Kirchhoff's Ad from 1946. (Source: Paducah Sun)

Kirchhoff’s Ad from 1946. (Source: Paducah Sun)

Today happens to be “National Mulled Wine Day.” It’s also “What If Dogs and Cats Had Opposable Thumbs Day!”

Seriously?!! These small holidays are getting out of control…and awfully specific!!

The month of March has familiar designations and holidays like Women’s History Month, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter. But did you know that it’s also National Celery Month, National Cheerleading Safety Month, and National Umbrella Month?

The first day of March alone has about a dozen observances, including National Fruit Compote Day, National Pig Day, and National Plan a Solo Vacation Day.

Yesterday, March 2 was National Banana Cream Pie Day.

Of course, none of these strange, little “holidays” are remotely official. They’re meant to be fun, and more often than not, were started by some group or business that had a cause or product to promote. Yet, while the number of these little observances seems to be growing, the practice of them is nothing new.

Take a look at the accompanying Kirchhoff ad from 1946. See there…way back in the 1940’s, March was designated as National Bread and Gravy Month.

What? Bread and Gravy? Sounds like a curious thing to celebrate, doesn’t it? Many of us Southerners enjoy the odd biscuit and gravy breakfast now and then, but what’s this bread and gravy thing all about? And why the heck did it need a whole month?

Firstly, in mid-century America, a bread and gravy supper was a more common thing. The years following World War II were all about recovery and conservation; the toils of the war made us a nation that had to make do with what we had. In fact, because of the decades preceding WWII, our nation was already used to this sort of frugal lifestyle with World War I being followed by Prohibition being followed by the Depression.

A meal of bread and gravy was simply an economical (and tasty) way to fill a belly. It was a meal literally made from leftover scraps—day old bread and meat trimmings—and in times of lean, provided necessary starches and scant protein while costing next to nothing.

But a fondness for a thrifty meal is hardly worth creating a national observance over, much less a month long one. Truly, it was a culinary innovation of the 1940’s that really propelled Bread and Gravy into celebrity status…

…ENRICHED FLOUR!

White flour had been in regular use for centuries, yet studies in the early half of the 20th century began to show how void of nutrients white flour was. Thus, during WWII, an international effort was made to enrich white flour with iron, B vitamins, and calcium in order to improve the nutrition and health of a large portion of the worldwide population.

Of course, enriched flour didn’t go away when the war ended, and so, in order to encourage the continued health of penny-pinching Americans, as well as draw attention to the existence and value of enriched flour, the government and the American Bakers Association began to promote the month of March as National Bread and Gravy Month. Now a meal that was once merely economical could also be called nutritious…thanks to enriched flour.

Naturally, bakeries around the country, ones just like Kirchhoffs, endorsed Bread and Gravy Month, too. As one newspaper report stated in 1948, “member bakers throughout the country anticipate a peak peacetime demand for bread during the coming month.”

So there you go…Happy Bread and Gravy Month! And if bread and gravy doesn’t sound all that appetizing to you, please note that today is also National Cold Cuts Day!

And tomorrow is National Poundcake Day!

And the day after that is National Cheese Doodle Day!

For more about sustenance and parsimony, visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. And if you like this article, make sure to “Like” our Facebook page.

–Matt Jaeger