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.
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.
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 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.
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.