“National Cuban Sandwich Day” does not exist, but thanks to one newspaper reporter media outlets around the world celebrated it on Tuesday anyway.
The Tampa Bay Times’s Christopher Spata came to question the legitimacy of numerous “National [x] Day”s while reporting on the phenomenon last week, and so on a whim decided to fabricate a day dedicated to Tampa’s famous sandwich—which features ham, salami, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickle, mustard, and nothing else on Cuban bread:
I texted a friend who works in public relations to ask, “How do you find the email addresses for a bunch of food writers?” Five minutes later she had emailed me a list of more than 1,200 of them. I signed the email “C. Douglas Spata,” listed my own home address at the bottom, and sent it to all of them. I also sent it to more than 100 restaurants around the world that serve Cuban sandwiches.
I created a National Cuban Sandwich Day Facebook page, invited all my friends and put up a post reminding people to celebrate by using #NationalCubanSandwichDay on social media.
I submitted National Cuban Sandwich Day to several of the largest calendar sites that list food days — the ones journalists have told me they refer to when looking for content ideas. Those calendar sites, by the way, have handy submission forms for anyone who wants to make up a new day.
In addition to television coverage, Spata’s hoax made its way across the globe—he learned it was even celebrated in Korea—but the fun-hating Times editors made him cancel the whole affair:
After a brief period of head-cradling, they told me I had to walk it back, take down the Facebook page and fess up.
I wrote back to every single person who responded with any interest in Cuban Sandwich Day. I told them my name, that I was a reporter, and explained how I’d invented the whole thing. I expected at least some of them to be angry.
None of them were.