Thursday, October 10, 2013 1:06 AM EDT
Al Avitable credits Julia Child for being the flavor-driven television personality who brought garlic to the front of the seasoning line.
Before the advent of the cooking series garlic was a particularly pungent member of the onion family, popular in some Asian and Mediterranean countries as a culinary accent and just as popular in folklore as a repellent of vampires and other evil creatures.
Now the bulbous plant is so culturally accepted there are entire events based around it, such as this weekend’s ninth annual Garlic and Harvest Festival at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds.
“I think there’s a big interest in the public about garlic,” said Avitable, the event’s cofounder and a Bethlehem resident, who opines that before television it was mostly just seen as a kind of ethnic spice. “After the cooking show it took on a life of its own.”
The two-day event will have lectures on how and when to plant, cultivate, harvest, and cure garlic. Mid-October is the time, after all, when garlic goes to the ground.
There will be garlic and herb cooking demonstrations while a host of vendors offer a variety of food samples. The food court will serve garlic pork kebabs and garlic beef kebabs, garlic pulled pork sandwiches, garlic burritos, garlic pizzas, garlic grilled cheese sandwiches, garlic soup, garlic lobster rolls and pretty much garlic whatever-you-want.
“I love walking up and down the rows of vendors and sampling the stuff you can’t find in stores,” said David Harkness, the event’s other co-founder, of Washington. “That’s what I think sets us apart.”
Ample supplies of garlic will be available for fall planting or cooking. There will be craftsmen, many with garlic-related wares, plus plenty of family activities are planned ,with a 220-foot zip line new this year.
“This is a lot different from when we first started,” said Avitable. “The first year we had 33 vendors, now we have 200 vendors. Three weeks ago we had to close it off, we can’t take anymore.”
Not every vendor is garlic-based, but organizers made sure to put a limit on the ones who aren’t. Avitable wants the festival to stay true to its garlic roots.
“We don’t say ‘If they’re willing to pay for the space we’ll take them,'” said Avitable, before citing an example. “We have eight soap vendors and that’s it.”
The Garlic and Harvest Festival is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday with an admission fee of $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $1 for children. To learn more, people can visit garlicfestct.com.