The Moron's Daily Briefing

Apr. 30 - Tommorow is May 1. Like almost every other day of the year, that's a holiday in Denmark. I won't be taking the day off from my Moronic obligations--far from it, I intend to attend Copenhagen's May Day Extravaganza and document the Communist hoopla upon these electric pages--but, since April 30 hasn't got much going for it and the first of May is a historical bonanza, I thought I'd help my readers prepare for the month ahead with a special May preview briefing today, followed by a more ordinary briefing tomorrow.

I almost said "quotidian." Excuse me.

Tomorrow is May. Spring is in full bloom. Tender blossoms exude their sweet fragrance as winter's bitter frosts recede. The warming air and diaphanous mists incite the passions and thoughts turn naturally to the ardor of spring--to love, rebirth, renewal, and salad.

You may not have known it, but in the United States May is National Salad Month. By an astonishing coincidence, the second full week of May is National Herb Week. It's a time to celebrate the verdure of the earth with verdure on a plate. Or in a bowl--salad is just that versatile!

Salad has a long and noble history. The word itself comes from the Latin "herba salta," which sounds like "urban assault" but actually means "salted herbs." They called their salads salted herbs because that's what they were: bits of leafy herbs dressed with salty oils.

The Romans weren't the first people to enjoy salad. Though it's hard to imagine, people were eating herbs and vegetables long before the invention of salad forks. Many of our evolutionary forebears ate leaves and veggies right off the plants, vines, and trees on which they grew. In fact, scientists believe our ancient grazing tendencies may explain the popularity of salad bars and our willingness to overlook the inadequacy of most sneeze guards.

The salad was not perfected, however, until the development of Bac-O Bits®, a genetically altered bacon substitute whose artificial bacon flavor and resistance to radiation have made it a staple of American salads, to say nothing of its cult popularity as driveway gravel.

According to the Association for Dressings and Sauces, the altruistic sponsors of National Salad Month, salad dressings and sauces have a history as rich and varied as salad itself. The Chinese have been using soy sauce for over five thousand years, the Babylonians used oil and vinegar, and Worcestershire was popular in Caesar's day. (Ironically, however, the Caesar salad was not invented by Julius Caesar. It wasn't even invented by Sid Caesar. It was invented by Caesar Cardini, a Mexican restauranteur, in 1924.)

The Egyptians favored oil and vinegar mixed with Oriental spices. Mayonnaise was invented by the Duke de Richelieu in 1756 after defeating the British at Port Mahon on Majorca (hence "Mahonnaise," later corrected to mayonnaise). The Duke was best known not for his military victories, however, but his all-nude dinner parties. I'm not going to speculate as to how a bunch of naked people got the idea of covering their salads in a creamy sauce.

(Around this time each year, well meaning but extremely annoying busybodies feel compelled to warn us about the dangers of mayonnaise exposed to the open air; happily, the good people at the Association of Dressings and Sauces have provided a streaming (RealMedia) online mayonnaise safety video.) In 1896, Joe Marzetti of Columbus, Ohio, opened a restaurant and served his customers a variety of dressings developed from old country recipes. His restaurant might have done better if he had served them actual meals, but his dressings became so popular that he started to bottle and sell them.

It was the birth of a market niche.

Half a century later, in 1950, Americans bought 6.3 million gallons of salad dressing. In 1997, they bought more than 60 million gallons. (This information is indisputable, because it appears on the Association of Dressings and Sauces's website.)

Since the United States had a population of about 260 million in 1997, it looks like the average American buys about 4.3 gallons of salad dressing each year. That's enough to drip a tablespoon per mile from New York to Chicago. I myself don't buy salad dressing, which means that some poor bastard has to buy 8.6 gallons each year to make up the difference. But it all comes out in the wash: I'm probably drinking his whiskey.

It's informative to note, however, that the Association of Dressings and Sauces measures salad dressing sold, not consumed. We've all seen salad dressing in the final stages of decomposition, the once creamy sauce crusting around the edges and congealing in the bottom of the bottle. Added up nationwide, that's got to be a few million gallons a year.

So it's not like we're pigs or anything.

National Salad Month comes but once a year, but celebrated correctly once should be enough.

Carnivorous readers disinclined to celebrate National Salad Month can choose from any of the following celebrations, all of which last the entire month of May: Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month, Arthritis Month, Better Hearing and Speech Month, Better Sleep Month, Breathe Easy Month, Correct Posture Month, Digestive Diseases Awareness Month, Hepatitis Awareness Month, High Blood Pressure Month, Huntington's Disease Awareness Month, Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, Mental Health Month, National Barbeque Month, National Bike Month, National Egg Month, National High Blood Pressure Education Month, National Photo Month, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, Neurofibromatosis Month, Older Americans Month, Osteoporosis Prevention Month, Sight-Saving Month, Stroke Awareness Month, Tuberous Sclerosis Awareness Month, and Trauma Awareness Month.

Those who like their celebrations a little shorter can choose from the following, all of which take place on the first full week of May: Be Kind to Animals Week, Goodwill Industries Week, National Family Week, National Pet Week, National Postcard Week, PTA Teacher Appreciation, and Small Business Week.

The second full week of May is not only National Herb Week (in the middle of National Salad Month--it's like a sign from God), but also Nurses Week, Hospital Week, National Tourism Week, and National Historic Preservation Week.

Furthermore, May 3 is International Tuba Day, May 12 is Limerick Day, May 13 is Astronomy Day, and May 16 is Biographers' Day.

Think how many birds you could kill with one stone by taking a picture of yourself riding a bike cross country under the stars while playing the tuba and juggling barbecued eggs, accompanied by a few nurses, teachers, biographers, pets, and tourists--especially if you're a stuttering old traumatized lunatic with indigestion and good posture.

So if you can't find something to celebrate next month, you're just not trying. As always, the Moron's Almanac reminds its readers to celebrate responsibly.

Willie Nelson turns 70 today. He shares his birthday with Kirsten Dunst (1982), Isiah Thomas (1961), Jill Clayburgh (1944), Burt Young (1940), Cloris Leachman (1926), and Eve Arden (1908).

It's the Queen's Birthday in the Netherlands, Walpurgis Night in Sweden, and Saigon Liberation Day in Vietnam.

© 2002, The Moron's Almanac™

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