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13/08 Thursday 10:15PM

10 food festivals you'll want to know

image . Pauline Chan .

Food festivals vary in every country and culture where food is celebrated, venerated and appreciated.  Some festivals hold events that are sometimes fun and entertaining, while others are bizarre and even a tad dangerous. We go around the world and bring you 10 fascinating, eye-opening festivals :

Galway Oyster Festival in Ireland
A sexy festival that started in 1954 to celebrate the opening of the oyster season in Galway, Ireland. Visitors are seduced by a host of parties, pageants and parades involving the aphrodisiacal oysters. If you rejoice at the sight of oysters, put this festival on your list of must-go-places. There are oyster-eating championships and mouth-watering Irish dishes like smoked salmon, seafood chowder and desserts, and of course, there's Guinness to wash down the lot.

You can show off shucking skills too and join the annual oyster-opening contests. If you can open 30 oysters in less than 120 seconds, then sign up for the Irish Oyster-Opening Championship or the Bollinger World Oyster-Opening Championship for the top international title.

Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink and Rhubarb in Yorkshire
A rhubarb festival? Yes. That is the main star of this festival which takes place every February. The festival celebrates the traditional links with rhubarb-growing in Wakefield, while offering the finest and tastiest regional produce, and showcasing the most talented local chefs and their inspiring creations. Visitors can enjoy cooking demonstrations, street entertainment and also see a 'rhubarb run' relay race, using a stick of rhubarb instead of a baton. 

Wakefield’s famous rhubarb has joined the ranks of Europe’s protected foods. Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb has been elevated to the same status as Champagne and Parma Ham. One can take walks and tours of the rhubarb fields and forcing sheds to learn about the history of rhubarb growing in the 'Rhubarb Triangle' region.

Feast of St. Anthony (Festival se Sardinhas) in Portugal
This is a three-day Portuguese festival honoring the birth of St. Anthony, the patron saint of Lisbon and sardines are the main stars. The fishy attraction is said to symbolise the miracle of St. Anthony, who preached to the fishes in the 13th century. Depressed that his human flock would not listen to his sermons, he wandered to the shore and confided to the fish.  Miraculously, the fish popped their heads above water and listened intently, teaching the townsfolk a lesson in reverence.

Besides feasting on grilled sardines with freshly-baked bread, the celebrations also include some dancing, fireworks, and parades where single girls carry out all kinds of rituals to implore St. Anthony, also known as matchmaker saint, to find them worthy husbands.  The ploys must work because there are also mass weddings held at this time.

Alba White Truffle Fair in Italy
For centuries people have traveled to the pretty town of Alba in search of white truffle, and since 1929 the town has played host to the national White Truffle Fair, where local funghi gastronomes come to swap recipes, buy truffles, watch demonstrations, sample wares and bid on prize specimens.  The white funghi from Alba is arguably the most famous and most desired.

Truffles are grown deep in the ground near the roots of hazel, poplar, beech and oak trees.  These edible funghi have a distinct smell that attracts female pigs, so pigs were traditionally used to find them but now, truffle hunters use dogs instead to sniff them out.

The celebration of this underground delight is held in the first week of October every year. Visitors can try out truffle-infused dishes and once they are full, they can browse the exhibitions on Alba's rich truffle hunting history.



Oktoberfest in Germany
Probably the most famous food and drink festival in the world. It's huge, it's boozy and it attracts over six million visitors every year. People go to Munich in October simply to eat, drink and be merry. It's a totally enjoyable party with music performances, ferris wheel, fun rides and numerous, huge beer tents to choose your drinks from.

Traditional German grub served here includes Hendl (chicken), Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Knödeln (potato or bread dumplings) and Weisswurst (white sausage).  All that heavy intake can later be be burnt off by some vigorous traditional dancing to the music from the loud oompa bands.



Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire
One of the most bizarre of British traditions, cheese rolling, has been practised on Copper's Hill in Gloucestershire for at least 200 years. Cheese Rolling was introduced as an annual food festival originally for the people of Brockworth, England, but it is so entertaining that other countries have adopted the activity too.  The Canadians have their own cheese rolling festival at the base of Mount Whistler.

Back in Gloucestershire. a round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled from the top of Cooper's Hill and competitors race/roll/tumble after it. The first person to pass the finish line at the bottom is the winner. It is a hilarious sight, until someone breaks a leg or an arm.  The event was cancelled last year amid health and safety fears, but the fervour of the local residents could probably bring this tradition back soon.

Baltic Herring Festival in Finland
Discover Scandinavian cooking and Finland's favourite delicacy - marinated herrings. Since 1743, fishermen have gathered in Helsinki's market square to show off their wares during a week-long October festival.  There are cooking demonstrations and competitions to vie for the best Pickled Fish of the Year award and the Baltic Herring Surprise of the Year. There's even a 'freestyle rap show' about herrings. Herring is a small, oily fish and you can find herring served and sold in every imaginable form at the festival. 

The Salon du Chocolat in France
The Salon du Chocolat is more than just an eating festival. It is a yearly trade show for chocolates where the highlight is a Chocolate Trends Fashion Show, where models take to the runway wearing 'chocolate fashion'. This eye-candy event is also for fashionistas who love chocolates but need to stay a size 0.

If you rather eat chocolate than wear it, there are plenty of opportunities to do so.  Visitors can discover the latest in industry trends from a series of chocolate tastings, demonstrations and symposiums as well as witnessing douceurs and chocolatiers creating their chocolate crafts.

La Tomatina in Spain
Every year on the last Wednesday of August, the sleepy Spanish town of Buñol is turned into a passata playground and the adults come out and play with their food.  About 20,000 people take to the streets and have fun pelting each other with soft, juicy tomatoes and squishing them onto anyone and everyone. It is a traditional custom to promote and celebrate togetherness, and also a truly enjoyable way to make ketchup.

Gilroy Garlic Festival in California
Gilroy's three-day summer event attracts around 100,000 visitors each year and they consume two and a half tons of garlic among them. No doubt, there will be no vampires among the visitors but those who do turn up get to see a fragrant Miss Gilroy Garlic beauty pageant, a 'Gourmet Alley' full of garlic-infused treats and a garlic cook-off, which produced last year's  winner - the spicy garlic butter cookie.

It is considered the largest garlic festival in the United States. Cooking demonstrations showcase recipes with extensive use of garlic. Visitors will be treated to a wonderful celebration of the spice and they should carry along some breath mints.

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