Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Trip To The Santa Cruz County Fair!

Yesterday Musty and I had a fun date at the County Fair. 8 years ago, that was one of the first outings that we went out on together that felt like a date... so it has a special place in our hearts. The fair is held in Watsonville, an interesting agricultural community with an almost 100% Latino population. While we were down that way, we decided to check out a Mexican restaurant that we'd been hearing a lot about, called Fiesta Tepa Sahuayo.

Musty & I both ordered "Chiles Nogada: a plate created by Puebla Nuns. Poblano peppers filled with (zucchini & mushrooms) seasoned with almonds, pecans, fine herbs, dried fruits, and topped with walnut sauce." Wow. I got mine vegan, although I have to say that I doubted the vegan-ness of the crepe on the plate. Too bad, because Musty said it was the best part of the meal. It was covered in a lovely rose petal sauce. There was a small cup of *spicy* salsa, saffron rice, a little salad, the crepe, beans, and the poblano peppers covered in walnut sauce & dried cranberries. It's usually made with turkey, but my peppers were stuffed with zukes & mushrooms, a very nice combo.

In all the review was a bit mixed... I quite liked the peppers, but doubting the vegan-ness of something on the plate always makes me a bit uneasy.. Also, the 20 minutes wait for a check was bit of a drag. Still, I'll check it out again. I did appreciate that he served my meal on a "Why I am a Vegetarian" plate! :)

With our bellies full we headed off to the Fairgrounds...

It was good to have a belly full of veggies & walk right past all the food booths like this yucky stuff... It's pretty crazy some of the stuff people eat at the fair!

Here's Musty in the Small Animal Barn, petting on a friendly little goat. Musty looks so happy with his little friend.

This miniature cow was also in the Small Animal Barn. Such a beautiful face.

Donkey! I think Donkeys are so wonderful, and one day I would love to have a donkey. I was happy to see this gentle sweet face.

There was an interesting reptile barn with cool snakes and turtles and even an alligator that we could pet! These animals seemed well taken care of, and the handlers seemed very knowledgable and caring. That was nice to see. I took this picture because the tortoises were eating a giant zucchini for lunch - just like the zucchini I had in my peppers for lunch!

So, here we go... headed into the very sadly-named "Beef & Goat Barn." I'm sure that I am not the only one of us who struggles with the county fair. On the one hand, I love farm animals so much. I love to see them, and pet them, and love them, and even smell them... But the sad truth of their fate can be hard to take. Some years I avoid the animals altogether, but this year I was up for it.

Musty and I were quite taken by the massive size of the cows. We were discussing the difference between the bone-y cows we saw in India and these giant fatted-up creatures/creations. Amazing.

This fellow was SO big, it was both impressive & insane. Right next to the cows & goats were a photo display of the "Open Carcass Carving Competition" and a giant barbecue booth. At first it seemed like a horrible disconnect to me... but on the other hand, I started thinking, at least this display gives people a poignant reminder of what they are eating.

Here is a sweet smiley pig. Have you looked at a pig lately? Isn't it weird & amazing how much their skin looks like human skin? Pigs are neat.

All of the animals at the fair are from various 4-H programs in our county, where children raise farm animals and then exhibit them at auction for slaughter. To me, it just seems so incredibly weird and unfathomable to teach young people to raise these gentle creatures and then have them killed. When I was looking at this sweet goat, I heard a man say to his girlfriend, "Now, how could you eat one of those sweeties??"... about these two:
So, maybe it's a good thing? Aren't they cute?

Of course, "Goat Meat Cuts" was posted on the outside of their pen. !? It mostly just makes me speechless.

One small thing is at least a gratitude that these animals do seem to have a better lot in life than factory-raised meat animals. Still, I sure wish that they could just keep on having happy lives and children for friends.... When I was a kid, I used to go to a really neat farm camp every summer, where I got to help care for cows and pigs, chickens and goats, sheep and horses... it was quite specifically what turned me into a vegetarian, and I still feel a very special sense of comfort and spiritual calmness around farm animals. Even though most of these lovely creatures will be killed prematurely, I was touched to spend some time with them and appreciating their time.

After the animals, we headed over the various exhibition booths. One of my favorite things is to look at all the entries for the baking and canning contests. I wonder if they have a vegan category? Maybe they should make one! Or, I should just enter all the categories with things that just HAPPEN to be vegan - that's even more subversive! I will give it a try next year. I also love this weirdly patriotic & grandiose display technique, holding little paper plates with a few cookies or a slice of banana bread wrapped in saran wrap. Ha! it's all a bit weary looking by day 5 of the fair, ha ha!

You can see that they've used a similar display tactic for people's fruits and veggies that have been entered. People can enter almost anything they've grown that they are particularly proud of. The winning pumpkin was 728 pounds! Holy Pumpkin, Batman. This display had various winter squash varieties, hot peppers, and even some leaves of kale... I love the cute, hokey-ness of it all.

I know that some of you have blogged about large zucchini from your gardens, but check out this award-winning 41-lb zuke!! Whoa!

Lastly, this uninspired photo of one of my favorite parts of the County Fair... the collections! People can display their collections, regardless of what they collect (as long as it's not porno videos or whatever! : ) ) . This one won first place in the adult division, and for good reason. It was a beautiful display of 343 small glass vials of sand gathered from all over the U.S. & the world at large. Each jar was numbered, and you could look on the companion list to see where each one was gathered. There were some beautiful yellow sands from France that were quite amazing.

After all that, I made a light dinner - Chinese Long Beans (fun! - from the farmers' market even!) with Black Bean Sauce & sesame seeds...
As well as broccoli with sesame and ginger, from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. This was an easy, 5-minute method for making broccoli that turned out absolutely delicious! I could have eaten about 3 times this amount, and will definitely make it again. I reduced the total oil to about 1.5 tsp versus 3 Tbsp or whatever it called for. Very lovely...

Hope you had a good weekend too! How do you like the new look of my blog? I've been meaning to jazz it up a bit for quite some time.... :)


  1. The Chiles Nogada sounds nice, the plate is so funny! I'm sorry you questioned the crepe, that would make me uneasy as well.

    The fair (or any display of animals) makes me sad. I really have a hard time grasping the consumption of animal flesh. I ADORE animals, so I'd want to go & pet them, but I'm not sure I could actually handle it.

    Fair food- ICK! I'm sure people would eat deep fried boot if you wrapped it up nicely!

  2. Oh & I love the logo! Fruits, yum!

  3. Anonymous5:51 AM

    I like the new look! And that zucchini - wow! I don't think it'd fit in my oven tho ;-)

    I think I was in high school the last time I went to a county fair and I always just went for the rides, never giving any thought to the animals. Now though I can't bring myself to go to a fair mainly because of the animals. I like your perspective. And maybe you're right that it will at least give pause to some people.

  4. mmm, that Chiles Nogada dish looks fantastic!! aah, I refuse to attend county fairs anymore - I just don't like how exposed the animals are, and how cruel stupid little kids (and even some adults) can be (i.e. throwing things at/bothering the animals, etc.) And that "goat cuts" sign is horrifying!! yikes.

    I am LOVING the new layout of your blog - always fun to "jazz" things up once in a while :0)

  5. Amy ~

    I love your pictures. I absolutely love farm animals and squeal with delight when I get to touch and pet them (and smell them:)) I wish it weren't so sad, though. I became vegetarian after my first county fair in Iowa. :) I was standing by this huge majestic cow being, looking glorious and peaceful and sweet with her doe-eyes and I though "How does t make any sense that I EAT that?!" I was in 8th grade. :) It inspired my long term devotion to cows.

    Yam yam, greenbeans and broccoli! What a dinner. :-)

  6. What a lovely trip to the fair... mingled with sadness. The photos of the animals are so beautiful, it makes me cry. How can anyone look at them and not make the connection to their dinner plates??

    I love the new look of your blog--so fresh and tantalizing, those fruitses!

  7. Your new layout looks very nice. I love all the animal pictures. Of course rodeo and fairs are huge here. The kids are just groomed from an early age to raise their animals for slaughter and never give it a second thought. It's just business. I LOVE pigs. They're like dolphins, which I love the most - always look like they're smiling.

    Broccoli in all forms = goodness. I'll check out that recipe for sure.

  8. Amey, I love your new layout design and colors!

    You are braver than me to go to the fair- the huge NY state fair is about 10 minutes from my house every year, and I've never gone, because I'm afraid of sinking into a pretty deep depression. I have been known to burst into tears just driving past a dairy, so this would be too much for me! You have done such a good job illustrating these issues though... cuts of goat meat? Cows being called "beef"? Amazing.

    By the way, pigs have such similar skin to us! At farm sanctuary, I saw that they had huge tubs of sunblock, because their pigs get sunburned without it! It was pretty hilarious. I love piggies.

  9. off topic - il tuo italiano è incredibile! Se sai così bene l'italiano allora posso parlarti in Italiano? :))))
    I miei due blog non sono uguali... cerco di farli diversi perchè diversi sono i gusti, o mi sbaglio?

  10. Anonymous5:14 AM

    love the new fresh look of the blog!

  11. Looks like a fun time at the county fair. Can't believe all that fried food. And how sad about the sign with the meat cuts, how can you be petting an animal and even thinking of eating it. Craziness.

  12. First off, I love the new layout and graphic at the top.

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun at the fair. It must be so annoying to have doubts about the veg-ness of certain foods - at least you are a good cook so you're not missing out to much!

    Aren't Chinese long beans the cutest things ever?!

  13. I love the new bright, cheery, colorful look of your blog...which I check it is one of my favorite blogs. Thank you for sharing the fair pics. I missed it this year...lucky we had a pretty decent fair to go to here in Boise. Love to you, Musty, Doddie, Yummers, Snoopy, and Stevie! Can't wait to see you in SD soon!

  14. Oh wow, that zucchini takes the cake... or maybe even the whole bakery! Many years ago, a giant zucchini grew in our garden, and it was the biggest I'd ever seen in 21 years of life... but no longer; this one is more than TWICE its size!

  15. PS I hope we get to meet someday too! That would be awesome :o)! Thanks for the wonderful comments you wrote about my meme.

  16. Love your new masthead.

    This was an interesting post--and fun. But I must say I can't even look at the pictures of the farm animals. I'm getting worse as I get older. I can't take that they are such beautiful, intellegent creatures--with emotional lives--and that they'll be eaten.

    I would be wary of eating a 41 pound zucchini. Just what made it so large, right?

  17. The animals are so lovely!

    Thanks for sharing.

  18. Anonymous7:43 PM

    I love the fresh new photos in your masthead! Just lovely!

    I want to go to the fair because I relish any opportunity to snuggle and pet farm animals. Unfortunately, the horror of their fate is too much for me to bear and I can't take it. I like your perspective and outlook though. Let's hope that it does give people pause! I originally became a vegetarian because my brother raised a pig named Snuggles for the county fair. So let's hope that the fairs this summer created a whole new group of veg*ns!

    I am most intrigued by the vials of sand. I would love to do something like that. I actually have some sand from a couple of the places I've been so maybe I'll start my own collection.

  19. SuperWife12:19 AM

    I also have those same mixed feelings about the fair- it was at least good to know the beautiful animals are living a better life than the ones doomed to factory farms... but the good feelings were ruined when one of the farm hand girls shouted to the crowd that they could buy raffle tickets to win 200 pounds of pork, referring to a beautiful sow nursing a litter of piglets :( i can't wrap my brain around it!


I love comments, they really make my day! Thanks for reading my blog!