Celebrating it’s 25th year, the National Lentil Festival will take place Friday and Saturday in Pullman with live music, cooking demonstrations, contests, tournaments, a 5K fun run, food discussions, a parade and more. Let’s get cookin’ with a rundown of the festival.There’s lentils, of course.
Nick Pitsilionis, chef and owner of The Black Cypress, is one of three chefs hosting a cooking demonstration on Saturday. Others are Robin Leventhal, “Top Chef” contestant, and Derek Sarno, senior global chef for Whole Foods Markets and a vegan-organic farmer.
“They’re going to do intricate, ambitious, complex dishes with lentils. I thought it might be a nice counterpoint to do something … more restrained,” Pitsilionis said.
Lentils are a dietary staple in the Greek village where Pitsilionis was raised.
“When you cooked lentils, in particular, at least where I’m from, you meant lentils boiled with garlic and bay leaves, typically,” Pitsilionis said. “And that was lentils. It was a side. It was very simple and easy to make, of course.”
Some people would top the lentils with olive oil, vinegar for acidity and either mix with chunks of sourdough bread or serve with bread on the side.
“They consume two cups of olive oil a day, depending on where you are in Greece — it has a lot of calories. It was sustenance,” Pitsilionis said.
Bread was a staple, too.
“Eating a lot of traditional Greek dishes without bread would be like eating pasta without pasta for an Italian,” he said.
Pitsilionis said living in his Greek village could be a challenge, and the women, who chased around children and livestock, needed a simple dish to cook at the end of the day. Lentils were it.
“They didn’t have a whole lot of time to tinker,” he said. “The typical meal had to be very nutritious, quick and easy and practical.”
Pistilionis will demonstrate his traditional lentil dish at 11 a.m. Saturday on the Cooking Demo Stage in Reaney Park.
“You’re just busy, and it’s hard to eat well at home, and you feel like if you want a home cooked meal, you have to get this cookbook out … “ Pisilionis said.
But all you really need, he said, is bread, olive oil, lentils, seasonings and a pot.
With ways to burn them off.
While lentils are the focus, some participants may need a way to burn off the calories consumed from cooking demonstrations, taste tests and food vendors.
Judy Kolde, founder of Sanctuary Yoga Barre and Dance in Pullman, will host a Yoga Rocks Lentil Fest! event at 10 a.m. Saturday at the HitRadio Gazebo in Reaney Park.
“Our studio has hot and cold yoga, but we kind of specialize in hot yoga,” Kolde said. “It’s going to be pretty hot outside, so Mother Nature will be supplying the hot.”
While Sanctuary is yet to open, Kolde said the studio is doing community outreach programs before their September opening. Sanctuary will be in the basement of the Armory Building at 540 E. Main St., formerly known as the National Guard Building.
“My instructors will give away free prizes, if you’re trying hard,” Kolde said.
Other calorie busters include the Tase T. Lentil 5K Fun Run.
The course, starting at Simpson United Methodist Church, is a 3.1-mile loop of roads and trails through the WSU campus and Pullman neighborhoods.
While dogs are not allowed on the run, children are.
The 7:30 a.m. Saturday race will offer prizes awarded to overall and over-50 male and female winners. Ribbons and water bottles will be given to the top three winners in each age group. Late registration is accepted until 8 p.m. Friday and additional fees may apply. Pre-race packet pick-up is 5-8 p.m. Friday, but those who are not able to pick up packets at that time, can check in at the Methodist Church 6:45-7:15 a.m. race day.
Register at www.lentilfest.com/activities/5k-fun-run/.
There are Northwest musicians …
More than 10 musicians will perform at this year’s Lentil Festival, and at least two of them aren’t far from home.
While musician Matt Brown is leaving soon for Nashville, his Portland, Ore., home has provided him time to release an album.
Matt Brown and the Connection, is a soul and blues pop band that features Brown as vocalist and guitarist, and also features a bassist and drummer. Brown said the band’s sound is often compared to John Mayer or Otis Redding.
While Brown is planning a spring-time solo album to be recorded in Nashville, he and the Connection have a winter album to release soon, and Brown just pushed out an EP titled “Barcelona.”
“I lived in Barcelona for a little while and wrote the songs, the majority of them, in Barcelona,” Brown said.
Brown’s music can be purchased on iTunes, and Brown suggested creating a “Matt Brown” channel on Pandora or streaming his music on Spotify.
Another Northwest band, MealFrog, consists of Seattle men, four of whom are Washington State University alumni.
“We play a good mix of reggae and rock and folk and funk,” said guitarist and lead vocalist Jason Riemath said. “If you’re a fan of Pearl Jam or Dave Matthews Band or Ben Harper, I think anything within that, or Bob Marley and reggae sounding bands.”
Riemath graduated from WSU in 2007, went back to Seattle and the band formed in 2008. Members include Casey Bever on guitar, Brandon Barrett on guitar, Chad Hoflin on bass, Chris Jenkins as percussion and Ryan Peterson on ukulele and as band manager.
MealFrog plans to get back into the studio this fall and recently released a song dubbed “Freedom From Below.”
“I definitely want to come in and play the golf course and we will probably be at The Coug,” said Riemath, who will arrive with the band Friday morning before their 8:15 p.m. Friday performance. “I used to work there back in the day.”
While Matt Brown plays the Hometown Chevrolet Stage on Spring Street, MealFrog will perform at the HitRadio Gazebo in Reaney Park.
“They’re gonna get hard-rock songs, kick-back-and-relax songs and something you want to dance to,” Riemath said.
Visit www.mealfrog.com or www.mattbrownsongs.com for more information on both bands.
… and not-so-local musicians.
Country musician and third-place runner-up of Season Nine’s “American Idol” will take main stage at the festival.
Casey James of Cool, Texas, has played guitar since his youth and has claimed to be influenced by musicians such as Merle Haggard and Bonnie Raitt.
James has toured with bands like Sugarland, and his music video “Let’s Don’t Call It a Night” was nominated for an American Country Music Award. The song peaked at No. 21 on the U.S. Country charts.
James performs at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the Hometown Chevrolet Stage on Spring Street.
Oh, and a parade, too.
Beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, a lentil parade will traipse down Grand Avenue, up Main Street, and finish outside Reaney Park. The Little Lentil Sprouts will lead the way and other parade participants include the Lentil Express, Rodeo Queens, Distinguished Young Women, fire trucks, floats and the festival mascot, Tase T. Lentil.
Registration can be made online at www.lentilfest.com/parade-application.
Check-in begins an hour before the parade on Olsen Street and parade rules can be found online.
Other festival highlights include two magician performances, a lentil pancake breakfast, a beer and wine garden, softball and basketball tournaments, Lil’ Lentil Royalty coronation, a cook-off, a boards and blades contest and a cooking panel discussion.
For more information on the festival, visit www.lentilfest.com.
Treffry can be contacted at (208) 883-4640 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @LindseyTreffry.