lane county fair 2014

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I’m a big fan of the county fair.  You can see the entire set of my photos here.  This was the first year I’ve been able to go and wander at my leisure, neither being in a wheelchair nor overscheduled, as I have been in past fairs.  And it wasn’t 90 degrees yesterday, another big plus.

If you do go, be sure to see the animals the 4-H kids have raised and all the exhibits indoors.  That’s really what the fair’s about, not the Zipper and deep-fried candy.  We’re struggling to keep the Lane County Extension 4-H programming alive due to budget cuts, so awareness and appreciation of all the good things that come from agriculture and animal husbandry education are essential.  All the baking, preservation, art, and gardening exhibits include kids’ divisions.

IMG_8197 IMG_5879 IMG_5988I noticed this year’s fair has a slightly — slightly — more conservationist quality to it.  Didn’t see the religious trailer “ARE YOU GOING TO HEAVEN?!” and there were only a few Confederate flags flying next to the gay pride and legalize pot ones.  And there was a family farm booth.  Plus, of course, the Master Food Preservers, Master Gardeners, book vendors, and MECCA’s reuse booth.  And education about the environment and animals via the parrot pirate and the sea lion show…well, there’s that.

PS.  Note to roasted corn boss: let the servers roast the corn properly.  It was only roasted on the outside, and corn, like life, is improved with a little char. Love, CE.

anti-spontaneity league! baby!

Hello; my name is Eugenia, and I am not spontaneous.

Hello, Eugenia!

For a long time, I kept it relatively hidden.  I wrote lists in childhood journals à la Jay Gatsby that set out not only my plan for the day (broken into segments as minute as “say hi to the cats,” an important part of my day then and now) but my blueprints for my future house and life. I didn’t want to miss any opportunities, that was for sure.

Like Gatsby, I did force myself to do a number of things to build my social capital.  I started working at age 14 at a law firm and joined the rather unpleasant French Honor Society among a host of extracurriculars so I could get a job as an “international lawyer.” Hm.

I came out as a planner by accident.  It surprised even me.  When I was completing my wedding registry at Williams Sonoma, my future husband tapped me on the shoulder saying he was thirsty.  “I’m planning our childrens’ birthday parties,” I snapped, checking off the cake decorating kit, “you’ll just have to wait.”

Whoa!

But over the years, I’ve come to terms with my need for planning and I really love how much richness and productivity it lends to my life.

At its worst, a lack of spontaneity can be an irritable, chronic condition.  I get more and more grumpy when events conspire to keep the future veiled.  Not having secure employment affects me deeply as a long-range planner.  After all, I’m already planning my retirement, and not knowing where I’ll be next year makes that difficult.  (For those of you who don’t understand people like me, not knowing the future doesn’t mean letting the future just happen, it means contingency planning — setting out as many different options as possible. The wheels of change do not stop for any momentary obstruction in the road.)

Being a planner doesn’t mean I’m inherently inflexible.  In fact, adaptation is the key to any plan.   But it can be. exhausting.  I loathe last-minute invitations, since I can rarely attend them due to scheduling my evenings weeks in advance, and I’m participating less and less in thrown-together events because of the anxiety it causes.  I’m finding, too, that my pleasure in spending time with people who can’t make decisions is slowly diminishing.

So why don’t you change, Eugenia?

Why doesn’t the world change?  We could all use a little less chaos. That old saw about a messy desk being the sign of an orderly mind, or whatever?  Good god.  Spend a little less time defending your crap and a little more time cleaning it up.  Creativity has nothing to do with hoarding and bric-a-brac on your keyboard.  The whole being laid-back, it’s all good, letting go thing is vastly overrated.  Stick up my bum?  At least I don’t have shit everywhere.

And I like the idea of becoming world famous as an anti-spontaneity curmudgeon.  Anti spontaneity league! Baby!  (Note planning in action.)

So what’s the up side of a lack of spontaneity, then, if it just makes you grumpy?

I’m surprised that you even need to ask this.  But let’s return to cooking.  Some people really love baking cakes — it’s a relatively immediate gratification (I suppose you do have to wait for it to cool).  But me?  I love preservation, the opposite of immediate gratification.

As Sandor Katz has so eloquently written, preservation puts you in closer contact with the rhythms of the earth — seasonality, fertility, and decay.  Canning and the related arts are unnatural, I’ve said before, paraphrasing the Italian philosopher Massimo Montanari.  When you preserve food, you seize death by the throat and shake it until it falls back, stunned.  You stave off decay with sugar, vinegar, salt and heat. With a little planning, you can end up with a pantry and freezer full of summer bounty…in the dead of winter!  It’s alchemy and ingenuity and a testament to the human drive for life!

And it can all be yours for the simple mindset of just planning ahead, grasshopper.


Although I recognize the issues the “urban homesteading” crowd has with USDA-influenced preservation and acknowledge the safety redundancy and commercial interests that affect sugar, chemical, and salt levels in Extension-approved canning, I think we should take a moment to appreciate the spirit in which the early cookbooks and canning manuals were developed.  The home economists and domestic scientists of the early-twentieth century appreciated a good plan.  They standardized measurements and made recipes as fail-safe as possible.  This came at a cost, I’ll stress again: using inferior products for the sake of good looks (always a danger, in cooking and outside of it) and glorifying industrialization and economy led to the vilification of freshness and taste.

If you look carefully, though, you’ll see that adaptations were often encouraged and suggested, as long as they’d promote the recipe’s success and safety.  Creating an anti-spontaneous program helped generations to learn how to cook well systematically, not to mention raised the level of professionalism in the kitchen and provided women with ways to study science and business in an era in which they weren’t being educated much at all.  That’s quite a feat.

And wholly impossible without planning.

(The photos in this blog post are all from Grange exhibits at the 2011 Lane County Fair.)

lane county fair 2011 opens today!

EDITED TO ADD: See my 2011 photo album on Facebook!

I really love the county fair, with its creepy carnival rides, heart-attack food, and exhibits of animals and food products.  I’ll be there today with the Master Food Preservers and other Extension groups ready to talk about food safety and preservation to anyone in hearing range.  My shift is 12-2 p.m.  Come say hi!  It’s over at the, duh, Fairgrounds at 13th and Jefferson/Friendly/Jackson.

Some of my MFP colleagues are judges in the food-in-jars competition, and that’s always fun, too.  New canners should definitely stop by to see some of these gorgeous pickles and crystal clear jellies and broths.  I always get good ideas from the preserved products I see.

How will the elimination of 4-H from our county affect the animal show this year and in subsequent years?  I know that Lane County program directors and teachers have been traveling long distances to other counties to continue their work with 4-H kids, and I’d imagine the kids have been displaced, too.  Will they continue to show up at our fair?

By the way, if you’re interested in learning more about the preservation techniques you’ll see at the fair, check out our Master Food Preserver Alliance Facebook page for more information about classes.  I think there are still spaces left in the tomato canning and meat canning classes.  (MFP tomato/salsa class on August 26 and the meat canning class on September 23. $15/class. Call 541-344-4885 for information.)  Tuna are all full, but we’re taking a (rather long) list of interested parties for next year.  Also, more classes to come in fall and spring!

fair enough

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Have you been to the Lane County Fair yet?  I gave my talk on blackberries there the other day, but it was so hot I couldn’t spend more than an hour walking around and looking at the exhibits and rides.  Still, I managed to snap a few shots of the local color.

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Fun to look at all the canning efforts, some so much better than anything I’m capable of doing; others, well, grey dill relish.

I do hope to get back before it ends, so I can see the animals and vegetables.  And minerals, too, I suppose.  Right now, here I am, pondering my looming dissertation deadline:

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Let’s hope the safety belt is operating properly!