Migration — Market Fare

Monday, August 25, 2008

So in my Friday rundown of the fairs I neglected to mention one of the best events of all. It’s not a fair, though it has some of the same features without mud or dust. It’s the Open Air Market and Festival at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown.
The Mansion has had a long and somewhat tortured history that began at the turn of the 20th century. Colonel Clarence Wadsworth built the place as a summer house and with professional help planned to landscape 500 acres of surrounding land. After the colonel died, some of the land became Wadsworth Falls State Park. It really does have beautiful waterfalls and great hiking trails.
The building went to the Religious of Our Lady of the Cenacle. Nuns lived and worshiped there until the 1980s. The place sat unoccupied after that and made news as teenagers set fires in the building, broke windows, and sprayed graffiti on the walls. The immediate grounds became overrun with weeds, and at one point it seemed that the building would have to be torn down. The city, however, was able to put together funding to renovate and now the place looks as it did when Colonel Wadsworth owned it – minus the furniture. It is used for weddings, conferences, and other events.
The annual market stretches down the back lawn with a  double row tents for vendors – crafts, jewelry, flowers, and all manner of food. Non-profit organizations offer information about their services: the Middlesex County Community Foundation, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, the local recycling center.
The crowds – and there are crowds – are entertained with classical, rock, jazz and country bands. (Not all at once!) There is face painting for the children, who seem eager to participate, though I did hear one mother say to her little girl, “Why do you want to get your face painted when you’re going swimming?”
A big attraction – aside from the hamburgers and hot dogs – is the Cold Goats Farm because of the two little Angora goats in a pen next to the tent where Viv McGarry, the owner, was spinning their wool – now dyed orange, brown and burn umber. Standing about two feet tall, the little guys (girls?) looked awfully warm in their shaggy coats. But the owner said their horns drain the heat from their bodies. And they’ll be cooler in about a month when they undergo their semi-annual shearing. Since their hair grows at about an inch a month, they’ll have plenty to keep them warm for the winter. From mohair to no hair!
They were certainly vocal little critters – and after the children started “baa-ing” back, Viv said, “All right, put the children in the pen!” One of the little girls looked up aghast, then realized the woman was joking.
Not a joke for the kids (the ones inside the pen) were the two Jack Russell terriers that showed up and tried to climb in with the goats. Viv explained, “Those are natural predators. The goats see them as little wolves.” They backed away and acted nervous.
After drooling over the v. expensive turquoise and silver at several booths (I did not buy), it was time to sample some wares: pasta sauce, olive oil, balsamic vinegar from Capa di Roma; piquantly delicious marinated mushrooms and atomic barbecue sauce from Norm’s Best. I skipped the cashews from the same place, likewise the chocolate sauce from another vendor – hadn’t had lunch yet. Took care of that with an excellent (but overpriced) wrap of mozzarella, artichoke, tomato, and pesto sauce from an unnamed stand. Wandered a bit more and bought: a huge yellow tomato, lemon cucumbers, and some small hot peppers from Northfordy Farm. I’d already tasted his produce, Crenshaw melon and some absolutely mellow garlic, so I knew the stuff would be spectacular, as it was.
Also got the last jar of marinated mushrooms – and the most fascinating of all  – some amazing Bridgid’s Abbey raw milk cheese from Cato Corner Farm. It was basically mellow like Jarlsburg but not as heavy. It has a tiny bite but none of that heavy cheesy odor. I remember having raw milk squirted into my mouth direct from the cow when I was little. Decided that I didn’t like it because it was warm. (The farmer’s kids wouldn’t drink the bottled stuff my mom pulled out of the fridge.)
All these years later, the cheese passed every taste test. And now I’m wondering why the government is so squirrely about raw-milk products. If people know the risks they’re taking, they should be able to eat what they choose.


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