One of my favorite events to cover for the newspaper was the Wicomico County Fair. I never had been to a county fair before, and it was almost the complete opposite of the tractor pull I covered in May. The main difference was that, while I couldn’t even imagine how anyone not participating could enjoy a tractor pull, I began imagining what it would be like to be a participant in the county fair. Not that I ever would be a participant, but at least it made sense to me.
Mostly I got a kick out of how “farmy” it smelled, even though that should have been obvious. People entered food for judging and, although I didn’t cover it in my news story, I wondered how they knew when the competition began. I make a pretty darn good loaf of bread by hand, but I can’t begin to think how I would get it into the county fair to be judged. And who would judge it? Not for nuthin’ but we don’t do bread too well here on the Delmarva Peninsula.
In fact, as the region is getting more suburban, lots of kids were seeing cows and pigs and other farm animals up close for the first time in their lives. This also kind of bogged my mind. I’ll be going to the event annually, though, and maybe I even will be able to make and enter a peach pie or raise a monster rabbit for consideration.
It still comes back to food
I also made my first foray into cultural food writing as I started keeping track of a local library’s cookbook club. Each month they would select an old-time church cookbook from the archives and everyone would make something from it. It was kind of wonderful and right in my wheelhouse.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m really getting more interested in regional foods like muskrat and fried oyster fritters on white bread. There’s something cool about when poor person food becomes a delicacy. Red beans and rice are an example, as is haggis. The Eastern Shore kind of skipped most of the 20th century, leaping from its 19th century wealth based on agriculture to its 21st century wealth based on the value of retirement property. The food changed very little, it just went from sustenance gaming and growing to strip mall food.
A world where muskrat is essentially replaced by Red Lobster is more fascinating than I can make plain here, but stay tuned.
Speaking of food fads
Not Your Father’s Root Beer, a root beer flavored beer, became outrageously popular in the summer of 2015 culminating in a shortage of the crafty beer (it is owned by a mega-brewery) as Labor Day approached. To combat the shortage, one of the local liquor store owners tried mixing root beer with Blue Moon. The result was pretty good, considering. I called it a root beer shandy and wrote about it for ShoreCraftBeer.com.
As it turned out, my boss there was looking to get another job and I was positioned to do the kind of work I’d always wanted to do, which is this. I got a little traction with the root beer article, and some attention from more national beer blogs. It wasn’t a lot, but it did give me a start reminder that writing about breaking cultural trends was what the Internet was for. By the time I got it into the paper, it wouldn’t have been much of a story anymore.
I put some zinc oxide on my nose and finally got that beach day I’d promised myself, although by then it was September…