Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pickles, Pies and Blue-Ribbon Biscotti

Yesterday, I went to the State Fairgrounds in St Paul to drop off my canning entries. Security guards checked my ID and issued me a permit to drive around. It was empty, but bustling. The crowds of Minnesota humanity that will pack the place in a few weeks were noticeably absent. I've been at the fairgrounds for the Craftstravaganza and other events, the off-season fairgrounds, but this was different. The concession booths were setting up, pulling up the awnings. The carnival rides had started arriving. Folks were building frames and temporary structures for the fair. (I saw a platform being built for a car exhibit.) Groups of teenagers walked about deliberately (to help out at the 4H building?). And a steady trickle of women approached the Creative Activities building, boxes and bags in hand.

The Annex of Creative Activities is entered from behind, near the bathrooms. Five white-haired ladies sat at a long table in the flourescent-lit room, and checked in my jars, one by one. The final entry tally was: Beans, Beets, Bread and Butter, Sweet, and Not Otherwise Specified (Okra). The tables stacked with jars in the Annex were remarkably empty, and the ladies mentioned they hadn't seen many beans or beets this year. The judging is this weekend. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Right on time, here's a NYT article about the longevity of cooking contests at state fairs, concluding that baking and grilling are replacing canning as the most popular categories.


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