Planking, Tents and Food Festivals

Trending. Such a very 2010s phrase, used to describe by the vast tides of fickle popularity generated by ‘social’ media. But just think of Planking, the Harlem Shake and (soon enough) Twerking to see how fleeting this is. See, you’d forgotten them already.

Living in the UK, and having more than a fleeting interest I see food trends come and go in a similar, albeit less rapid fashion. The ‘modern’ Indian restaurant menu, cupcakes and food on a slate anyone?!

We’re currently awash with gourmet burgers, slow cooked meats and salted caramel and that’s no bad thing of course but one trend that does seem a little hit and miss, for me at least, is the rise of the food festival and specifically, ‘street food’. Done well, it’s delicious, exciting and genuinely interesting. The chance to sample street snacks from far flung cuisines had me reaching for my extra stretchy trousers, happily forking out a fiver for a cardboard plate of food and a napkin.

The Boiler Shope Steamer, Newcastle

The Boiler Shop Steamer, Newcastle – great fun, we’ll be back….

Street pizza at the Boiler Shop Steamer - very good.

Street pizza at the Boiler Shop Steamer – very good.

Helen enjoying beetroot falafel. I think I suprised her...

Helen enjoying beetroot falafel. I think I suprised her…

Done badly, however…..Well I’ve sampled a few such stalls over the summer and in some cases it seems pretty obvious that the purveyors are just ‘restaurants on tour’, or worse, those jumping on the bandwagon.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing of course when done well but I sometimes watched these poor souls, sweating in the summer heat trying to pull together something they could make with their eyes closed in their nicely fitted industrial kitchen. Now they’re in a tent, on a field, with a camping stove and a tiny table trying to cook and serve the customers simultaneously.

I think it’s fair to say the results are mixed. I recently paid ¬£3 for a greek sausage sandwich. I’d never tried one before, and therefore I hope it was a bad example, but lets just say for once I was glad it was a stingy portion…

Conversely, some others are well setup for this form of cooking, particularly the BBQ guys with their beautiful smoking contraptions, Indian snacks and the good old Crepe stands of course. Food which originated in or suits the outdoors basically. I’m not sure a styrofoam tray of nuclear hot green Thai curry and rice does. And I love thai curries.

At the North East Chilli Festival

At the North East Chilli Festival

¬†Perhaps the biggest food festival I’ve been to this year however was in the Hamburg and wouldn’t you know it, the food was uniformly good and at times excellent. Typical. Rotisserie hams, slow cooked pork sandwiched, fresh donuts, excellent beer – although I think we run them very close here, bratwurst…I could go on. All run with that enviable German efficiency (even when it got busy, and boy, did it get busy) from custom made trailers or stands.

Rotisserie Hams, Hamburg

Rotisserie Hams, Hamburg

Roast Pork Sandwich, Hamburg
Roast Pork Sandwich, Hamburg

I’ve no doubt that the trend, originating in London’s wonderful cultural diversity, is slowly catching on, filtering its way up the country like electricity and mobile phones did in the last decade (no, not really). As such, I’m hopeful things will only continue to get better, but please, can we have more street food.