“This is my favorite part,” they cooed as they cuddled the Styrofoam bowl, blowing on its hot contents. “It’s so delicious …”
My lovely nieces dragged – no, invited me to accompany them to their favorite festival of the year, The Prairie Peddler Festival. In that it is conveniently located not far from our farm, I decided to go. I needed an antidote to the last festival I went to in the area, Ink in the Clink, which left me, shall I say, uncomfortable. It was a gorgeous fall day, and I would get to hang out with two of my nieces and their brother. In a sprawling, large Irish Catholic family of 30 grandchildren and 20+ great grandchildren (honestly, I’m losing count), I really enjoy having some one on one time with my peeps. My husband even came, along with our daughter, Flora.
After a winding drive over and through hills of cornfields, we arrived. It turns out that Prairie Peddler is not located on the prairie at all, but in the woods, for some reason. Why is it in the woods? Are these people on the lamb or something? It is a maze of over 200 permanent structures that stay in the woods year round. Two weekends a year, the “peddlers,” sell handmade this or that: lots of lovely pottery, leather goods, candles and such. I joined the throng of shuffling festivalgoers and, per usual, immediately lost my husband.
My husband has a reputation for going rogue in these settings. He’s like an ADD hound dog. If he catches a scent of something that interests him, off he goes. I often refer to him as “Moonbeam,” as in “How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?” I was impressed that he came at all because he's not into "themed" events. He rolled his eyes when we confronted a scarecrow that would occasionally come to life and freak out small children and old people. When we passed a couple holding hands and wearing matching red T-shirts, one reading O-H, the other reading I-O, I warily glanced over at Moonbeam. “You ok?”
Moonbeam lasted an hour, escaping to go back to the farm and do Important Things like sitting on his rocking chair and surveying his view. The rest of us pushed on, in search of what was being promised to me as “the best thing you’ll ever taste” by my nieces. Our group kept losing each other in the sea of flannel and blue jeans, constantly calling each other’s cell phones for directions on how to find one another. It was like a party game.
“I’m at the booth with the yellow mums in front of it.”
Nope, you’ve got to give me more than that. This place is littered with mums.
“We’re right next to the booth with the witches and pumpkins.”
Still no good. Those are everywhere too.
“OK, look for the American flag and a man dressed like Ye Olde Prairie Guy.”
You’re killing me.
We miraculously all reunited and dawdled through more booths of furniture, and accessories like lamps made of coconut shells and a whole genre of stuff called "primitives," whatever that is. I watched my daughter, nieces and nephew perusing items for their respective homes and it hit me … When did they all grow out of dressing up in my mother’s scarves to be these funny, smart, interesting humans with jobs and houses of their own? And how is it my nieces now have children? Are they still children? Aren't I still a child?
As I pondered that (and whether or not I needed a coconut shell lamp), we came upon the food we were seeking. The line was long in front of the booth, everyone shuffling impatiently, looking with anticipation at the coveted steaming bowls ahead. Finally, there it was: a Styrofoam cup of piping hot chicken noodle soup on top of mashed potatoes with – wait for it – biscuits on the side. That’s carbs on top of carbs with carbs on the side. It made my pants hurt just looking at it. “Are we running a marathon or something?” I thought. I took a bite of my niece’s serving. “Hmm. It’s ok,” I thought. “But a little heavy, don’t you think?” Then, a bite of my other niece’s serving. “Ok, it’s nice and warm, I’ll give you that.” Then a bite of my nephew’s serving. Then, I just let it happen: I snarfed down a couple rounds of samples from each of them, because calories don’t count when you a). eat standing up; b). eat from someone else’s bowl; c). are shivering at an outdoor festival and what you’re eating is warm.
Sure, that carb on carb on carb bowl was tasty. Not “the most delicious thing ever,” but I choked it back. I did feel the need for a big nap about a half hour later. What was better, though, was spending time with these cool young adults on a gorgeous Ohio fall day. For all the confusion and high carb food, this Prairie Peddler thing may need to be a new tradition. Next time though, I’ll have to wear my stretchy pants.