Today, we biked over to the annual Heritage Festival at Hawrelak Park.
From their website:
"Edmonton Heritage Festival 2007 marks the 32nd annual of this premier three-day showcase of Canada's vibrant multicultural heritage. We will feature over 60 pavilions representing over seventy cultures from all over the world. Sample culinary delicacies, see creative performances, shop for crafts, artwork, and clothing, or chat with people eager to tell you a little about their cultural roots and their present-day communities in Canada."
Basically, it's a huge festival where each culture/country gets their own pavilion (or 2 or 3) and sometimes even a stage. It's real fun because you can learn about so many cultures and enjoy Canada's multicultural roots. There's music, dancing, crafts, and of course- food.
In so many ways, Heritage Days can be a vegan's nightmare... My dad is Croatian through-and-through, so we always go to the Croatian pavilion to meet cousins and such. What's for lunch there? Baby lamb flesh, pig flesh, pig-on-a-stick, and traditional elephant-ear donuts that surely contain eggs and dairy. :(
However, despite the infamously common meat-on-a-stick (seriously, shish kabobs are EVERYWHERE), there are some fantastic vegan-friendly cuisines on display. The Israeli pavilion even went so far as to proudly proclaim everything on their menu vegetarian! (falafel and more-yummmm)
The menu for all the pavilions came in the Edmonton Journal a few days ago, so I was able to plan ahead. Right away, the injera at the Ethiopian tent caught my eye. I've been wanting to try that traditional flatbread for ages!
Sadly, when we walked over there, they weren't making any food yet so no injera for Peggy. :(
BUT WAIT- what's this? The Eritreans are making injera too? So I eagerly strolled over to that pavilion.
The man serving me at the Eritrean tent was very helpful. I knew that injera was traditionally made out of a fermented batter of TEFF flour and water, but I asked him if there was dairy or egg just in case. Thankfullly, it was all good. :)
I chose the Alicha (mixed vegetables), but he was real nice and gave me a scoop of lentils too!
I'm so glad that he did, because the lentils were DEFINITELY the best I've ever had. The vegetables -cabbage, celery, and some unidentified greens- were okay. Just okay.
Eating with injera is fun, too. You take a little piece, scoop up some food with the hole-y side, and eat it. Who needs utensils?
The best part about this was that the injera soaked up all the yummy spices, so when I ate the 'plate' of injera it tasted as fantastic as the lentils did. I couldn't finish the whole thing, so my mom had the rest and she liked it too.
I bought the oh-so-manly-sounding TEFF grains awhile back, so I have just enough left to grind up and make some injera of my own. :)
At the Japanese tent, my awesome littlest sister, as obsessed with Pokemon as always, bought a Pikachu mask as well as a Pichu one.
Here's me trying one on:
I bet that you've been blinded by my beauty.
At the Arab site, a woman was making pita/flatbread, and it was fascinating to watch:
First, she'd take a ball of dough, then would twist & spin it in her hands to stretch it out.
She'd place it on a big pillow and stretch it out a bit more...
Then flip it onto a hot..thingy. It was like an oven with a big round top.
After a minute or so, the pita would be done. It was all done so quickly! She had a nice little crowd gathering around to watch.
One of my favorite parts about the Heritage Festival is the fact that it's at Hawrelak park. It's so beautiful there! The whole place is huge and has a lovely pond with paddleboats. You can skate there in the winter, too.
You've probably had enough about our Heritage Festival by now, but I found some neat facts on the website:
-The Festival's attendance record of over 350,000 was achieved in 2006
-The 1987 Festival was particularly notable for its theme of "Come-Along-and-Conga." That year, participants set a world record for the longest conga line ever of 10,442 people-an achievement recognized by a framed certificate from the Guinness Book of Records which hangs in the Festival offices to this day.
-Edmonton's "Black Friday" tornado struck just as the 1987 Heritage Festival was being set up in Hawrelak Park, severely damaging most of the Festival's tent inventory and therefore putting that year's entire Festival in peril. People involved in the Heritage Festival back then still warmly remember how an impromptu group of volunteers from different cultural organizations came together at the site and went from tent to tent making enough repairs to allow the Festival to proceed that weekend. Although the weather continued inclement throughout the weekend, 140,000 people attended that year.
We can't go back tomorrow (going to a friend's lake), but I'm excited already for next year! :D