Celebrate the Senses: Plan To Attend Food and Wine Festivals
Hey, you have to eat, right? So, why not plan at least some of your trips around food and wine festivals? You’ll find festivals around the world – from the smallest ones held in villages to the sprawling Oktoberfests in Munich and many other cities.
This is one of the best ways to get deeply into a culture (too deeply if you’re not careful). Discover local food and drink, participate in age-old traditions and meet new friends, if only for that day.
Harvest Time is the Best Time
You can find food and wine festivals year round, but in the northern half of the world they’re generally around harvest time, from July to December depending on the crop.
Small towns or regions often focus on just one food. A quick search and you’ll find festivals dedicated to gelato, truffles, lemons, wild boar and more (can you tell that I just looked for Italian food festivals?).
Celebrations usually mean events in the main square including communal dinners, live music, theatre and activities for children.
Asparagus Festival aka “Spargelfest”
On a recent trip to Germany, we visited the towns of Minden, Bückeburg and Hamelin (Pied Piper town!), west of Hanover. It was early May, and that meant spargelfest – a celebration of the new asparagus crop. In Germany, white asparagus is considered a luxury and preferred over green. The street markets were overflowing with choices in all grades and price ranges.
Ideally, the asparagus is picked in the morning and on the plate for lunch. Every restaurant had a special menu featuring “asparagus with”… schnitzel, omelet, sausages and so on. Oh, you could order something else, but why? I think the locals ate it every day until it went out of season again.
Not Just Food – How Does a Lavender Festival in Provence Sound?
Surely one of the world’s most romantic harvests is lavender in the south of France. Although it can be used in cooking and prepared foods such as candy, cookies and honey, its most typical use is perfumes, soaps and sachets.
If you’re in the region towards harvest time, you’ll smell the lavender in the air from miles away.
Here’s a listing of Provence lavender festivals, in July and August.
Get Your Hands Dirty. Why Not Work the Harvest?
If you really want to become one of the locals instead of a tourist, there’s no better way than to volunteer on a farm to bring in the harvest.
I know some “city folks” who plan for a few days or a week in France, Italy or Spain helping with the grape or olive harvest, but you can do this around the world with many types of food.
It’s usually volunteer work, a few hours a day, in exchange for room and board. That doesn’t sound so exciting until you realize lunch can be a two-hour affair over a big family table. You’ll also be part of the celebrations, which generally take over the town.
If you’re thinking of volunteering on a farm, then the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) site is for you.