October 7, 2015

GCV&M's 39th Annual Agricultural Fair

This past weekend, October 3rd & 4th, was the Genesee Country Village's 39th annual Fall Festival & Agricultural Fair!  It promised to be a good one with dozens of activities to celebrate the harvest season - including animal exhibitions, blue ribbon contests, magic and puppet shows, a famed farmers' market, and all sorts of 19th century farming & cooking demonstrations and tastings throughout the village.  And, despite the rather cold-weathered start, it most certainly was!

Field of tall corn stalks behind Eastman's Boyhood Home. 

After having so much fun dyeing with pokeberries, Prussian & Saxon blue at last year's fair, I could hardly wait for what this weekend would bring!

In fact, I entered the blue ribbon contest for the first time, not expecting anything of course, except to say that I did.  With so many spectacular 19th century & 21st century entries - from culinary masterpieces, to horticultural showings, and to domestic and industrial arts of all kinds - I was so surprised and honored to bring home my first two ribbons!  Yippee!

My ruffly 1830s cap, entered under "handsewn article of clothing," DM-18A,
received a bright and shiny red ribbon!

My patchwork pocket, entered under "pieced article of clothing," DM-1,
also received a ribbon! 

Last but not least, I entered my Berlin work pincushion under "needlepoint," DM-34.

Now, having seen so many other gorgeous, inspirational entries, I am eager to enter again next year, what fun!

As for where I worked, I spent Saturday freezing in the Eastman House, the home of the village quilters.  (I would elaborate more on Eastman and the interpretation there, but I am planning to feature each of the buildings I had the opportunity to work in throughout the 2015 museum season in their own, separate posts.  Can you tell that I am in love and obsessed with my workplace?  Stay tuned...)  However, lucky for me, I had the presence of my dearest, cheerful friend & dressmaker to warm me up!

A picture of us both in 30s outfits!
Rhonda's cap & pelerine are just stunning in person!

Sunday had much nicer, sunnier weather, drawing in a crowd of nearly 2000 visitors.  (Including my mom, which was a pleasant surprise :)  I had the chance to try something new and exciting: working with both 19th century and 21st century foodways!  In the morning, I volunteered as an extra set of hands in the Whistle Stop, the onsite, modern kitchen which prepares all of the scrumptious delights from the village's confectionery.  I was immediately put work chopping apples and onions for sauerkraut, learned how to braid bread, and finished my stay by helping make the pumpkin hand pies, yummy!  

In the afternoon, I assisted with the very popular Heritage Chocolate demonstrations & tastings in Thomson Tavern (another building being featured later on).  Between the two demonstrations, I kept the tavern open and talked chocolate for hours - the highlight of my weekend!  

Grinding chocolate nibs on the metate (or "mealing stone" heated by hot coals)
with a mano (Spanish for "hand").

For sure, chocolate is a very relevant, very personal, and very yummy part of practically every visitor's life, so we had a captive audience.  We talked about, well, anything and everything American heritage chocolate related!  Its history...
Like, did you know that the word "chocolate" came from the Aztec word "xocoatl," or "chocolatl," which referred to the bitter drink of their creation, which we would better know as "hot chocolate?"  
Thinking back to early American history, the first people to discover the magical properties of chocolate were the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans.  No really, to the Aztecs cocoa had religious significance, playing part in birth, marriage and death rituals.  Married couples would exchange cocoa beans, which also became a form of currency and acceptable tribute from conquered peoples.  And, in addition to human blood sacrifice, chocolate was gifted to the gods (as well as the victims to cheer them up before death...)
Not to mention they mixed hot and cold drinks from the beans, and even wines from the white pulp of the pods.  The Aztecs really enjoyed their "chocolatl."  So much so that I think Emperor Montezuma literally became addicted to chocolate, perhaps drinking 50+ portions of it daily!

...how it was processed from cocao pod to bar to hot drink, popular additions (spices & coloring)...
Notice the different spices on the table - orange peel, salt to bring out the flavor, anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, red pepper (yes, chili peppers & chocolate intensify each other splendidly!), and annatto.  Annatto is the food coloring added to cocoa to turn it from an unappetizing blackish to the rich, chocolate brown.  (It's also used to color cheese!  So, yes, white cheddar and yellow/orange cheddar are the same cheese - we eat with our eyes.)  Also, thanks to Cortez's & European tastes, we add cane sugar (beet sugar today) to our chocolate.

...its significance and availability throughout the early and mid 19th century, and where to get this "food of the gods" today!  (Chocolate literally is the "food of the gods," according to the Latin Theobroma cacao, meaning "cocao tree!")  

Our American Heritage Chocolate display.

Yes, I had a lot of fun (and hopefully luck) selling our American Heritage Chocolate.  Neither our visitors, nor I, could imagine the flavorless world without chocolate, which is becoming a dim reality due to the rampant deforestation in cacoa climate...I really hope they let me talk more chocolate next season!

Seriously, once you've tasted this rich, decadent, American heritage chocolate, you can never go back to plain, old chocolate...too bad it's only sold at select living history museums.  I guess that means when you visit the Genesee Country Village & Museum, you'll have to stock up ;)

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  1. Congratulations on your ribbon wins!!! I am so proud of you!! You do such a fabulous job on all of your projects! Again, I am so jealous of your work at the museum! What a fun time! The history of chocolate is so fun isn't it? I have had Mexican Chocolate in Cancun and it is so fabulous!!!
    P.S. did you make that fabulous bonnet in your profile picture? It is incredible!!!

    1. Thank you, Gina!! I am already so looking forward to next year's Ag Fair competition & the 2016 museum season! Hopefully there will be more heritage chocolate in both of our futures! Who knew history could be so tasty? ;)

      Thanks for the comment, Anneliese :)

      P.S. And, no, unfortunately, I can't take credit for that bonnet either! It's actually one of Anna Worden Bauersmith's fantastic creations! I was just the lucky model who got to sport it for a fashion show!