Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Great Minnesota Get-Together

Thursday, on a day that felt like fall, Steve and I went to the Minnesota State Fair. We haven't been there for three years, though we think every-other-year is the perfect balance. Last year we tried to go-- on a Saturday. We were a couple miles from the fair when I had a high-level anxiety attack. The car traffic alone was more than I could handle. Instead, we went to see his brother Mark's new baby and walked around the lovely campus of the University of Minnesota, which was for some reason deserted. And vowed to only go to the Fair on a weekday.

The main event of the fair for me is the food. Between the two of us, we ate a buffalo kabob (bland, not worth it) followed by cheese curds and then a great dish at a booth with no waiting, a jerk chicken roti.
The booth is Harry Singh's in the food building. It wasn't just good, I also love it from a colonialist perspective. The presence of Indians in the Carribean has resulted in some great dishes, and this hot jerk chicken wrapped in a lightly fried corn tortilla was truly delicious.

For dessert, I got the key lime pie on a stick. By far the best thing I ate all day. Homemade pie dipped in dark chocolate and frozen. 'Nough said. For Steve, we found a very good cup of coffee (with an extra shot) and a strawberry crepe. Then we were fortified and ready to see the farm buildings.

In the 4-H building, we saw the gigantic pumpkins and my favorite, the crop art. This is basically framed art, most of it political or pop-culture based, made out of seeds. I like the political art the best, because it is surprising to me that people will spend so much time making something so topical. In a year, or certainly five, none of these pieces will have any relevance at all. The best one this year was the Alice in Wonderland/Tea Party commentary, which was even 3-D. There was also a gorgeous hat covered with seeds.

I was on a mission at the fair, and that mission was to see what I had missed last time: the dairy princesses carved in butter. I guess this is standard fare at fairs, but I had never seen a 250-lb butter sculpture. When we finally found it, the exhibit far exceeded my expectations. One of the princesses was in the process of having her likeness carved, while she took questions from the crowd. The other princesses, including Queen Kay of the Milky Way herself, stood outside the rotating, refrigerated booth, and worked the crowd. Working the crowd involved taking questions and also handing out collector cards of themselves.

All the princesses, let it be said, had gorgeous complections.

Questions reflected the fact that the fair is in St. Paul, Minnesota, unlike the many state fairs in rural areas of the state. They included: "How do you tell your cows apart?" (The answer: "That is a good question. We tell them apart the same way we tell people apart. They look different and have different personalities.") It was clear that the princesses had their work cut out for them and were providing an important public service.

The barns closed for cleaning just as we were getting started-- we only got halfway through the sheep barn before an earnest 8-year-old came up and asked us, "Will you please exit the building?" We did get to the kind of rodeo building, a fine piece of engineering with a broad, unsupported, cement-block ceiling that has the appropriate dim lighting with spotlights on the dirt-floor arena. We watched young boys wrestle young steers to the ground. It's a very defined culture, the "rodeo" culture. These boys all wore cowboy hats (not FFA or John Deere caps) and ironed button-down shirts tucked into deep blue jeans. The shirts were pin-striped, pink, blue, green, etc. It was oddly beautiful and even formal attire for wrestling calves in the dirt. After getting the calf down, two adult cowboys on horses would come out to guide the animals back to the paddock, and the boys would jump up and brush the dirt off their shirts and jeans.

All that was left was buying an overloaded bucket of fresh, warm cookies at Sweet Martha's and touring the art building, and we were done. We did almost buy a vermicomposter (worm composting) system and stopped and talked to a dealer about a 6' rototiller for Steve's business. We also looked at some fine used dump trucks and discussed their merits at length (I really want Steve to get a new truck, but he insists he's replaced every moving part and really, there cannot be any more breakdowns).

It was a fine day at the fair, and when we came home, we ate gigantic green salads from the garden to balance the eating we'd already done.

For other photos from our day at the fair, click here.

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