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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thing 39: The Strawberry Festival

Strawberries! Get your strawberries!

I just bought an ice cream maker. Happy summer to me!

That purchase is key to understanding my motivation for begging and pleading the Boyfriend to drive us out to Delaplane, VA for the Strawberry Festival last weekend. Because at the strawberry festival there would be cheap and abundant strawberries, and that meant fresh, homemade strawberry ice cream and sorbet. I had to test out my new Cuisinart ice cream maker, cherry red, and David Lebovitz's beautiful book that I ordered along with it.

Where exactly is Delaplane? I still have no idea, but I think it's about 50 miles West of here. I had it in my head that it was a suburb of DC, which it decidely did not turn out to be, so it took a lot longer than I thought it was going to. We drove about an hour out on 66, then turned onto a country highway lined with rolling green hills, cows and silos. The Boyfriend has a Miata convertible, and we took the top down for the first time this year and drove and drove with the wind in our hair and NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me blasting from the radio.

Finally we pulled into Sky Meadows State Park, where the festival is held. We paid the $20/car fee, and parked in a large, grassy lot. By this time it was noon, and the sun was beating down pretty hard. We slathered on the sun screen, and trudged across the wide lot into the festival.

Crafts at the festival
Crab cakes and pork BBQ...I'm a bad Jew, but they are so, so good.We did a lap of the festival, checking out the children's games and activities, the local crafts for sale, and the food vendors, before finding a grassy spot in the shade for our picnic lunch. We'd packed our own ahead of time, although there were a half dozen food booths selling pit BBQ sandwiches, homemade potato chips, kettle corn, fruit smoothies, crab cakes, and New Orleans gumbo. Everything smelled wonderful. We ate our modest sandwiches, leaving room for the strawberry sundaes that were the main attraction.
Strawberry Sundae!At 1:00, we bought a large glass of strawberry lemonade and then made our way to the stage area, grabbing a sunny seat on a bale of hay. It was time for the World Championship Strawberry Eating Contest.

I had never been to a professional eating competition and I must say, it was amazing in that car wreck kind of way. I could not look away. And yet, I knew that this sort of gluttonous Eat! Eat!competition is a lot of what I think is wrong in this country. And great about this country. Do we celebrate the triumph of an incredible physical feat (which truly, it was)? Or do we frown on such extreme excess? The term "food warrior," which the competitors used to describe themselves, makes it sound like food is an enemy to be destroyed rather than one of life's simplest pleasures. I remain conflicted.

The amateurs were up first, a group of fifteen local people doing this for a lark rather than cash money. Only one woman in the bunch, and she ended up winning! In five minutes, she put down an impressive three and a half pounds of strawberries. She will have the privilege (punishment?) of competing in the pro contest next year.

Eat! Eat!And then it was the turn of the professional "Food Warriors." The emcees, two veteran 'warriors,' were manic faux gangstas, trying to display their street cred with their 'yo yo yo's and their tough talk. They introduced the ten professional competitors, who all had really impressive (terrifying?) credits to their name -- most matzoh balls eaten if five minutes, 115 chicken wings eaten in seven minutes, world record cookies and milk holder.

They had seven minutes to eat as many pounds of strawberries as they could. Seven one pound baskets were laid out in front of them; enough to beat the previous record of five pounds and some change. The timer started, and they were off! Whereas the amateurs all omitted eating the green stems, opting to place them in a separate bucket to be weighed against the amount eaten, the professionals all ate the entire strawberry, greens and all. Like machines, they just kept putting one after the other in their mouths, chew, swallow, chew, swallow. The most impressive and ultimately successful competitor, Tom "Goose" Gilbert, is an army reserve officer, and he ate those berries with a will and precision that would have been admirable had it not been so gluttonous. "Goose" ended up eating nine pounds even, a decisive win, and a look of total misery when it was all over.

I love petting zoosThe Boyfriend and I spent the next hour wondering around the festival, eating ice cream, petting barnyard animals and giggling at the tacky local knick knacks (awesome tie dye t-shirts, anyone? Floral tea cozies, perhaps?). Around three, on the verge of suffering dehydration, heat stroke and/or sunburn, we headed home. On the road back to the highway, the Boyfriend swears he saw Tom "Goose" Gilbert in a car pulled over to the side of the road, throwing up about nine pounds of strawberries out the side door.

And the homemade ice cream? Oh, people. It is what heaven tastes like. I made two of David's recipes -- strawberry sour cream ice cream, and strawberry rhubarb sorbet. They were both Oh ice cream maker, I think I'm falling in love...incredibly easy, requiring almost zero cooking. The ice cream is a rich, light pink ice cream with real strawberry flavor at the center, not the sugar or the cream tastes. And the sorbet is light and tart and sweet, a dark red-pink, and with barely any sugar, the stuff is downright good for you! I have a quart of each in the freezer that I'm slowly working my way through, a refreshing, delicious reminder that summer time is here!
Strawberry sour cream ice cream, freshly churned

Strawberry rhubarb sorbet (with David's book still on the table!)


Jess said...

Keeping in the strawberry vein, I have heard that in June Vermillion in Old Town has special strawberry vodka cocktails that are supposed to be excellent. Come join me for some strawberry related boozing in Old Town sometime!

dc365 said...


Unknown said...

Mmm. Those recipes do sound divine. I think I may have to try those as well. I've always had a soft spot for rhubarb!

dc365 said...

I don't know how long you'll have rhubarb in Marin, but the season is nearly done in DC, so do it soon!

Anonymous said...

You did well in selecting your icecream maker--it was just selected as the best basic icecream maker by Real Simple magazine! (And by basic they mean under $300 and doesn't take up your entire counter...)

maiapapaya said...

Oh man, yes. That strawberry sour-cream ice cream is divine. The perfect balance of sweet and tart, and just gushing with strawberry flavor. Mmm..