Gastro Obscura Debuts a Vending Machine Full of Strange and Wonderful Delicacies at Saturday’s Portland Book Festival

Of course it sells copies of “Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide” but it also contains things like Akabanga, a Rwandan condiment is so spicy, it’s served using eyedroppers.

Gastro Obscura vending machine (Courtesy of Gastro Obscura)

Here we are in the midst of the Portland Book Festival. Though the fest returns to in-person downtown programming on Saturday Nov. 13, with events held at the Portland Art Museum and the Portland’5, the online component is well underway.

All this week, book fans can spy on virtual discussions between authors and critical interviewers, like MacArthur “genius” writer Maggie Nelson with New Yorker staff writer Masha Gessen (that one’s tonight), cartoonist Aminder Dhaliwal with OPB’s Tiffany Camhi (also tonight) or best selling romance novelist Jasmine Guillory discussing “Love and Loss” with Artist Repertory Theatre’s Kisha Jarrett (Friday!).

Gastro Obscura Vending Machine (Isabeau Touchard)

Each night holds three separate interviews, so there’s a lot to choose from or take in. With the rains being... the rains, staying in with something stimulating or watching them together with your fellow book friends sounds perfectly ideal.

When it comes to the in-person festival day—good to note that the online and in-person fests require different tickets—there’s a weird little wonder making its West Coast debut: the Gastro Obscura vending machine.

Promoting the first ever Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide—a sort of Atlas Obscura for food—the vending machine will sell the aforementioned book along with other strange delicacies, like the West African Miracle Berry that confuses your mouths’ tastebuds and makes sour things taste sweet or a loaf of steamed New England bread which you can buy in a can.

The vending machine and the book’s co-author—Portlander Cecily Wong—will hold court and meet their respective fans in the in the Portland Art Museum sculpture garden from 2-5 pm. There’ll also be a range of pop-up demonstrations from Tournant, Bar Vivant, Yume Confections and Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider.

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