- Coconuts, Apples, and Why We Celebrate Healthy Foods
Coconuts, Apples, and Why We Celebrate Healthy Foods
There are many ways to travel. Some people prefer guided educational tours, others want to plan their own trip and see specific monuments or historical sites. It all depends on what you’re looking for in your travels.
The first time I went to Europe, I was 19. The summer trip was a gift from my aunt: 6 weeks traveling through Europe in a tour bus (we named it the Moo Bus) with more than 50 other people. Our tour guides were two older guys working during their summer break, both from Finland, studying for advanced degrees in their universities. We flew into Madrid, Spain and picked up our bus there. 25 or more countries and cities in 6 weeks, with 2-3 days and nights in each major city or country. Just enough to get a flavor of the culture or city before we moved on.
I fell hard for several countries – Italy, Spain, France, England, Germany, and Switzerland – and wanted to stay, but it was a whirlwind tour. The guides, Fritz and the bus driver, said it was better to do it this way; then we could come back and spend weeks in the countries we needed to explore and get to know. When will I ever be back? I thought.
The guides were so right. That trip ignited my need to travel and learn about other countries and cultures – anything outside of the United States. I was hooked. That brought on several trips over the years, to parts of Europe, the Caribbean, and Canada. I haven’t been to Asia or Australia, but they’re on my list.
The food seemed better in Europe; the chocolate was richer – especially in Switzerland. The pizza was so much fresher in Italy – lots of tomato sauce, some cheese, and very thin crust. And although I wasn’t into wine like I am today, I tried different wine throughout Europe and discovered there were more options than a dry red Merlot. France hooked me on cheese and hard breads, German food was too heavy then, and still is, for my liking. Spain had some great dishes, but paella was my true love. England had wonderful beer and fish and chips with vinegar and salt. No ketchup, though!
With all the traveling, I also came to appreciate the food in the United States. While our country is a toddler compared with Europe’s history, food, cultures, and monuments, the States also have their own stories. Though much of our food culture stems from Europe, Americans have adapted and in many cases, improved upon the dishes they’ve borrowed from abroad.
For some of us, it’s all about immersing ourselves in a region to experience that area. For those of us looking for new experiences, healthy food festivals – like the Maine Lobster Festival or the Apple Festival mentioned in this article – that intersect culture and food may provide the most satisfying experience.
Food festivals and food maps
Which came first? The chicken or the egg, the food festival or the food map?
Food festivals most likely came first. Food maps, favorites of chefs, historians and foodies, have developed over the years to include broad regions of the United States and the rest of the world that embrace regional foods, as well as that culture.
Traditionally, food festivals celebrate the harvest but also the culture, history and food of an area. Europe1; becoming more intense with the fall season. Spain, Italy, Finland, Holland and Ireland celebrate with oysters, beer, paella, and wine tastings. And Germany holds its world-famous Oktoberfest which is all about beer and German foods.
Food festivals got their start in the United States during the Great Depression, according to Harvey Levenstein in his book Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America 2 , when Americans became more focused on regional culinary practices. During a period of instability, and stretched budgets, families turned to their community to preserve old traditions through food.
Each region of the United States developed certain food preference; Southwesterners liked beef, Midwest groups had chicken dinners on Sunday; Southerners ate pork; in Virginia and North Carolina people ate Brunswick stew made with squirrel meat. I spent years living on the East coast in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and next to the Atlantic Ocean in Florida so my food choices were quite varied. Fried apples, raspberry jelly, fresh rainbow trout, green beans and tomatoes out of our summer garden were some of my mountain favorites. Ham and yes, grits, fresh orange and grapefruit juices, red snapper, and shrimp were often on our table in the South.
The following food festivals celebrate some of my favorite foods, but also demonstrate how important healthy foods are around the world.
World Coconut Day – September 2, 2015, and the Coconut
Coconuts aren’t nuts, but a fruit called drupes 3 : a fleshy fruit with a central stone that holds the seed. And like alligators, and horse shoe crabs, they’re old. The oldest coconut fossils were dated 55 million years ago and found in Australia and India.
Coconuts are a valuable resource and have many uses. They provide us with sustainable materials, energy, water and food. High in electrolytes and lauric acid, coconuts are most valuable as a food source. Coconut water helps replace electrolytes, lost from stress or working out. Coconut oil can be used as shaving cream or moisturizer, make-up remover, used to cook with. Coconut flakes can be used to top off deserts or in other baking projects. Chocolate coconut spread is a slightly guilty, but entirely delicious, treat.
Coconuts provide most of the B vitamins you need each day. They also give you 60% of your daily manganese, and a good dose of iron. Copper, potassium, phosphorous and zinc. In some parts of the world, coconut festivals are held to celebrate this delightful drupe. For instance, in Vijayawada, India the theme 'Coconut for Family Nutrition, Health and Wellness' 4 , is being celebrated in the city today.
Since 1990, the Coconut Development Board has been developing Andhra Pradesh, the highest producing coconut state in India, and improving the region’s productivity. Andhra Pradesh has 610 coconut producers' societies, 49 coconut producer federations and three coconut producing companies. An exhibit at the venue will highlight the latest technologies in the coconut sector and a variety of coconut products.
North Carolina Apple Festival 5 – September 4-7, 2015, and the Apple
These crispy gourmet fruits are high in nutritional values, have pectin and 5 grams of fiber, and are high in potassium and low in sodium. And they have no fat. Dishes include fried apples, apple pie and apple crisp, apple cakes, apple butter, fried apple pies. There’s something about eating apples on a regular basis that reduces the frequency of colds.
In North Carolina, apples are so highly prized that a festival is held in their honor each year. All apples for this festival must come from growers located in Henderson County which grows about 65% of the apples in the state. Like other agricultural products highlighted with food festivals, the apple one of the most important crops in Henderson County and brings in an average income of $22 million a year.
Ranking 7th in apple production in the United States 5, several major varieties of apples - Galas, Rome Delicious, Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious – are produced in the Henderson, Haywood, Wilkes and Cleveland areas of North Carolina. Apples have been part of the county’s culture and heritage since the 1700s. Each year roughly 200,000 or more visitors come to purchase gourmet apples, assorted apple products, and apple cider at the festival.
Sonoma County Heirloom Tomato Festival – September 14, and the Tomato
Like many other healthy foods, tomatoes are a powerhouse of nutrition. They are high in lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin E and manganese. Good for the heart, and bone health. Tomatoes are used for ketchup, tomato juice, salads, pasta and a variety of other products.
The well-known Kendall-Jackson Winery in Fulton, California hosts the annual two day event 6 which features 175 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Highlights include a competitive tomato cook-off and of course wine tastings. There are roughly 7,500 varieties of tomatoes grown for various uses. California and Florida are the major producers of tomatoes in the U.S.
Avofest - October 2015, and Avocados
Like the coconut, avocados are nutritional powerhouses. They have nearly 20 minerals and vitamins, including folate, vitamin B, potassium, and fiber, and are high in good fats but low in sugar. They fill you up and won’t have you hungry in three hours. They’re great in salads, smoothies, guacamole, and even in brownies.
Now in its 29 th year, the Avofest7 festival educates visitors about the avocado and its impact on Carpinteria Valley, California. The Expo tent offers lessons in avocado grafting, historical photos and Avocado agricultural photos, and the Largest Avocado Contest. The food venue offers the worlds’ largest vat of guacamole, avocado ice cream, and a wide variety of avocado dishes. And there’s also an avocado auction and the Best Guacamole contest. Over 100,000 people attended the three-day event in 2014.
The Maine Lobster Festival - August 2016, and Lobster
Nutritious and great tasting, lobster is high in protein, but low in fat and carbohydrates 8. Compared with pork, lean red meat, and white chicken, it has less saturated fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Oddly enough, it’s one of the leanest, healthiest choices out there. Though many people prefer lobster with the shell intact, to crack and dunk in lemon and melted butter, there are many other ways to prepare this wonderful seafood. Maine is known for lobster, and the yearly Maine Lobster Festival is something tourists and locals alike await eagerly.
The Maine Lobster Festival began in 1947, when local citizens started an annual summer marine festival to revive Mid-coast Maine communities and draw visitors back to the Camden area after WWII. Now an international celebration of local seafood, the five-day festival also educates visitors about local fishermen, their boats, gear, and the rules of lobster fishing and other seafood. It also holds a lobster cook-off for amateur cooks. Held each August, over 30,000 visitors attended this educational and tasty festival 9. Part of the proceeds are withheld to budget for the next festival; the rest goes into back into the Rockland community to groups and non-profits.
In Search of Healthy Foods
I’ve mentioned a few healthy foods and food festivals in this article. If you have a favorite food festival in the United States or anywhere else in the world, leave us a note so we can add it to our list of festivals to check out. Likewise with healthy foods. If you have a favorite food that we didn’t mention – like garlic, salmon, or a coconut dish you like to share, drop a comment on our Facebook page.
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