Wikipedia describes a food fight as ‘a form of collective behaviour, in which food is thrown at others in the manner of projectiles’. Literally, the term invokes a messy and primal behaviour. Metaphorically, the term can be used to describe anything that is chaotic and coarse, such as the state of our country’s politics. But I digress.
Food fights invert the notion of food being a cultivated form of civilisation. It is used to describe chaos and like every mock battle, it has the thrill of impending danger. Some cultures have even turned it into a festival: Every year, in the city of Ivrea in Northern Italy, the population is subjected to getting hit with a face full of fruit in their Battle of the Oranges.
This three-day food fight is said to bring over 50,000 crates of oranges that would otherwise be thrown away. The battle is somewhat brutal, with participants wearing armour and first-aid tents set up around the city. Many though, see their injuries as badges of honour.
If orange-induced injured Italian men aren’t your thing, then how about a Spaniard coated in tomatoes? The famous La Tomatina festival in Bruñol has been a strong tradition since circa 1944. The festival starts with a greasy pole. The goal is to climb the greased pole to retrieve a ham perched on top. When the ham is obtained and then dropped from the pole, it marks the start of the festival. Some rules of the festivals: the tomatoes have to be squashed before the throwing to avoid injuries and the festival doesn’t allow ripping off T-shirts. This goes on for two hours after which the streets are hosed down, leaving pristine cobblestone streets as a result of disinfection from the acidity of the tomatoes.
As fun as they sound, there is a noble cause to food fights as evidenced in the past. Open any history books and you will be reminded of the Boston Tea Party back in 1773 long before cafes started serving chai lattes. This tea party was a result of a rebellion from a group of locals to oppose the taxes that were imposed by the British Tea Act. Similarly, the aforementioned Battle of the Oranges is thought to originate back in the 19th century where the commoners would throw away food given to them by their feudal lord as a protest.
That said, not all food fights are messy. The most respected and civilised is Worldwide Professional Cooking Competition, the Bocuse d’Or, held bi-annually at Lyon, France. The event, also known as the culinary Olympics have participants from over 24 countries battle it out over five hours to produce their dishes using the designated ingredients. Think ‘Mystery Box’ but on a global scale.
These days, food fights make up a good comedic routine in films, and almost all of them include a pie. Who could forget the Pie-in-the-Face scene between the living and the zombies in Dawn of the Dead (1978), the pie fight from The Three Stooges, which is like a bad blooper reel from Downton Abbey, and the big pie fight from The Great Race (1965), which is the longest pie fight in history. The latter took five days of filming, lasted more than four minutes and used over 4000 whipped-cream-topped pies.
For those of you who think that food fights are juvenile, I see your point. But for those of you who indulge, try using food items that you will never eat anyway. A good example is canned whipped cream. I mean, that has to be all it’s good for. Oh, plus it does wonders to your skin. And we’re back to the same point. Food fight!!!!
Alvin Quah is a former MasterChef contestant from Series 2. Check out his website www.cinnamonpig.com.au
* Image: La Tomatina 2006 by puuikibeach (davidd)