I have a newfound appreciation for Tucson after attending the 43rd Tucson Meet Yourself festival this past weekend. The three-day festival was overwhelmingly full of knowledge, food, art, and culture. Over the time that I have lived in Tucson, I have never thought of it as a place so rich in diversity, but going to TMY changed that for me. Walking onto the festival grounds was like walking into Disneyland with a three-day pass in my hand. The sights and smells of different foods cooking took over my nose. My mind (and my stomach) was immediately working a million miles an hour as I began to seek out everything I was going to eat and experience over the next three days.
Over the course of the three-day festival, there is one thing I learned: it’s always smart to carry some cash with you. Most food stands only accepted cash, but luckily there were plenty of ATM’s scattered over the festival grounds. With endless options, it’s hard to pick just one. A wide array of cultural foods were represented: Turkish ice cream, Spanish paella, Mexican churros, and of course Tucson’s very own Sonoran Dog. It seemed pretty obvious why the festival has the nickname of “Tucson Eat Yourself.”
The vendors were endless. The deeper I went into the festival, the more options there were. It seemed as if every culture was represented in some way whether it be in food, art, or dance. It is hard to put into a few words what exactly this festival is showcasing, only because it shows so much. Amongst all the vendors and performances, there was the festivals newest attraction: The City of Gastronomy Kitchen Stadium. In honor of Tucson recently being named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, according to the TMY website, the purpose of the stadium was to highlight all the reasons Tucson received this recognition by creating an exhibit that brings food and culture together. The stadium showcased different aspects of food and culture through demonstrations, lectures, and a variety of food samples.
One thing all the talks and presentations at the UNESCO City of Gastronomy had in common was the purpose of them. During his talk titled, “Are We What We Eat? A Journey Through Our Rich Food History,” biology archaeologist Dr. James Watson said, “One of the great things about Tucson being designated a culinary city is that it celebrates a big portion of what are the natural resources that are actually very healthy for us.” The stadium presented knowledge to the public about all that Tucson has to offer, bringing a new sense of appreciation for the city we live in. The stadium hosted talks hourly and the shaded space made it a good spot to bring some food and relax.
Over the many years TMY has been going on, it has evolved immensely from what was originally started in 1974 by Dr. James Griffith. Carolyn Niethammer from Native Seeds Search said, “This is not what Tucson Meet Yourself used to be; originally it was just the music and just a few food booths, and then year after year after year it’s gotten much more elaborate and then bringing in the nonprofits I think has been fairly recent I mean there was nothing like it you know.” As Niethammer said, “it just keeps getting better and better.”