“Food, glorious food!”, so go the words of a song from the musical Oliver, based on the book Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. This much-loved classic is about a young orphan who famously asked “Please Sir, can I have some more?” when given just a bowl of porridge at his orphanage. We may be fortunate to have enough to feast upon and be able to enjoy food from all over the world in the city where we live, but there’s nothing quite like savoring the flavors of a cuisine in its own native place. If one is an actual or armchair traveler with an interest in gormandizing, read on to find out more about food festivals around the world and the “Food, glorious food!” that they offer.
Ivrea Orange Festival
Place: Ivrea, Italy
Date(s): Held every year in February or March for three days on the weekend before Christian Festival of Lent. The next festival will be held from March 2, 2019 (Saturday) to March 5, 2019 (Tuesday).
The Ivrea Orange Festival also called the Battle of the Oranges, is held annually in Ivrea, a north Italian city with a long history. The festival commemorates the bravery of a young woman, Violetta, the Mugnaia or Miller’s daughter, who resisted the advances of a local duke and cut off his head, after which the local people attacked the duke’s palace. Later, when Italy was under French occupation, the festival became a symbolic re-enactment of a local uprising against the French army. Every year a young woman is selected to represent Violetta, and officials such as the General and the Magnifico Podestà (or guarantor of the city’s freedom) and oranges represent the stones thrown by the protesters.
This festival is the largest food fight in Italy, with nine teams, some on foot (representing the townsfolk) and some in carts (representing the French army or local tyrants), throwing oranges at each other. Strangely, oranges are not locally grown in the area and have to be imported into the city for the festival.
During this visually and gastronomically delightful festival, visitors and participants can also enjoy the local cuisine, which includes boiled sausages, pork rind, cod with polenta, and beans. Spectators are required to wear a red hat (Berretto Frigio), which saves them from being hit by oranges. The city’s buildings are draped with nets, so if one is traveling with children, it’s safest to stay behind the nets for protection.
Maslenitsa Festival (Pancake Festival)
Place: Celebrated throughout Russia, with the biggest events held in Moscow, the festival is also observed in Kazakh, Ukrainian, and Bulgarian communities.
Date(s): Held every year in February or March for seven days. The next festival will be held from (Monday) 4th March 2019 to (Sunday) 10th March 2019.
A traditional Russian holiday, the festival is celebrated near the end of winter and the arrival of spring. Different festivities take place during the entire week, which involves the preparation and consumption of pancakes. The golden-brown round-shaped pancakes are said to represent the round yellow sun that has emerged after the cold wintry days. The piping hot, crisp, golden-brown pancakes are relished with butter, jam, fruit preserves, and – for those with expensive tastes – caviar!
Other festivities on Maslenistsa, include bonfires, traditional Russian songs, and dances, fireworks, puppet shows, riding on swings, sledding, etc.
The last day of the festival is called “Forgiveness Sunday” – on which people ask forgiveness from God and each other, for their wrongdoings.
Melbourne Food & Wine Festival
Place: Melbourne, Australia
Date(s): Held every year in March. The next festival will be held from 15th March 2019 to 24th March 2019. (Tentative Dates)
The Melbourne food and wine festival celebrate the culinary traditions of Australia: its fresh farm produces, its meat, and its wine. With more than 200 events spread over a fortnight, the Festival is a food lover’s delight. Events are held across Melbourne and Victoria, to indulge in the highlights of Australian food. The food festival consists of Regional World’s Longest Lunch, a signature event that exhibits the strength and diversity of the state’s wine and food to its audience. It manifests the spirit of the festival’s initiative – Put Victoria on Your Table!
International Mango Festival
Place: New Delhi, India
Date(s): Held every year in July, next festival will be held on 9th July 2018 and 10th July 2018.
As the name suggests, the International Mango festival is a celebration of this “King of fruits”. The delicious mango is seen at the festival in all its glory. Begun in 1987, the festival attracts more visitors with each passing year, who visit to explore the range of delicious and succulent mangoes. Prizes are awarded in various categories to mango growers and producers at the end of the event.
More than 550 varieties of mango are exhibited at the festival. Various mango-based products such as mango juice, mango ice-cream, and mango-based desserts are also on offer for visitors. A mango-eating contest, where contestants try to eat as many mangoes as they can in a limited time, is another highlight of the event.
Chefs from five-star hotels, such as Marriott India, Taj Mahal Palace, and Tower, Maurya Sheraton, Qutub Hotel, and Claridges, etc. also reveal the assorted recipes of mango. It is an international, though an informal platform, for the promotion of mango export as well as tourism.
Maine Lobster Festival
Place: Harbor Park, Rockland, Maine, USA
Date(s): Held every year in July–August. The next festival will be from Wednesday, 1st August 2018 to Sunday, 5th August 2018.
The Maine Lobster Festival is a celebration of the cuisine that developed with the succulent lobsters, found off the coast of Maine. Located a few hours from Boston, Rockland Maine has been hosting this festival for more than 60 years and describes it as “Five Days of Feasting and Fun on the Fabulous Coast of Maine!”
Some of the highlights of the festival are cooking contests, involving lobsters as the main ingredient and serving a variety of dishes, including Lobster Caesar salad, Lobster wraps, and Lobster Rolls. At the lobster dinners, visitors can also enjoy other local seafood delicacies such as crab cakes, shrimp, calamari, haddock, and steamed clams.
The festival has the Grand Parade, the Great International Lobster Crate Race, and the Beauty Pageant which ends with the coronation of the Maine Lobster Festival Sea Goddess, the Crown Princess and Miss Congeniality. More than 1,000 volunteers help the organizers to conduct this annual festival.
San Francisco Street Food Festival
Place: San Francisco, USA
Date(s): Held every year in August.
San Francisco’s street food festival held annually in August reflects the changing tastes and openness to experimentation of the people of this great city. Born out of the entrepreneurial spirit of La Cocina, a venture that provided training and funding to immigrant women to set up their food-based businesses, the festival has grown immensely since its start in 2009. Around 50,000 people visit the festival to enjoy the variety of cuisines on offer by over 80 street food vendors and local producers. There is no entry fees, no sit-down dinner, and no waiter, yet people enjoy the informal ambiance.
Mistura Food Festival
Place: Lima, Peru
Date(s): Held every year in September or October, In 2018, the festival will be held from October 7th to October 10th.
With a small beginning in 2008, Mistura (which means mixture) has grown to be the largest food festival in Peru. The festival offers a range of cuisines, including traditional Peruvian, Andean, Amazonian, Creole, Ceviche (a popular seafood dish), Barbeque, Chifa (Chinese-Peruvian cuisine), and Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian cuisine). Some of the specialties of the festival are food stands, the Grand Market, live music, and performances. Renowned chefs from Peru and other countries also give brilliant speeches. The festival is held in the Costa Verde of Magdalena del Mar in Lima.
Place: Munich, Germany
Date(s): Usually held every year from the last week of September to the first week of October, this year it will be held from 22nd September 2018 to 7th October 2018.
If one is looking for a fortnight and wishes to indulge in beer, bratwurst, and traditional German sausages, then one must head to Munich for the Oktoberfest.
Started in 1810 (to grace the wedding of the then Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen), it is now held for 16 days every year in Theresienwiese, in the city center of Munich. The Oktoberfest celebrates the best of German brewing traditions. The festival begins with a 12-gun salute and tapping of a beer keg. With millions of people attending the festival, million liters of beer is consumed every year. Visitors dress in Bavarian hats and traditional trousers or lederhosen and the waitresses serving the beer wear traditional Bavarian peasant costumes or dirndl.
Apart from numerous varieties of beer on offer, visitors feast on traditional Bavarian cuisine and enjoy the local music.
Baltic Herring Festival
Place: Helsinki, Finland
Date(s): Held every year in October, in 2018, it will be celebrated from October 7th to October 18th.
Originally begun in 1743, the Baltic Herring Festival is a celebration of this delicious fish. Held annually in the Market Square in the center of Helsinki, in Finland, the festival is a forum for the exhibition and promotion of the Herring and various Herring-based products.
If you are a fish lover, do not miss the opportunity to taste different varieties of Herring as well as the chance to purchase fresh, pickled, or salted Herring at very reasonable prices.
Highlights of the festival include competitions for Pickled Fish of the Year and Baltic Herring Surprise of the Year.
Visitors can also purchase hand knitted woolen clothing or go for a cruise on a ship in Helsinki harbor.
Alba White Truffle Festival
Place: Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Date(s): Held every year from early October to mid-November. In 2018, it will be held from October 6th to November 25th.
The Alba White Truffle Festival held annually in the picturesque town of Alba in the province of Piedmont, Italy, is an ‘invitation-only’ event that has been held for more than 83 years.
The Alba Truffle Festival showcases the delicate taste of the ‘tartufo Bianco’ white truffles – a highly prized edible fungus, which grows underground in the region. These truffles are sold in the local market for as much as $2,000 per kilo.
Leading chefs from around the world come to Piedmont to attend the Alba Truffle Festival and savor the delights of the local cuisine. They can also take part in the world’s largest, but private truffle auction that takes place amidst the lively atmosphere of the festival.
Monkey Buffet Festival
Place: Phra Prang Sam Yot Temple, Lopburi Province, Thailand
Date(s): Held every year on the 25th November.
The first Monkey Buffet Festival held in 1989, was the concept of an owner of a hotelier Yongyuth Kitwatananusont, who first feted the monkeys. He recognized that the presence of over 2,000 Macaque monkeys in the province was a major tourist attraction.
He had an image of a large monkey in front of his inn and felt it had proved lucky for him. He started the festival as a way of giving thanks to the monkeys as well as attracting more tourists to see this unique sight of a grand feast provided free for the monkeys!
Every year buffet tables are set up around the Phra Prang Sam Yot Temple in Lopburi Province, which is laden with goodies for the monkeys. The food includes thousands of kilos of fresh vegetables and fruit, often stacked in visually appealing displays or frozen within blocks of ice. The monkeys have a field day, enjoying their treats, oblivious to the tourists and photographers capturing their adorable pictures.
Of course, visitors can enjoy their fill of Thai cuisine too, but it is really a day for the monkeys to have all the fun and food they can consume.
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