Veterans Day ravioli: Is that a real tradition?
Ravioli is the meal of choice for Veterans Day, at least according to an Internet meme. But is it a real tradition?
To all current and former American soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen: Thank you.
If you're not a veteran, consider serving those who have served. For instance, you can volunteer at a site near you that serves meals to homeless veterans. Alternatively, you could interview a veteran by recording his or her story for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.
If you are a veteran, you should do whatever you want. It's your day, after all.
Veterans and non-veterans alike, we all have to eat. Is there a traditional Veterans Day meal?
Wikipedia says there is. Near the end of their Veterans Day entry, we spotted something we've never heard of before:
The holiday is often celebrated by having a ravioli meal. This tradition dates back to the ending days of World War I when President Woodrow Wilson, aware that the returning soldiers would be longing for home cooked meals, invited 2,000 soldiers to the White House and helped his staff chefs cook them ravioli, which had just become a mainstay in mainstream American kitchens due to commercial canning.
For most news organizations, this would be more than enough evidence to start passing the Parmesan. But we like to go the extra mile here at the Monitor, which in this case means making sure that Wikipedia's source checks out.
It doesn't. The link takes you to page 290 of "The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink," which notes that canning during the 1930s introduced Americans to a number of formerly exotic foods, including enchiladas, chili con carne, goulash, and yes, ravioli. But it says nothing about the stuffed pasta being a Veteran's Day tradition.
Just to be sure, we also searched the websites of the VFW and the Veterans Administration. No mentions of ravioli there either.
One great feature about Wikipedia is that it lets you travel back in time to the moment when something was added. Using WikiBlame, a browser-based tool that let's you search Wikipedia to find out who changed an entry and when, you can see that the part about ravioli being a Veterans Day tradition was added by a user named Jerdobias on Veterans Day, 2010.
Back then, the sentence, "The holiday is often celebrated by having a ravioli meal" was followed by a footnote citing a column from 2009 appearing in the Lebanon, Ohio, Western Star newspaper. The columnist notes that ravioli was on her son's school-lunch menu on Nov. 10, but it makes no reference to the pasta being a traditional Veterans Day meal.
So what gives? Is the Jerdobias secretly flacking for Chef Boyardee? (Doubtful, as he says he's a vegan.) Or could it be that he sincerely believed that there existed a Veterans Day ravioli tradition, couldn't find a decent source to back it up, so just linked to the first Google search result for "veterans day ravioli." Or is there something else going on?
Either way, if eating ravioli on Veterans Day wasn't a tradition, it looks like it is starting to become one, thanks to Wikipedia. A handful of small papers, along with many more Twitter users, are now spreading the word, most likely using the Wikipedia entry as their source.
Of course, it could still very well be true that people have been eating ravioli on Nov. 11 every year since Armistice Day. After all, not every fact has made it on to the Internet (yet). It could have been that Jerdobias just happened to be the first person to put this information on the Web.
And even if it's a completely made-up tradition, it's not a particularly bad one. Who doesn't like a nice plate of ravioli every once in awhile?
So in keeping with tradition, in the loosest sense of the term, here is our recipe for canned ravioli.
Step 1: Obtain a can of ravioli, preferably through legal means.
Step 2: Heat the contents of the can to your desired temperature.
Step 3: Eat.
For a much better recipe from far more qualified cooks, check out the Monitor's Stir It Up food blog and its recipe for ravioli caprese.
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