Where food & festivals join forces 

From a snail-eating spree in Spain to an all-vegetarian feast across the island of Phuket, this summer sees a range of interesting food festivals around the world. Raul Dias takes you to a few such foodie extravaganzas
Last Updated : 09 June 2024, 00:00 IST
Last Updated : 09 June 2024, 00:00 IST

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There’s just something about summer and festivals that makes the torrid weather a little more bearable. Be they music, art or sport, the summer festival circuit is truly abuzz with a lot to do and see. But throw in the word “food” and the said summer festivals become even more desirable. Here’s a selection of a few such celebrations of culinaria from around the world:

The Little Cheese festival of Caerphilly

While the Brits might not be known for their delicious cuisine, the same cannot be said about the scrumptious varieties of cheese that comes from the island nation. Be it the pungent blue Stilton, strong aged Cheddar or simply the wonderful and nutty Caerphilly. This hard, crumbly white cheese originated in the area around the town of Caerphilly, Wales. And so, it’s fitting that this town plays host to a major cheese festival in late summer each year. Formerly called The Big Cheese Festival as it would take place in the historic Caerphilly Castle, it has been renamed The Little Cheese festival due to repair work taking place at the said castle. To be held this year on August 31 and September 1 in Caerphilly town centre, there promises to be everything from cheese-making and tasting sessions to the fun cheese run where teams sprint across town lugging heavy wheels of cheese. But besides cheese there will also be plenty of free concerts headlined by local bands along with numerous food and drink stalls, and music workshops.

Maine Lobster Festival

To begin things, here’s an interesting bit of lobster trivia that is sure to surprise you. In the 1700s American states like Massachusetts and particularly Maine on the East coast of the country had so much lobster that not only were the crustaceans (considered the ‘poor man’s chicken’) routinely fed to prisoners and slaves during the colonial era, but they were primarily used for fertilising the fields. Apt then that the biggest lobster festival is held every summer in Rockland, Maine. This five-day festival is generally held during the first weekend of August (July 31-August 4 this year) and is one where lobster lovers descend upon the town to enjoy lobster bakes, rolls and good old “boils”, where the crustaceans are boiled with corn cobs, potatoes and a bunch of spices including the favourite Old Bay seasoning.

The Japan Ramen festival

Akin to a Japanese foodie version of the Olympic Games, the Japan Ramen festival aka. Dai Tsukemen Haku is one where the host city keeps changing every year. For 2024, the festival is being held over four weekends that started in mid-May at Yokosuka’s Mikasa Park in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture. Here, 32 famous ramen shops from across Japan have set up outposts. Between them they’re serving myriad ramen style like the cloudy white pork bone broth Hakata tonkotsu, the Hokkaido miso ramen made with fermented soybean paste, and the most popular Yokohama Iekei style ramen made with bone marrow.

Spain’s Snail festival

Every year, in the last weekend of May, or the first weekend of June, things rev up to a ‘snail’s pace’ in the Spanish city of Lleida. For, this Catalan stronghold which is a short, two-hour drive away from Barcelona plays host to the very unique Aplec del Caragol, which in English translates as “snail gathering”. At this, the world’s biggest snail festival — scattered across the city with makeshift stalls dotting parks and other public spaces — thousands of the shelled gastropods are served up in myriad ways. The most basic one being in the a la llauna style where the snails (a special summer variety called caracolíns blanquillas) are first grilled in a pan and once cooked, simply doused in olive oil, salt and pepper. Once scooped out of their shells with toothpicks, they are dipped in a garlicky mayonnaise sauce called allioli and eaten with gusto. Other ways of eating these yummy snails are in a parsley-bacon flavoured stew called gormanta, or stewed in a samfaina. The latter being a typical Catalan tomato-zucchini-and eggplant-based sauce into which crusty bits of bread are dipped in to scoop up the sauce’s thick remnants.

Phuket Vegetarian festival

Segueing more into the Western idea of ‘summer months’, this unique all-vegetarian food festival is held in Thailand’s island hot spot of Phuket and is based on the Chinese lunar calendar’s ninth month. To be held this year from October 2-11, it is known multifariously as Nine Emperor Gods Festival or as Jia Chai in the Thai language. During the festival, one can find streets across the island lined on both sides with hawkers selling purely vegetarian fare. From delicious grilled tofu skewers and crisp papaya salads to curries and delectable khanom or Thai sweets that shun meat and even eggs, it is said to be a 10-day affair when the faithful are meant to abstain from meat, alcohol, sex, and other stimulants. Though not ancient, Jia Chai has been observed since 1825 when a malaria-stricken Chinese opera group touring Phuket was miraculously cured after they followed a strict vegetarian diet and devoutly prayed to the Nine Emperor Gods to set them back in action.

Published 09 June 2024, 00:00 IST

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