Food festivals may have started as a celebration of the earth’s bounties — a great harvest or the seasonal blooming of a prized crop — but now it’s all about Bessie the prize pig, Grandma Rankin’s cherry pie and 300-pound pumpkins. While more specialized festivals have sprung up devoted to highbrow wines, cheeses and chocolates, there is a collection of bizarre food festivals around the world that may raise a few brows.
Some oddball festivals exalt a regional favorite only a devoted townie could love, like the Livermush Festival in Shelby, N.C., which celebrates a dish that is probably an acquired taste: all the leftover parts of the pig mixed up with cornmeal among other things and fried. Even the seemingly conventional festivals often have a quirky underbelly. At the Whole Enchilada Fiesta in Las Cruces, N.M., it’s all about making and then eating the world’s largest, you guessed it, enchilada. We’re still trying to figure out exactly how to get a good ratio of tortilla to cheese to sauce to onions in one serving.
When celebrating an excellent bumper crop, like at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, there are bound to be some chefs who will go out on a limb so represent the, um, versatility of the produce, like one finalist in last year’s cook-off, who made a roasted garlic blueberry and pear cobbler with garlic pecan brickle cream. New Zealand’s Wildfoods Festival also celebrates a kind of natural bounty, foraged rather than cultivated, like larvae and grubs, which add a certain pizzazz (and protein) to ho-hum desserts like vanilla ice cream.
At the National Roadkill Cookoff, you’d have to expect some pretty inventive dishes to be served, and the names definitely don’t disappoint: Forever Wild Boar Stew, Pavement Scrunched Croakin Bullfrog Legs, Hot Rod Rooster and Split Splat Cat (actually chicken). Meanwhile in Waikiki, Hawaiian chefs get creative with the state’s favorite meat byproduct — Spam — by whipping up offbeat recipes like Spamakopita and Spam Katsu.
In cases like Pierogi Fest and Festivale de Poutine, it’s less that the dishes are so crazy but rather that those lesser-known foods actually got their own party. Where’s the Pizza Festival? We’d definitely go to that. Whether it’s a regional favorite or some seriously adventurous eating, there is a food festival with questionable delicacies for everyone. Here are some of our favorite quirky stand outs.
This article was originally published December 20, 2010.