Never mind “tossing the salad”. Across Europe there are many opportunities to hurl food at each other with well meaning food fights.
Many thanks to Neil for this guest post. As well as contributing to the Pasty Muncher, Neil blogs about food, dining and fine wines covering everything from fruit and veg boxes to wine drinking rituals. When he’s not online Neil enjoys travelling and visiting the many sights of Europe.
What is it about food fights? Obviously the stiff upper lipped British wouldn’t dream of them, but across the chaotic continent and apparently the rest of the globe, food fights are national events. Here’s just a sample of some of our continental cousin’s strange attitudes to excess produce.
Italy – That’s a Funny Serenade
Shakespeare’s tragic tale of star-crossed lovers “Romeo and Juliet” was set in Italy. However, he certainly didn’t model his sweet, shy and retiring heroine on the girls from Piedmont. Back in the twelfth century young girls got into the spirit of marriage at an early age by lobbing oranges at boys that caught their eye. Hurled from balconies these oranges certainly got the boys attention and they – understandably – threw them back. Strangely, the tradition has stuck and today, just as Lent is about to put an end to everyone’s fun, the whole town turns out and hurls these relatively heavy objects at each other. A “Blood Orange” means something completely different in Piedmont. So does love, I suspect.
Spain – Food Fight Puree-ists
The Spanish have a much healthier attitude to their public food fights; the star of the show has to be the festival “La Tomatina.” Tomatoes may not be the original ‘paint gun’ ammo but they ought to be; squishy, messy and designed to be chucked at people, they make the ideal projectile for bombarding your friends, neighbours, family and passing tourists. If you don’t want to join in the fun, steer well clear of the town of Bunol on the last Wednesday in August. If you do want to join in you won’t be disappointed, this is one of the few occasions when everyone loves a tourist.
Vilanova I La Geltru – Sweet Traditions
For the sweet toothed don’t miss the small town of Vilanova I La Geltru, just before Lent begins. Unlike their Italian cousins they throw meringues at each other; quite a lot of meringues. During the annual madness, around 200, 000 pounds of the delicious confection flies through the air. This festival is sponsored by local bakers who donate the meringues in an effort to rid themselves and the citizens of the town from sweet temptation during lent itself. Blissfully, the fight isn’t restricted to meringue and sweets are also thrown. Basically you just need to stand there in a pair of goggles and your mouth open. The festival ends and Lent begins with the burial of a sardine – which is just about the best thing you can do with those things.
Kent – Sporting Regulations
The British have, of course, been historically far more sensible. The games we’ve invented include Rugby, Cricket and Golf (courtesy of Scotland). However, I did mention that we don’t do food fights, didn’t I? OK, time to fess up; we’re just as bad as the rest of the continent.
Custard Pie Throwing Campionships
The annual, and extremely well attended, Custard Pie throwing contest in Coxheath in Kent shows that we’re not just old stick-in-the-muds. The festival was initiated in 1967 in an attempt to raise funds to build a new village hall – presumably the lack-lustre bring and buy sale hadn’t worked. In typical British style rules were introduced, with direct hits in the face gathering the most points while techniques used for throwing also can put you ahead in the game.
An unusual attitude to vegetable delivery seems to have spanned the whole of Europe for several hundred years. If you intend to sample the delights of “la Tomatina” or the sweet traditions of “Vilanova I La Geltru,” please don’t mention that the EU has whole mountains of food.