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food rave

noun [countable]

a very large party where people eat, sell or share many different types of food, usually held outside or in a large public building

'Beats and eats are on the menu at a new series of food raves coming to Manchester. Friday Food Fight will bring together top restaurants, street food vendors and club nights at a secret city centre location described only as "an incredible industrial hall".'

Manchester Evening News 24th January 2014

Are you fed up with the limitations of your culinary repertoire? Are you bored with ending up at the same old restaurants and cafés? Do you need a gourmet fix without breaking the bank? If so, then why not try rejuvenating your gastronomic habits by going to a food rave?

the crucial thing about a food rave … is that the emphasis is on a large-scale coming together, a collective experience where participation is fuelled by communication via social media, food blogs etc

A food rave is a big organized event which is likely to include music, drinks and general merriment, but where the emphasis is on the eating, sharing and sometimes cooking of food. These massive food festivals usually take place in the evening, and often feature up-and-coming chefs trying out their recipes on eager participants. Picture a party atmosphere in which large queues of enthusiastic foodies line up to sample various dishes, with the smell of stir-fried meat and vegetables or other gourmet treats wafting tantalisingly over the proceedings.

A food rave essentially combines mass participation with the concept of street food – food sold in open air venues – a trend which is becoming increasingly popular in recent times because it gives people the opportunity to sample alternative cuisines in a sociable setting far more cheaply than going to a restaurant. The crucial thing about a food rave however, is that the emphasis is on a large-scale coming together, a collective experience where participation is fuelled by communication via social media, food blogs etc.

The new popularity of food raves is thought to be partly attributable to financial pressure – in these turbulent economic times younger people just don't have the spare cash to spend on restaurant dining and so seek out alternative ways to enjoy good food. The same expression is therefore sometimes used to refer to a smaller scale event held in a person's home or out on a residential street with friends, neighbours etc. The trend for food raves is also thought by some to be connected with a renewed interest in flavoursome, good-quality food as a kind of counter-response from a generation who grew up with a burgeoning fast food culture.

Background – food rave

The expression food rave first began to appear in 2011, when an emerging trend was observed in the wake of a highly successful night-time food festival in San Francisco which had attracted over 2,500 visitors. The idea subsequently caught on in other parts of the US and later in the UK.

Use of the word rave takes inspiration from the acid house rave movement of the late 1980s, when rave came to represent a characteristically large-scale party with dancing, electronic music and illegal drugs. Rave has in fact existed as a noun in English since the late 16th century, but was not used as a reference to parties of any kind until the 1960s.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 22nd July 2014.

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