Food & Drink Muse

REVIEW: York Food Festival

Matthew King takes a walk around York's famous Food Festival and somehow ends up getting political

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Image Credit: Matthew King

The first sensation that hit me was the smell: spices, sausages being fried, donuts being dunked into sugar - they all mixed together into something indescribably brilliant.

This diversity of scents was quickly matched by the physical variety that the festival boasted, with its various colours and traders cheerfully brightening the usually empty street. Parliament Street had been transformed into a cornucopia of different cultures and sensations, all of which left the other cafes and restaurants in the area looking pretty sub-par, which left a pleasant aftertaste to all that were there.

However, me being the boring and spiceterrified eater that I am, I opted for the simple, and very English, pork and cheese wrap from Nan’s Kitchen inside the Entertainment Marquee. The wrap was delicious, tender and well sized, with a generous dose of tangy, smoky BBQ sauce, but it was slightly overpriced at seven pounds - that’s York for you! As a side dish to my wrap, the marquee had a little stage set up, which played live music from local bands while people ate, drank and socialised.

It was particularly savoury that the stage was hosting Mindfest - a mini festival which was set up to raise money for York Mind. York Mind is a charity which aims to provide quality mental health care for people in York. This was the cherry on top of the cake for the whole experience; the fact I could experience great food and drink, while being able to raise money for such an important and close to home issue was brilliant. The festival was also very conscious of vegetarian and vegan patrons, with most stalls offering at least one vegetarian or vegan dish. This showed that the festival is adapting to the changing times, and is catering to a new wave of growing popularity towards an animal-free diet.

The variety of what was on offer was perhaps the pinnacle of the event. It was amazing to see so many different cultures being represented by their delicious food. The best thing about this was the fact that a lot of people who live in York and at our university come from different backgrounds and cultures that are not always represented within normal everyday restaaurants and cafes. Therefore, festivals such as the York Food and Drink Festival gives them an opportunity to travel back to their native homes and enjoy their cultures while living in York.

Simultaneously, the festival allowed us British people to have a taste of other cultures different from our own, which can only be a good thing during this time of growing nationalism. Despite how brilliant the festival was for international and non-British food, it also boasted a fantastic range of some home comforts: gourmet sausage rolls, fish and chips and of course an abundance of Yorkshire Puddings, a lot of which were provided by the York Roast Company’s stalls. I was very tempted to buy one of their Yorky Pud wraps, but decided to give another trader a chance - even though I ended up eating something extremely similar (you can now see why I’m not the Food and Drink editor at Nouse).

It was a beautiful moment for my friend when we arrived at the festival, as she spotted one of the Indian stalls, and realised they sold something called Panipuri - which is basically India’s version of a profiterole, except for the fact that the dough is deep fried instead of baked. For her, the taste of the food brought her back to her childhood memory of making them with her mother.

It is for this reason that food festivals such as our annual one are so important. Food is not simply for survival, it is a tool which we use to store memories and emotions, culture and shared history. The festival was a celebration of this, and on a higher level, a celebration of how different cultures from around our planet can be brought together and shared with everyone.

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