A Taste of Home, Indeed

How the magic of good food and old ladies made my weekend


Story and photos by Adam Patterson

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I never thought I'd like something that has "pepper" and "jelly" next to each other in its name.

Going into the Crete Memorial Civic Center to an event called the Taste of Home Cooking School-Fall Comfort Classics, I had no idea what to expect, and I mean no idea; when I tried to close my eyes and conceptualize what it might be all I saw was black.

Regardless, I drove down on an empty stomach to the Civic Center. I had previously been to this building but I thought it was abandoned, so I was surprised to see cars there when I arrived. I was even more surprised to see a line outside the doors waiting for the event to officially open.

When I finally walked in after receiving my free bag of incentives, I looked around and said a curse word to myself. I wasn’t in awe, it wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve ever laid my eyes on, but all of the sudden I knew what this event was—a food flea market.

There were aisles and aisles of little booths sponsored by people touting their own things—from jellies to fudge to hand sewn crafts. There were also people there, which surprised me.

Before I jump into the foods I must say that the average attendee was young during the Great Depression. There were clearly more women than men, and I stuck out a little bit. I was surrounded by what could have been dozens and dozens of aunts and grandmothers with the occasional husband or man sponsoring a booth. The whole time I was there I felt like Betty White, and I’m pretty sure I’m now a member of Oprah’s book club.

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While not exiting, the popcorn was still great.

A lot of the booths were giving out free samples, but some of the other more prestigious booths were selling their fare, which was almost insulting considering it cost me $13 to get in.

All of the foods were Fall themed, and I had a sample of every single thing that they could give out for free. I had a lot of jellies and jams that were amazing, and I even tried some sweet and spicy pineapple sauces that go incredibly well with pretzels. "But what about the caramel dip?" you might ask. You already know the answer: the caramel dip was incredible.

Then I found a booth that had price tags attached to it, and for the first time today I hated myself for being poor. Plates of the most delicious looking peanut brittle were stacked and mixed among home-made fudge, chocolate, and things I can’t even describe. The samples were a dollar each, and as fate would have it, I had a dollar and sprung for a hunk of chocolate.

I took one bite and stopped, but this was not because it was terrible. A bite that was probably the size of an M&M was enough to literally make me overdose on chocolatey deliciousness. Nibbling that corner was like eating an entire bag of Nestle chocolate chips. I wrapped the thing back up and I’m expecting it to feed me this week.

While I walked around sampling and taking photos I was being actively engaged by a predominately female crowd of middle-aged women, and honest to God I was having a blast. I had a conversation with two sweet old women about how we couldn’t taste the rum in the sweet and sour pineapple rum sauce. It was sweet and sour all right, like the best Chinese food, but the consensus amongst myself and three old women—where’s the booze?

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One of many aisles displays crafts and food.

I was just walking out when I saw a group of people standing next to a garbage bin eating what looked like some sort of beef in a sauce. I had to find it, and sure enough they were serving (forgive my lack of culinary knowledge) what looked like a thinly sliced roast beef in some kind of mushroom sauce. Do you remember the time you first you saw Titanic? That’s what it was like. I didn’t go back for seconds because of the huge line and I refused to cut in. No cuts, no butts, no coconuts, as they say.

For being one of maybe 100 people under the age of fifty, and being a guy, I had entirely too much fun. The food was great and there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like, except the things I couldn’t afford because I couldn’t actually eat them. It was expensive to get in, and I felt jipped out of paying for some of the finer things, but I never thought I’d have so much fun at a food flea market with the grandmothers of the North Country.

APN gives the Taste of Home Cooking 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

Have you ever been to a Taste of Home cooking expo?

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