This was, of course, a cardboard cut-out, but so real that people stopped, surprised to see him there. The Pope was holding a yerba mate gourd with bombilla (straw). This was not out of the ordinary, because Pope Francis is from Buenos Aires, where sipping mate is a way of life.
The three-day trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center had not only food but health and beauty products, supplements, cleaning supplies, pet-care items and more.
Scoping out interesting products was a challenge, because there was no order to the displays. It was necessary to scout every aisle, a challenge at what may be the world's largest trade show.
The buzzwords for food were gluten-free, organic, vegan, non-GMO, artificial hormone-free, all natural, dairy-free, no-soy, vegetarian and vegan. Attendees were besieged with gluten-free foods. Even a Bigelow teabag was labeled "tea is a gluten free beverage." That's how silly this fad has become.
"Healthy" ingredients included quinoa, which was at its most tempting in a quinoa salad (above) prepared for Peru's display by the Peruvian restaurant Mo-Chica. In addition to red, black and white quinoa, the display included quinoa flakes to eat like cereal.
Energy bars and chocolates contained chia seeds, hemp seeds and buckwheat groats. The most unusual were Chapul's cricket energy bars (above), made with cricket flour. The flavors were peanut butter and chocolate, dark chocolate with coffee and cayenne and a Thai bar with coconut, ginger and lime. According to Chapul, crickets contain twice as much protein as beef and 15% more iron than spinach.
Ethnic foods represented India, Afghanistan, Korea, Mexico, the Middle East, Africa, Japan, the Philippines and more. Curries by Nature (above) is a new line of Indian sauces from Texas, introduced last fall. Each jar holds enough for 1 1/2 pounds of meat.
IndianLife, from Canada, showed masala and samosa chips (above). Other Indian style products in the photo include Ziggy Marley's Coco'Mon curry-flavored cold-pressed coconut oil and meat-free "bouillon" cubes flavored with red or yellow curry from Edward & Sons Trading Co. They're made in Switzerland.
Not shown is That Indian Drink's chef-crafted lassi, the most opulent of which was flavored with mangoes from India and rosewater.
Mexico displayed natural vanilla, dried coconut and Dulsweet's organic agave syrup (above) in two styles, dark and light. Japanese miso soup mix was suggested as an ingredient for dips, salad dressings and sauces, an attempt to move a traditional product into fusion fields. Mishima Foods exhibited gluten-free crumbs made from brown rice and from rice, tapioca and salt, handy for breading instead of flour.
For health drinks, there were Numi Organic Tea's chocolate rooibus, Mamma Chia's Chia Squeeze and Organic India's caffeine-free tulsi teas (above)--tulsi is India's holy basil. Growing Naturals exhibited chocolate-flavored rice protein powder to shake with water or non-dairy milk for a dairy-free drink.
The Expo offered something for everyone. The biggest hit in my household was Feline Caviar holistic grain-free range chicken, moist food with sweet potato and spinach but none of the grains that bulk up so much cat food. This premium treat made my cats forget how angry they were because Mom came home so late from the show that they missed their dinner.