Most of us fully enjoy the eating experience. Personally, I like Italian, Thai, Chinese and southern cooking. Give me a good fried chicken meal with mashed potatoes and white gravy or roasted turkey with dressing and I’m in heaven! It seems almost everything I like is wrong for me as it pertains to calories. How about a homemade apple or cherry pie? I can’t resist a slice. Carrot cake anyone? Some of us will drive hundreds of miles to dine at a restaurant or cooking event just to enjoy the flavor of particular foods.
One of my favorite food/travel memories is from more than 30 years ago when I was traveling what had been Yugoslavia and we stopped at a roadside restaurant way out in the countryside. It was to be a late lunch where we sat outside under some large trees. Before taking our food order we were brought our selection of beverages along with a basket of bread fresh from the oven. It was a hard-crusted, wheat bread. I tore into a slice and it was the best tasting bread I had ever eaten. The person traveling with me also tried the bread and was amazed at how good it was. We ordered a meal of goat. Yes, goat! It was common meat in the area. Before our meal arrived at the table my friend and I had eaten two and a half loaves of bread. I was quite full when the goat arrived and I probably picked at it after eating so much bread.
As of this writing, the bread eaten this day remains the best bread I have ever consumed. One day I hope to return to what is now Montenegro and once again try the bread.
There are various types of food fairs all over the country and I’ll tell you about a few of them in case you might have interest in attending.
For instance, in Hatch, N.M. during September is the annual Chile Festival. Hatch claims the honor of being the Chile Capital of the World and celebrates the harvest with a Chile Queen Pageant which is a cooking contest with everything from chile eggplant parmesan to chile chocolate cake (no thanks) and literally tons of famous Hatch chiles, Jalapenos, nachos, Serranos and other varieties are served in tamales, enchiladas, empanadas, burritos, chile rellenos, and chile con carne. Head to Hatch for this fiery festival if it holds interest for you. Phone (505) 267-5050 or go online to www.hatchchilefest.com.
There is an Applejack Festival in Nebraska City, Neb. in September. More than 36,000 bushels of apples are picked from orchards around Nebraska City. Held at different locations around town, activities include picking your own apples at local orchards, craft vendors and a parade. You can try all sorts of apple-based goodies including apple fritters, caramel apples, and apple cider. There will be family centered activities at the local school. Phone (402) 873-6654.
Also in September in Anahuac, Texas you can find out if alligator really tastes like chicken. It holds a three-day celebration in the Alligator Capital of Texas, where gators outnumber people three to one. Food booths offer such reptilian fare as alligator sausage, fried alligator, grilled alligator legs, and alligator jerky. The festival also features airboat rides, live music, vendors selling alligator products, fishing tournaments, beauty pageants, and a Great Texas Alligator Roundup, in which hunters compete to bring in the biggest gator. The winners often exceed 13 feet. Phone (409) 257-4190.
September is the time potatoes are harvested in Idaho. Bingham County grows more potatoes than any other county in the United States. So when harvest time arrives, there is a celebration of spud day. Competition is fierce in the Great Potato Games, which feature the World Spud-picking Championships as well as a Spud Tug. After a cement mixer fills a pit with mashed potatoes, tug-of-war teams try to pull each other into the glop. There is also a parade and fun and games for the kids. Phone (208) 529-9619.
September is the month of the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival. Have no fear: Cajun Country’s two most important resources are kept separate at all times at this festival. You can feast on shrimp cooked in so many ways it would make Forrest Gump proud. There is the Shrimp Trawlers and oil boats parade which motor up and down the Atchafalaya River during the festival. All this happens at Morgan City, La. Phone (985) 385-0703, www.shrimp-petrofest.org.
In Barnesville, Ohio during September you can roll a pumpkin uphill with sticks. This event is part of the Barnesville fall extravaganza where you can compete against other pumpkin-pushers on a tough, 50-foot course. After the race, treat yourself to pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin fudge, or maybe even a pumpkin shake. You won’t want to miss the King Pumpkin contest, which in the past has tipped the scales at more than 1,000 pounds. By the way, the Barnesville water tower is painted like a large pumpkin. For details, call (740) 425-2592 or go online to www.barnesvillepumpkinfestival.com.
September is also the month for the Hard Crab Derby and Fair in Crisfield, Md. You will have to find a fast crab, because this event’s all about pinching out the competition. About 350 of the clawed critters race down a wooden board, vying for trophies for their human cheerleaders. There is also a Governor’s Cup race, in which crabs representing all 50 states try to out-scuttle one another. The winners are spared the pot! A crab-picking contest and a crab-cooking contest finish the festivities. Phone 1-800-782-3913, www.crisfieldchamber.com/crabderby.htm.
In Checotah, Okla. okra is one of the veggies grown here. It is one of those vegetables which are notoriously slimy, and people either love or hate them. I became acquainted with okra while visiting the New Orleans area. They love it there, as does much of the south. Checotah celebrates the crop with an okra-cooking contest where winners serve a variety of dishes, which in the past have included pickled okra, okra digs, okra gumbo which is big in Louisiana, okra bread, and even okra ice cream. During the festival you can sample free fried okra from the okra pot, which cooks more than 400 pounds of the pod. Antique tractors and an open car show with live music and vendors are also part of the festival. Phone (918) 473-4178.
September is also the time for the McClure Bean Soup Festival. Now, here is one I would like to attend. Bean soup is one of my favorites. It happens in Pennsylvania. Ground beef, beans and lard slowly simmer in 35-gallon iron kettles just like they did back when the Blue fought the Gray. The festival began in 1891 when Civil War vets got together and cooked up their typical wartime fare at a public dinner. Today, descendants of those veterans and citizens of McClure stir the pot for more than 75,000 festivalgoers. Fireworks, parades and Civil War reenactments top off the annual celebration. Learn more, call 1-800-338-7389 or go online to www.mcclurebeansoup.com.
What festival could we host here in the Payson area?