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The History of the Food Festival

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The history of food is a long, exciting journey. Food started off as something essential, something that we needed simply to survive. Some foods were scary and new, many products weren’t available to all countries and throughout the years many foods have been rationed to keep peace. Now we are faced with an endless stream of products, options and suppliers. We want indulgence, we want fantastic taste and we want choice.

From humble farmers markets to lavish county fairs, food stalls have always been used as a way for suppliers to showcase their produce. Now we have an array of farmers markets, county fairs and food festivals that offer celebration of food and drink. But where did all of it start?

Perhaps the most original form of celebration for food is the Harvest Festival. Dating back further than Christianity, the festival celebrates the year’s crops and is a way of giving thanks. On the first day of harvest “Lammas Day” bread was traditionally baked to celebrate the first harvest of the wheat crop. This is now the loaf that we commonly see baked in the shape of a Sheaf, it is often presented in schools and churches at their Harvest Day Festival.  The end of the harvest was celebrated with a large meal when all of the harvest had been safely brought in.

These days we the festival is held at the end of harvest, which varies in different parts of Britain. As we are now not so heavily dependent on the crops and have an abundance of food it is common for families to bring food from home which is collected and given to those less fortunate, often in other countries.

As harvest festivals have died down, agricultural shows and markets have grown considerably. With no internet and little transportation farmers had to showcase their produce more locally.

County fairs started off as highly commercial, they were a way to gather agricultural knowledge, trade and gain customers. On the other side, the markets were a way of showcasing local produce to the community and of earning a living. The earliest County Fairs in the UK date back are dated back to 1779 (the Smithfield Show, London) and 1794 (the Royal Cornwall Show). The latter is still carrying on today in all it’s glory.

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