folks nicknamed or actually named Bubba. National Donut Day always takes place on the first Friday of June, with giveaways on June 6 this year. National Iced Tea Day followed a few days later, with free Teavana beverages at Starbucks on June 10. Looking ahead, June 22 is National Onion Ring Day, and on and on.

Whole months are also dedicated to different organizations, products, and campaigns. May was both National Barbecue Month and National Hamburger Month, which seems like overlap. It was also Date Your Mate Month and International Masturbation Month, which seems like a mixed message. June is, among other things, Aquarium Month, Candy Month, Dairy Month, and Rose Month, and who could forget that most essential of events: Accordion Awareness Month.

June 18 happens to be a busy one for fake holidays: It’s Go Fishing Day, International Panic Day, International Picnic Day, National Splurge Day, and International Sushi Day all rolled up (ha-ha, like sushi, get it?) into one dizzying jumble of a day. The appropriate way to celebrate, I believe, is to splurge on a fancy new fishing pole, go fishing, then have a huge panic attack out on the water out of concern for the state of global relations. Oh, and throw in a picnic at some point, ideally with friends from overseas. And with sushi too.

But how to celebrate these days is probably not the right question. Instead, we might ask: Where do these holidays come from? And why should we give a flying fig? (Fig Newton Day, btw, is January 16.)

Jaded consumers might think that these days and months are just created out of the blue, whenever some random dude is bored or some company or association decides it wants a “holiday” for pumping up sales and marketing products. And guess what? After putting on my ace reporter fedora hat and investigating the origins of many of these days, I can confirm that, yeah, that’s exactly how a lot of these events are created.

National Splurge Day was created on a whim two decades ago by a woman from Chicago billed as “America’s Premier Eventologist,” Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith. What motivated her to whip up what she calls a “holidate”? “I became tremendously bored with the Traditional Holidays (and we know who they are) when I was 38,” Sioux Koopersmith said via e-mail. She explained her thought process this way: “Let’s get rid of the 2-faced Holidays where a Person has to SHOW-UP at a relative’s or put on a happy face; or buy a present or do something only because it is part of the Fabric of Modern Life. So I created my own, which I like much better.”

Similarly, Tom Torriglia, a professional accordionist based in Italy who regularly plays in northern California, explained via e-mail how he created National Accordion Awareness Month back in 1989: “It was established as simply as me deciding it would exist.”

While the National Onion Association is actively promoting the upcoming National Onion Ring Day, the organization curiously had nothing to do with its creation. Instead, an association spokesperson offered some suggestions for celebrating O-Ring Day (swap ideas for recipes and dipping sauces and “maybe have an onion ring tossing contest?”), then steered me to John-Bryan Hopkins, a food writer from Birmingham, Alabama, and founder of the popular website Foodimentary. Hopkins has 845,000 followers on Twitter, and his was named one of the 140 Best Twitter Feeds by TIME last year.

And yes, Hopkins freely and proudly admits that he just made up Onion Ring Day a few years ago. In fact, he’s created hundreds of such “holidays.” In a phone interview, Hopkins explained that when Foodimentary.com went live in 2006, there were already around 175 food-related holidays—many, like National Donut Day, established during the World War era—listed on various calendars. “I filled in the rest,” he said, to ensure there was at least one food holiday for every day of the year.

What’s more, from time to time, he gets rid of some holiday that doesn’t get him excited and replaces it with one that’s more appealing. “They’re just like my little children,” Hopkins said of the holidays he creates. “I might wake up a little groggy one morning and decide that I don’t like what’s being celebrated that day. So I make it a new one.”

For instance, Hopkins wasn’t a fan of Kitchen Klutzes of America Day, which supposedly takes place on June 13. “That was one I hated. How stupid of a day is that?” So, presto, change-o! With a quick update of his online calendar, he redubbed June 13 as the sure-to-please Cupcake Lover’s Day. “I’m not Mr. Health Food Celebration Day,” he said. (Froot Loop Day is another of his babies.) “I like the foods that America really likes.”

When asked to name his favorite self-manufactured holiday, Hopkins offered two focused on beloved mainstream comfort foods: National Oreo Cookie Day, which he subbed into the March 6 slot formerly held by National Frozen Food Day (“You want to celebrate frozen food in early March?”) and National Tater Tot Day, which shares billing with Groundhog Day on February 2.

Interestingly, what Hopkins enjoys most about Tater Tot Day—besides, you know, the pure deliciousness of Tater Tots—is that it was declared bogus a couple of years ago. In 2012, a Dallas Observer reporter called up the folks at Ore-Ida, the brand that produces Tater Tots, to get more info about the day, and the company had never heard of it. Hopkins owned up to his creation in an e-mail to the reporter. “You got me! Yes indeed! I created this holiday in 2009,” he wrote.

What’s there for Hopkins to love about this? Well, despite the debunking, “nobody cared,” said Hopkins. “People still want to celebrate Tater Tots and Tater Tot Day. They Tweet about it, they share recipes, and it’s a trending topic that day. I just think this is the best thing ever.”

Hopkins explained that the creation of a holiday takes a little time to take root. “The first year, it’s just me telling people to take my word,” he said. “By year two, the news people believe it because it was around the previous year. When year three comes, it’s like it was written in the Bible.”

In a way, the establishment of a holiday in this fashion by some random foodie blogger is just as valid as an event carefully concocted for maximum impact by a big company’s marketing department. Perhaps even more valid. At least Hopkins isn’t trying to sell us anything, other than the idea that his Twitter feed is worth following and his faux holidays are worth celebrating.

That’s more than you can say for some online “holiday” calendars out there. At least one site, NationalDayCalendar.com, charges (reportedly upwards of $800) for a package that includes creation of a holiday, a listing on the site, as well as a framed certificate and the development of a press kit. The same site also charges $19.99 for individuals wanting a one-time virtual national day of recognition posted online for an anniversary, birthday, or other event.

Hopkins said that the idea of selling off holidays is “offensive,” and that charging for the creation of days “will eventually degrade its importance and even make food holidays a joke.” He lives in fear that one day, people will grow bored with food holidays, and that his website traffic and Twitter following could both collapse. “I keep thinking people are going to stop being interested, that I’ll Tweet something and no one will care,” he said. “But it doesn’t happen.”

To keep people interested, Hopkins insists, fake holidays must be created the proper way—with integrity. “I take what I do seriously,” he said, “and want to protect it from abuse.”

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