Now in its third year, Assembly’s Edinburgh Food Festival is back in George Square this week.
Running from Wednesday to Sunday 30th July, it offers five days of artisan producers, street food and, crucially, food-themed talks and debates.
Last year’s event attracted over 25,000 visitors.
While most food and drink festivals have master classes and demos, Edinburgh Food Festival goes a step further by putting on genuine debates and talks about current and future food trends.
These free events offer more to get your teeth into than a gourmet burger and a half hour tutored fizz tasting.
Don’t get me wrong. Master classes and tastings will help you get a better understanding of what makes a drink or food product unique.
In that sense, they do a good job. But, in essence, many master classes are branding exercises where Tasty Highland Lodge whisky or Yum It’s Good for You Butter sell their product to their willing audience.
Edinburgh Food Festival: Food for thought
The debates at Edinburgh Food Festival try to engage more with both consumers and the issues surrounding today’s food chains.
For example, on Friday at 1pm, drinks consultant Blair Bowman – co-author of The Pocket Guide to Whisky – will be hosting The Great Gin Debate: Part II.
Following on from an earlier discussion at Juniper Festival 2017, Blair will be leading a panel discussion on the transparency of ‘Scottish’ gins.
The sudden boom in gin brands has led many to make their gin under contract elsewhere. Often it is not made in Scotland or the place where the brand identity is linked to.
A panel of Scottish gin industry experts, brand owners and gin producers will debate exactly what the definition of a ‘Scottish’ gin is.
Obviously, compared to the horse meat scandal, the provenance of your Friday night G ‘n’ T may seem small beer.
Or you argue that both are caused by deceptive or misleading labelling, albeit at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Don’t bug out
Saturday evening will see a debate which will only become more prominent over the coming years – eating insects. Or entomophagy, if you want to be formal.
When looking at the challenges of feeding a larger global population in future decades, insects are regarded by some as an obvious source of natural proteins.
Millions around the world eat insects on a regular basis. Some are regarded as delicacies. Elsewhere, the yuk factor looms large.
A graduate from The MSc in Gastronomy, run by Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University, Philippa Marsden is a former pastry chef.
She graduated from the course in 2016. Since then has been working freelance in variety of food-related organisations including butchers, bakers and restaurants.
Along the way, she has developed an interest in entomophagy. Not just from using various insects in recipes, but also from digging deeper into issues around how they’re sourced, traded and talked about.
The first 50 guests will be given three juicy bugs to sample. If they dare.
Whet your appetite?
The two talks mentioned are part of a programme of similar events. Of course, Edinburgh Food Festival will also feature some twenty or so innovative street food vendors.
After all, food-themed chat may be intellectually nourishing but it’s no substitute for a plate of jerk chicken.