Monday, September 7, 2009

#13 Amish Cheese Festival - Arthur, IL - September 5, 2009

Amish Cheese Festival - Arthur, IL - September 5, 2009

Meet Miss Slice and Artie the official mascots of the Cheese Festival. I never saw Artie, but I did see a very soggy slice of cheese run away from me to get out of the rain (presumably).

According to this sign you are free to accept candy from absolutely anyone in Arthur. That is sweet. Kidding aside, the people I met were extremely polite and welcoming. Guess I'm no longer a stranger.

This was an interesting contraption. It was called a car, yet didn't have any wheels. I still like larger than life food themed items that serve a dual purpose (ie. Bagel cannon, Inflatable Horseradish, Catsup Bottle Water Tower, etc.), but did it need the "Say Cheese" painted on it?

With my current eating restrictions due to Ramadan, I was unable to participate in this cheese eating competition. The challenge was to see if you can eat a pound of Colby Cheese in under 5 minutes. Only one person did, the man in the navy shirt. He brought his own knife and cutting board to finely chop the cheese first, and then just swallowed handfuls at a time with a water chaser. I liked the ingenuity, but I could have taken him.

The rain was a definite problem. Although not much seems to be a problem for the Amish. The Amish have a strong presence in Arthur with Horses and Buggies clip clopping around every street. I don't think I have what it takes to be Amish, it would sure hurt this amazing site's future. I did find it odd though that the horse and buggies are required to have electronic turn signals on the buggies in order to be street legal these days. Attorney friends, any opportunity there?

This was to be my 3rd contest victory of the festival season. Cheese Curling. Just like the Olympic event on ice, except with cheese instead of stones, a street instead of ice, and actual brooms rather than ice brooms. I joined three other people to form a curling team and we visualized manipulating that cheese to our wills. Unfortunately Mother Nature had different plans, and the cheese curling was postponed to Monday. My apologies to "Team Cheesealicious" for not doing the 5 hour trip to play in the make-up game.

For some reason my eye is always drawn towards anything spicy. I picked up these two varieties of locally made Amish Cheese. A Habanero and Jalapeno wedge, and a chunk of Smoked Horseradish Cheese. The smoked horseradish cheese is excellent with just the right kick to compliment a roast beef sandwich. The habanero/jalapeno one is just pure heat. It's the difference between a good hot sauce and something that is just trying to injure you. I guess the name should have warned me, but I have too big of a spice ego to be scared. I'm Indian man!

Video of the week: Welcome to what has been called, "a toe-tappin' good time". Meet the Gunny Sack Revue. I counted at least 9 guitarists, and they created a good old-fashioned sound that resonated with contentment. This video of "I'm doing Alright" doesn't do the group justice, especially gauging by the audience applause it received after they began playing.

This festival had some great potential to be a true winner, but the rain managed to hamper a great deal. I'm no stranger to rain at festivals, and I put on my rain gear and soldiered on. I even called ahead to make sure the festival was not threatened by the weather. I was told that they have canceled events at the festival only once when the streets flooded over into the sidewalks. Mind you I had picked Saturday as the day to drive five hours round-trip because of the cheese curling tournament. Unfortunately I will have to re-start my training for next year.

There were also some strange food incorporations at this festival. I will grant that they did have dedicated sites for a breakfast option and a lunch option, these are ancillary options normally reserved to the more established and long running festivals. Yet, for some reason they offered a pancake and sausage breakfast and a Ham and Bean Sandwich for lunch. No Cheese? A cheese omelet or cheesy hash browns for breakfast, and I have no idea where to begin with the Ham and Bean Sandwich (Is that an actual item eaten by people with other options? ). I think this festival features an ingredient loved by everyone (except the lactose intolerant) and is easily incorporated into almost anything. There wasn't even any fried cheese curds or anything else cheese related to buy from the vendors.

The cheese festival was much larger than I had expected, and could have been great on a sunny day. A solid festival for sure. I also applaud their ingenuity in creating events using the theme ingredient such as: The Cheese Curling, a "Rat Race" 5k (which I mistakenly thought would actually be mice running through some sort of maze), the cheese eating competition (which is a nationally accredited event), and the ceremonial first cutting of the cheese (where they gave away a slice of cheese to everyone from a giant wheel of cheddar.

I don't want to portend to know a lot about the Amish culture, and quite frankly it confuses me a little. I mean man has used the same tools to create things to make the same tasks easier and more efficient. To me it's a no-brainer, I would have never made it to Arthur without my modern means. But, there is something interesting about the notion of anabaptism (to be baptized later in life when one understands what they are committing to), and staying true to a simple life. The modern world definitely complicates things beyond necessity and we all truly long for a simpler life. It takes a great strength to choose to live this lifestyle in today's age, and I honestly respect that. This site has some good information if you are interested in learning more about the Amish.

I love cheese, but probably not as much as Wallace from the "Wallace and Gromit" animated shorts by Nick Park. I love Wallace and Gromit and found a full episode featuring just how far Wallace will go to get some cheese. I mean the man goes to the moon. If that's not melting your cheddar than you can order a cheese sculpture for your next corporate event, birthday party, or holiday. The Cheese Lady has some impressive Cheese Art. If that is still not putting the peaches in your cottage cheese, then learn how to make your own cheese at home you go-getter.

This was a great festival, that would have only been better had the weather cooperated. The only limit to cheese utilization is your own imagination. Cheese always reminds me of my mother giving me a slice of American cheese and a sleeve of Ritz Crackers. Although my tastes have evolved since then, very little beats that combination or a hot grilled cheese sandwich. I wonder if that habanero and jalapeno cheese melts into a good chip dip, or if the horseradish cheese would make a good grilled cheese. Time to find out.

No comments:

Post a Comment