Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Visit a country fair this summer

Last night, my husband and I visited the Goshen Country Fair. It was his first time--he is usually teaching a graduate course that week--and only my second. However, for both of us it brought back memories of other fairs when we were children.

At the entrance to the fairgrounds were the big rides, rides that tumble and rides that spin, rides that make you scream and rides that make your stomach do back flips. For me, it's more fun watching those rides than participating. The kiddy rides were farther away from the entrance, and these reminded us of our children racing from one to the next, getting more and more excited and tired as the evening wore on until one of them had a melt down and we had to head home.

There were also games of chance that I remembered. Win a stuffed animal. Win a bottle of soda. Win a glass. Win a trinket that will take up space until someone finally tosses it in the trash.

Merchants take advantage of captive parents, setting up stands to remind us of the home improvement projects we have been longing for. Do you want a new kitchen? Do you need a new roof? Are solar panels in your future? Come to the fair and put your name on their list of potential clients to call.

Local politicians are there, too, to kiss babies and shake hands. How can you vote against the gal or guy you talked to at the fair?

The fair showed its country roots, too. There were goats and cows on display, local 4H projects, a surprise in the Philadelphia suburbs. There were vegetables and flowers on display as well, huge lumpy potatoes, giant zucchini, twisted carrots, Mason jars of dried corn, vases of fresh-cut zinnias and marigolds and lilies.

But the best part of the Goshen Country Fair is the food. The Goshen Fire Company makes killer donuts, and you can buy them plain or covered in cinnamon or powdered sugar. They are tender and sweet, a perfect treat. 

Take an evening this summer and go back in time. Visit a country fair and be a kid again. Or at least you can feel like one!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Italians of a certain age might remember festivals during the summer. These events were a combination holy day and block party. They involved the entire community. I remember the Feast of St. Anthony. Aunt Catherine and Aunt Mary, my grandmother's sisters, both had houses on the parade route. The combination of location and love ensured a day of family, fun, and food.

My father would pile all of us into the car early in the morning so we wouldn't miss a minute of the festivities. First there was mass, and afterwards, men of the parish carried statues of the saints and the Blessed Virgin out of the church and up the hill to St. Anthony's Lodge. The statues were draped in sashes, and on the parade route, people pinned bills to the statue of choice. To my young eyes, it looked like a saintly beauty pageant. I thought the number of bills showed which statue was the most popular or most powerful. 

Everyone followed the pageant to the lodge. The grounds were transformed into a carnival with rows upon rows of stands, each featuring a different game of chance or type of food. My favorite was the balloon game, where for a quarter, anyone could shoot five darts. If you hit a balloon, you won a plastic necklace. If there was a ticket inside the balloon, you won money. I wouldn't know about the money part, but my neck was heavy from all the cheap trinkets I won. Even though my father only gave each of us a dollar, his uncles and their sons made sure we had enough money to keep us entertained all day.

Then there was the food. The wives of lodge members were the best cooks ever. They made cakes and cookies and pies. But even as a kid, I knew the dolci were mere fluff compared to the sandwiches. And the king of the sandwiches was the veal scaloppini. I'm still searching for the perfect recipe that melds tender veal, green peppers, sweet onion, fresh mushrooms, and tomato gravy into the perfect filling for the perfect roll, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, with just enough oomph to keep the precious veal from tumbling to the ground. If you have a recipe for veal scaloppini that you are willing to share, please post it. 

In the meantime, you can find me testing sandwiches at the shore.