This past Saturday, the Boston food organization Let's Talk About Food held their sixth annual food festival in Copley Square. The Let's Talk About Food festival, created with the goal to, "[let] participants dive into the most important food conversations and debate what's happening in society today," brought many different members of the food industry together to share their passions with the rest of Boston.  

The Founder

Louisa Kasdon, the found of Let's Talk About Food, wanted to ensure that there was something for everyone at the festival. "I’m sort of agnostic about what’s important in food––Nutrition? Health? Cooking skills? Food Waste? Hunger and Food Access? School Food? Politics? I don’t care which food topic is your personal hotspot – as long as you as an eater and as a citizen stay engaged. It’s all important to me!" she said.

Kasdon also mentioned her excitement with Boston's increasing interest in the food world, explaining that, "it has changed so much over the course of my life that it takes my breath away. And it’s all good!" Certain aspects, such as people supporting local and artisan producers, as well as viewing going out to eat as both a source of entertainment as well as nourishment, are particularly great for her to see.  

The Festival

From my first few minutes at the Let's Talk About Food Festival, I could see that Kasdon's goal was achieved.  The first set of tents I walked through included an apple growing association, the National Celiac Awareness Association, and a mental health awareness. 

As I walked further into the festival, I could see tents including an author's tent, a spotlight kitchen, an endless table where ongoing discussions went on throughout the day, and an "Ask-A-Nutritionist Booth." 

A chef showing a crowd how to create Pop Rocks Chocolate Bark, a panel about the sustainability of dogfish, and a hydroponic farm were only a sliver of the innovative food talent that Kasdon and the rest of the Let's Talk About Food crew brought together for the event. 

One great find from the festival was Fresh Truck, a local company that brings fresh affordable food to 17 areas in Boston where it's difficult to access healthy fresh produce. For $10, I bought so much produce that I needed two large bags to carry it home and I'm still using some of the produce I bought almost a week later. 

I didn't fully appreciate the diversity of the Let's Talk About Food Festival until I was eating veggie dumplings from Moyzilla, one of the many food trucks at the festival. I simultaneously watched a panel about the versatility of native New England grain while a discussion about how to start a food business went on at the panel across the pathway.

Meals from my Mama

My absolute favorite part of the festival was the Meals from my Mama panel on the mainstage, where three local Boston chefs, as well as Star Market's Executive Chef, got together to each make a dish from their home country. The countries that each dish came from included China, Lebanon, Senegal, and Italy. 

I had a chance to talk with Jay Hagg, chef of Mike's City Diner, before the panel, to learn more about his interest in the festival and what he planned to make. 

Believing that "every immigrant has a great story," Hajj, who has recently published his own cookbook called "From Beirut to Boston," was immediately interested when Let's Talk About Food approached him a few months with the idea of a diverse food panel. 

Hajj wanted to "show off Lebanese food to a larger audience," at the festival, while also "showing people a new food they'll love."

That new food was manakish, a Middle Eastern street food similar to pizza. Hajj believes that manakish could "be the next hummus" due to its versatility, cheap cost, and simple and fast recipe. During the panel, Hajj made three different types of manakish with minced lamb, cheese, and Za'atar, which is a thyme spice mix.

Other dishes included beef and blue cheese dumplings  and scallion pancakes made by Irene Li from Mei Mei, a fish ball ancient grain dish from Teranga's Marie-Claude Mendy, and Pasta e Fagioli from Star Market’s Executive Chef Vic Passacantilli. 

Throughout the panel, the chefs were talking back and forth and helping each other. Towards the end of the panel, I caught Hajj watching Li with a smile as she explained the lamination process of her scallion pancakes as his manakish cooled.

At that moment I could see Lousia Kasdon's goal coming to fruition. Everyone was learning together as they shared their love of food. 

What's Next?

Kasdon mentioned that Let's Talk About Food had just launched a new nonprofit called The Food Voice, which she hopes includes a Let's Talk About Food podcast once they get enough donations from the Kickstarter they just started last week.  

One of the goals of The Food Voice is "to create a consolidated calendar so that people who want to stay engaged in the progressive food conversation can stay tuned," according to their website. 

With a new nonprofit and great local involvement, I'd definitely keep an eye on Let's Talk About Food to see what they do next.