‘Meals is common’: Meals Journey Pageant in Winnipeg embraces eats

A Winnipeg festival of food is celebrating cooking and eating this weekend, with treats ranging from takoyaki (battered octopus balls) to goto (a Filipino rice porridge) and much more.

“Food, you want to share. It’s part of the family affair. Everybody wants to eat, gather together,” said Laarni Magboo, an organizer with the Food Trip Festival.

“That’s why it’s one of the bonding things that we do in our family, with friends and co-workers and everybody.”

Even before the festival opened at noon on Saturday, a crowd was building up at Tyndall Park Community Centre for the twice-yearly event. This year, the free festival features 40 vendors — more than ever before, said founder Lourdes Federis.

“We want to support the local businesses, because most of these are seasonal entrepreneurs, and they only get to sell at this kind of event,” Federis said Saturday.

J.P. Sumbillo’s business, Mr. Takoyaki, specializes in the battered octopus balls seen here. (Travis Golby/CBC)

When the festival started in 2016, Federis said it was primarily Filipino food. But the festival has since expanded to include more types of cuisine. Last year, she added a “boodle fight,” where participants eat with their hands and banana leaves, and a challenge for non-Filipino people to eat balut, a developing bird embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell. 

“I’m trying to find something that will unite both Filipinos and non Filipinos, like, have that event that everybody can just come together and exchange ideas. And so, this is the place,” Federis said.

“As you see, we just don’t have Filipino food. We have Vietnamese, we have East Indian. Food is universal.”

Arturo Generalao drove from Russell, Man., with his wife and one-year-old daughter for the event. 

“We figured, let’s try it,” he said. “Lots of Filipino food, so that’s why we’re here.”

Shawarmanila, which sells a Filipino take on shawarma, won the festival’s fan favourite award last year. (Travis Golby/CBC)

The festivals are held every May and September long weekend, Federis said. At the last event, 8,000 people showed up, and she’s expecting more this year if the weather co-operates.

Last year, attendees got the chance to vote on their favourite vendor. Voters picked first-time festival vendor Shawarmanila, which offers shawarma with a Filipino twist.

Yal Ganancial, a cook for Shawarmanila, said it was an honour.

“We [are] not only serving food, but like we’re giving, like, happiness to the people,” Ganancial said. “So I think that’s the best … attitude we have.”

Ems Lan Bistro, owned by Emily Usero, offers Filipino cuisine including goto, seen here. Goto is a Filipino congee, or rice porridge, topped with boiled egg, tofu, dried garlic, chicken and tripe. (Travis Golby/CBC)

J.P. Sumbillo, who runs the takoyaki vendor Mr. Takoyaki, said he came to the festival expecting to sell roughly 2,000 of the battered octopus balls. He said he loved seeing the wide array of cuisine available at the site.

“We’ve been doing food for almost three years now. A lot of Filipino and Asian people are coming here,” he said. “The food is so diverse, and that’s why it’s so fun.”

Emily Usero, owner of Ems Lan Bistro, said her heart belongs with cooking and in the kitchen. Usero makes and sells Filipino specialities including goto, pancit — a noodle stirfry — and sisig, a meat dish she makes with thinly chopped pork, liver and secret spices.

She said she doesn’t think of the group of vendors at the festival as rivals.

“We call each other friends. It’s a group of friends and we are growing and growing and growing,” she said. “It’s not a competition at all. It’s fun.”

The event runs until Sunday evening. It will start up again on September long weekend, running Aug. 31 to Sept. 1 at Tyndall Park Community Centre.

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