by Kate Heyhoe
I found something the other day I haven't used in at least a year: a salad spinner. You know, a large plastic tub with a fitted basket, and a lid that has a handle for spinning the basket. Centrifugal force throws the water off the leaves without crushing them.
It can be a handy gadget if the lettuce is freshly washed and you want to use it instantly. But even then, I find my trusty kitchen towel works just as well.
No, I don't dry each and every leaf with the towel by hand. I follow the technique I learned when young, living in the Italian countryside. The women there would pick the fresh greens and rinse them. They would then place them in a layer on a kitchen towel and roll up the towel, jelly-roll fashion, then place it in the refrigerator. Sometimes they would give the towel a shake, holding the ends, to more quickly absorb the water. But usually, they would just stick the towel in the fridge and leave it there, for hours sometimes, until ready to use.
To this day, I find it to the quickest and simplest method. The first thing I do when preparing dinner is to rinse the greens and roll them up in their towel. While they chill and dry at the same time, I proceed with the rest of the prepararations. No need to pull out the clunky salad spinner. Unless of course, someone wants to help me in the kitchen and I need to give them something to do. In these cases, a salad spinner is a perfect no-brainer chore for well-meaning and much appreciated party helpers.
Fairs, at their core, are all about food and they are as old as civilization itself. An early 19th-century Massachusetts sheep farmer name Elkanah Watson took the fair beyond its age-old function as a marketplace when he championed it as a means of education. Watson urged farmers and their families to share their knowledge of farming and home arts, resulting in improvements that benefited the entire community. Watson's efforts led to his becoming known as the father of the American fair.
In Wisconsin, nothing keeps the crowds from this American institution, not even some of the worst flooding in the state's history. According to a January 1994 Milwaukee Journal articles, when record rains filled "riverside fairgrounds with mud, water and uprooted trees," some 3.5 million visitors still made it to county and district fairs (and this doesn't include the near million who attended the State Fair.)
Just what is so irresistible about prize lambs and tractor pulls? Why, indeed, is fair attendance up nationwide at precisely the time that rural life is on the wane? According to Lyn Stallworth and Rob Kennedy, Jr., authors of "The County Fair Cookbook" (New York: Hyperion, 1994), the ties to the farm that do remain for city-dwellers are strong ones.
The authors write, "The Jeffersonian ideal of the happy, productive independent rural life still holds powerful sway over the national soul. No matter that few of us will ever realize that ideal: at the county fair we join in spirit, if only for a day, with the agrarian origins of the United States."
Many people, of course, are involved with the fair for much more than a day. Youths in 4-H, Future Farmers of America, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and many school organizations proudly showcase achievements from blue-ribbon pickles to rebuilt hot rods. Non-profit groups offer victuals from roasted corn to Polish sausage, raising money that goes back into the community. Fair organizers, those hard-working fun-makers, arrange motorcycle races and demolition derbies, erect ferris wheels and grandstands; they even clean up manure and trash.
If you've seen one fair, you've seen them all, right? Wrong. "They all have agricultural exhibits, pie, cake, pickle and jelly competitions, boisterous midways and food gastronomically incorrect enough to give a nutritionist apoplexy," say Stallworth and Kennedy, Jr. "Yet each county fair is unique, a community celebration with its own distinct local essence."
There are 79 county and district fairs in Wisconsin, 79 chances to experience the local flavor and fun. To receive brochures containing the current year's specific dates, entertainment schedule, and contact information, contact:
PO Box 8911
Madison, WI 53708
Wisconsin Association of Fairs
985 County A
Grand Marsh, WI 53936
Wisconsin Food Festivals
by Terese Allen
Photographs by Milwaukee Dept of City Development and Gary Knowles
Amherst Press 1995
Reprinted with permission
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.
Modified August 2007
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