02 May, 2008

At least it’s not National Baked Beans Week

So here’s the thing.

I get a press release in my email today from Heinz Wattie’s. The press release starts:

Mark 16 - 22 June for this year's Wattie's National Soup Week and take some time out for yourself to have some great-tasting bowls of soup. Enjoy the benefits of goodness in a bowl and make the most of this winter celebration.

Now, I’ve always wondered, whenever you hear that this week is National Whatever Week, or Month, or Year, who on earth actually makes this decision. And apparently there is no authority. Anyone can declare any time to be a National Week, not matter how self-serving and idiotic the cause is. I mean, is there a general lack of awareness about soup? Do people forget that soup exists? Still, it’s nice that Wattie’s want to do something nice for people.

Soup is all about warming comfort and this year Wattie's want people to do something very special for themselves as we enter mid-winter. To give people a reason to take time out, Wattie's Very Special® microwave soups will be featured in giveaways and sampling across the country.

So, basically, they’re giving away free samples of soup. Pretty much exactly the same as the free samples of shampoo, coffee, lozenges, that are given for purely promotional reasons. Except they’re justifying it by calling it National Soup Week.

Also, soup is “all about warming comfort”? Does anyone know what that even means?

And, in a very special opportunity, members of the Food in a Minute® website will be eligible to enter their own soup creation, one of which will be selected and promoted on-air, online and on thousands of recipe pads in spring 2008. If you haven't already, sign up to Food In A Minute to be notified of when entries open. Visit www.foodinaminute.co.nz to join.

Is that all that they’re doing for National Soup Week? Giving away a few free soup samples and holding a competition for soup recipes? Couldn’t they find a few more things to do to mark this all important week. Say, hold a debate to resolve the eternal question about whether soup is food or drink? Couldn’t they ... well, I have no other ideas, but surely their creative promotional people can think of something.

So I’m reading this press release, thinking how stupid all this is. And Wattie’s were clearly aware that this is all dumb, so they immediately try to make me feel guilty about dismissing all this.

In an effort to make sure even more people get to enjoy the goodness of soup, Wattie's is working with the City Mission to set up soup kitchens at the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch City Missions during National Soup Week.

Now, I don’t have a problem with generosity and giving to the needy, and I certainly don’t want to criticise people for not giving enough (since I definitely don’t give as much as I should). But really, why only give soup to the missions for National Soup Week? Why not at other weeks during the year? I especially love that they described this measure as being about ensuring “even more people get to enjoy the goodness of soup”. It’s not about feeding people so they don’t starve to death, its about reminding the unfortunate how much they enjoy soup, so that they can miss it all the more when it is cruelly taken away from them in the other 51 weeks of the year.

The other thing I found fascinating was when I came across this different press release. Apparently this is the sixth annual Wattie’s National Soup Week. Think about that. There have been six National Soup Weeks. I didn’t think we even needed one, let alone six.

In fact, that second press release is worth reading itself. In addition to the shocking revelations that soup is New Zealand’s favourite winter food (and is most popular with flatters), and that soup is easier to prepare than other popular winter foods like roasts and casseroles, there are some shocking revelations (11 percent of people say that “making soup” is their favourite winter activity!). The press release also has a completely random section of helpful tips about how to laugh in the winter months from clinical psychologist and “registered laugh doctor” Malcolm Robertson. Did you know that a good way to laugh during winter is to “Hang out with people who laugh”? Me neither.

Do you know, I haven’t had soup in quite a while. I miss soup. I might have some soup for dinner tonight.

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