Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Allure of the Lentil

Posted By on Sun, Sep 4, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Pouring a cup of free lentil chili at the National Lentil Festival
  • Guy Hand
  • Pouring a cup of free lentil chili at the National Lentil Festival.

There’s nothing more endearingly kitschy and fundamentally human than a festival devoted to a favorite food.

We Americans have been festivalizing the foods we love for a very long time, such as wildebeests, wheat berries, carrots or—like the people in Dallas, Texas—corn dogs. In a modern world too often based on the marginally real or totally virtual, it is reassuring to see basic foods like garlic and morels still drawing a devoted festival crowd.

In Idaho, we’ve had festivals focused on buttermilk, beer, cherries, raspberries, huckleberries, gourds, sheep, spuds and who knows what else.

Even the lowly lentil is worth celebrating in style: An estimated 26,000 people were drawn to the National Lentil Festival in Pullman, Wash., a mere lentil’s toss from the Idaho border.

I took a food-focused road trip through North Idaho and Eastern Washington recently, and one of my first stops was the Lentil Festival. In the Sept. 7 issue of BW, I'll share some of the enlightening things I learned about lentils.

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