The judges will handle your plums to check their size and consistency
September 16, 2016 10:21 AM   Subscribe

In Sutton Bonington you can milk a cow or toss a sheaf, in Stoke Hammond admire tomatoes of a substantive nature, while Kelsale cum Carlton (real place) likes your rude vegetables (page 8) and Axmouth gives you the option of trimming your onions or not. Meanwhile, Barlaston has a vegimal category, Broomhill asks 'Are your buns even better than Nigella’s?' while in free-spirited Radcliffe on Trent, the Homemade Scones Bake Off has 'no rules'. At one extreme, Lambley Village have a Victoria Sponge category requiring three eggs, jam filling and caster sugar, while at the other Stretham simply wants 'Cake'. And Grimsargh? The inevitable category for 'An Unusual Shape Fruit or Vegetable!'.

Yes, it is the season of the traditional live-action version of the Great British Bake Off known as the 'village show' or fete, where 'locals' and 'incomers' try to politely outdo their neighbors with quality baking, home grown fruit, preserves, carefully cultivated vegetables, underhand trickery, underwear used decoratively, blatant bribery, banning previous winners, unpackaged shop cakes, not inviting back disgraced politicians and general innuendo.

Vegetables of note at:
- Spelbury.
- Ystradfellte.
- Mitchel Troy.

A few tips when attending. You are going to a village show or fete, so dress appropriately. If your carefully-planned baking entry has gone disastrously wrong, it can often be repurposed and entered into another category. If you are judging, embrace the diversity of entrants. Participate in, and respect, local traditions. And most important - follow etiquette and take everything very seriously.

Video footage of shows:
- Saham Toney, Norfolk.
- Kelston, Somerset.
- Drakes Broughton, Worcestershire.
- Muker, Yorkshire. (n.b. unfortunately worded category in this year's show)
- Peopleton, Worcestershire.

Things that happen:
- Duck herding.
- Sheep racing.
- Tug of War (or tug o war) and more.
- Landrover towing.
- Snail racing.

England is the Morris. The Morris is England.
- Maresfield village fete.
- The Brackley Morris at Rutland.
- Abingdon at Mayor of Ock Street Day.
- Sompting village.
- The Silkstone Greens at Shepley village fete.

Random news:
* Telegraph: Our show has sections for home-produced eggs and honey and it is also full of fun. One of the most hotly contested categories is the biggest weed, some entries reaching the hall roof.
* When things go wrong in East Bridgford: No show can continue without food, and with the burgers, buns and charcoal gone up in flames it was a race against time to replace everything. (n.b. fires are a regular feature of such events)
* Telegraph: Village show allows contestants to enter vegetables bought in supermarkets.
* Express: John met with Chairman of the Kentish Cobnut Association Alexander Hunt who was quick to discuss the “large, moist and succulent nature” of the cobnuts.
* The Internet means that village shows can be virtual or online or not even from a real village.

More random vegetables:
- Do not touch the ugly vegetables.
- The astronomer Patrick Moore.
- Ugh.

- (previously) I'm Getting Really Tired of Living In This Quaint English Village by Mefi's own The Whelk
- Telegraph: Soggy bottoms and hot buns: why the Bake Off thrives on innuendo (by a previous winner).
- Cartoon.
posted by Wordshore (25 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Bravo! Needs some Wordshore tweets about things said to him as a village fete judge though. And more cheese.
posted by zachlipton at 10:32 AM on September 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Omg I love this! In America, we of course have county fairs and state fairs with some similarities, but they seem way less fun and inclusive than this. I'd love to go to one sometime.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:42 AM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I dare someone to name their band "tomatoes of a substantive nature".
posted by tommasz at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the line should be changed to "They should have sent a Wordshore...".
posted by Etrigan at 10:54 AM on September 16, 2016

What time does Britain's Tastiest Village come on?
posted by Keith Talent at 10:56 AM on September 16, 2016

It was fete that brought us here
posted by Flashman at 11:06 AM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Speaking of Morris dancers, here's Stealing Sheep's "Apparition"
posted by whuppy at 11:24 AM on September 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Literally the only thing I miss about living in the countryside.

-Signed, winner 1993- category - children's handicrafts
posted by threetwentytwo at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

I imagine it was this kind of thing that inspired last season's GBBO finalist Ian to say in an early episode (where he won star baker) "I haven't even been named best male baker in my town baking competition, and now this!"
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:18 PM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wonderful! I'm a complete convert to duck herding videos now. (1) (2)
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 1:39 PM on September 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

The village show was a highlight of my 60s childhood in Devon. It had separate categories for "cottagers" - people who did their own gardening - and "members" (of the village horticultural society) who employed a gardener. There was bowling for a pig, a brass band and much Byzantine skulduggery between growers, especially between my father and a Mr Cross over the silver cup for sweet peas, which alternated between them for about a decade. There were no morris dancers though, we had some standards.

If "vegimal" means an animal made of fruits or vegetables it is a standard category in these shows, usually in the children's section. I had particular success one year with a dragon made of opium poppy seedpods. My brother and I always went all-out on the show because the prizes were cash. On glorious year, we won all the prizes in the under and over 10 years old categories. Admittedly this was because the weather was dreadful and ours were the only entries in most categories, but we still got the money.

The smell of crushed grass under canvas still gives me a warm nostalgic feeling.
posted by Fuchsoid at 1:41 PM on September 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

I had particular success one year with a dragon made of opium poppy seedpods.

Chasing the dragon?
posted by atoxyl at 2:08 PM on September 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Three onions over 8 ozs (dressed)

This has tiny costume potential.

I entered the county fair this summer for the first time (two firsts and two seconds, yay!), and during check-in, paused to compliment an elderly woman on her lovely garlic. Did she use much of her dried garlic for cooking during the year? She let out a big laugh and then said she used about three heads a year and gave the rest of her 150 bulbs to friends. But damn if she didn't grow to show. Took first prize again this year, as it turns out!

I almost didn't enter because there was no spot for bagels. The category coordinator, after realizing that no one has ever entered such a thing, let me list them as "Yeast Rolls." I now have a tiny private case of pique for having my hearty yeast rolls place second to a foo-foo croissant. Blue-ribbon baker, be warned: my cinnamon rolls are coming for you next time.

Anyway, Wordshore, this is a delightful post and I thank you for sharing it!
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:33 PM on September 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

This is the Englishest thing I have ever seen.
posted by saturday_morning at 3:41 PM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

The organisers of the 2009 fete decided they did not want to spend money on traditional ready-made bunting and the knickers and underpants idea originated during a meeting at the local pub.

Thank you, Wordshore, that single sentence briefly restored my faith in humnaity.
posted by Diablevert at 5:14 PM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I love England.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:19 PM on September 16, 2016

I wonder how often someone enters a turnip shaped like a thingy? It'd be a bit... rude, wouldn't it? Wa hey!
posted by MsMolly at 1:42 PM on September 17, 2016

Following yesterday's excitement of The Morris, I went to another village event today. As it's rural England on a Sunday and therefore the bus services was as plentiful as public libraries and working phone boxes, a long but pleasant walk was undertaken. Cats (multiple) were encountered, a single track road was followed for a few miles, and the footpath then veered, across streams and over hillsides and eventually through a field of maize (or corn) which was exciting and led me to briefly feel I was in Field of Dreams.

The event itself was more of a food market, with less of the competitions, and more selling and scoffing of food - some by local professional/business food makers, some by residents, and some by the people running the event to raise village funds. And it was splendid and, like the Field of Dreams moment, strangely reminded me of Iowa a bit. There was raw milk (so good in a chocolate milkshake) and ice cream of interesting flavors, and pastries, and cheeses I was allowed to sample and it would have been rude to refuses because cheeses, and pies and cakes and more cakes and pakora and a vicious pepper marmalade that would, and I quote, "blow yer bloody arse off if yer ate too much". I obtained the details of the supplier in case, now being of advanced years, acute constipation required a speedy remedy that socialist English medical care could not provide.

There were no incidents or intrigue or outrages or "situations", so apologies for the lack of controversy. Social conversation, between locals, visitors, and some lost cyclists who spontaneously decided that cycling was after all not as much fun as eating cake until their lycra became painfully tight, was convivial and friendly. I did hear the phrase "...ran off with the neighbor..." being spoken at one point, but as this is such a frequent event in English village life - and a staple of gossip in such places - no-one raised an eyebrow. I became convinced many harvest moons ago that a fair proportion of houses for sale in such places were the final consequence of someone spending rather too much time "round next door, helping the neighbor with their plumbing".

After spending far too long at this event, I made preparations to go. They offered to put some food in one of my boxes for the hike back to base. I asked if they could provide a balanced packed meal, as I was concerned about my fat and sugar content for the day. They handed me this. On querying the balance, I was firmly told that there were more pieces of vegetable than pieces of cake, so it was a balanced meal.

I'd be really interested to hear anyone else's anecdotes of shows or fetes, or fairs or food markets - not necessarily in England, and especially if they involve food, healthy or not.
posted by Wordshore at 12:49 PM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

(Sorry; if " plentiful as public libraries..." didn't make sense it was a somewhat bitter remark because this county is in the process of either rapidly shutting them, or trying to make them volunteer-run. Villages round here are being stripped of services and infrastructure, basically.)
posted by Wordshore at 1:04 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd be really interested to hear anyone else's anecdotes of shows or fetes, or fairs or food markets - not necessarily in England, and especially if they involve food, healthy or not.

Our county's Director of Health Services just resigned this week, and the local paper is implying that it was due to the "uproar" at the recent National Heirloom Exposition (photos of many, many squashes at the link), which, according to a quotation in that article, "draws people from many other states and outside the country including, 'hippie types and Mennonites' — all gathered to celebrate food," and where, this year:
Vendors and exhibitors at a popular natural foods event contend they were harassed and unfairly targeted by Sonoma County health inspectors who cracked down this week with fees and fines, as well as permit requirements.

Organizers of the National Heirloom Exposition at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds said previous health inspectors were positive and supportive of the three-day event, which ended Thursday. But this year was different.

Organic apples donated to expo attendees required a tasting permit to be given away along with other produce, according to organizers, who said approximately two dozen vendors were hit with fees and fines totaling hundreds of dollars, and as much as $750.

...Gettle said a few vendors appeared to have left as a result, and at least a dozen were fined. He said county inspectors in the past might require people who served cut fruits to have a permit, but not whole fruits like they did this year.

“They reinterpreted the law after all these years,” he asserted, adding that it seemed less about health concerns and more about collecting money.

“I was outraged,” said Josh Cunnings, a Rohnert Park man who was not singled out by health inspectors but has participated in the expo for five years, selling a “soil nourishing tonic.”

“I’m sure the health department’s job is to ensure the citizenry’s public health,” he said. “In my humble opinion, they stepped way over the line.”

He said the event is intended as an acknowledgment that “health is our only wealth,” and there is nothing unhealthy in giving away a free apple or packet of seeds.
Despite containing at least three separate quotations from the county's Board of Supervisors saying that the Heirloom Exposition had nothing to do with the director's resignation, the local paper decided to headline their next article, "Sonoma County health director resigns week after National Heirloom Exposition controversy" (a repeated photo of many, many squashes also available at that link) and to focus their coverage on more farmer outrage.
posted by lazuli at 1:46 PM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks Wordshore, that's lovely.

My liking for England is kind of hard won, because colonialism etc, but it's still half my heritage, and my mother was a country girl. Mining country that is. Anyhow, it's funny how this sort of thoroughly English - oh, ok, British then, cos one can't leave out the Gallic/Gaelic edges - folksy, bicycles and church, cardigans and baking presentation has a really eldrich edge, which comes out in things like say, The Wicker Man, or Children of the Stones and in fact, loads of children's telly, or the fact that Midsomer is the murder capital of Europe...

I have a kind of double vision going on where one culture is laid on top of another for mapping purposes. Local virtues, check. Housewifery, check. Layout of house, check. Relation to landscape, check. Bloody scary monsters from social enforcement norms, check. The Unthank sisters did two documentaries for the beeb on British folk and I wish they were available on iPlayer or iTunes.

So, its weird being me and being into this stuff. Midsomer for instance is famously unfriendly to the the un-English (second quote). But I live here now, and somewhere round the edges there are lots of parallels and resonances between cultures and the ways in which they appear to be different are elaborate and therefore fascinating and also not straightforward at all. I find.

Anyhow, what a nice post. I was at Glastonbury for May Day this year and it was as raucous and eccentric and parochial and fake and real as you might expect.
posted by glasseyes at 3:57 PM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Speaking of Morris dancers, here's Stealing Sheep's "Apparition" yt

Not sure but I've a feeling it was Wordshore posted that here in the first place?
posted by glasseyes at 4:01 PM on September 19, 2016

Local traditions. Yup, the Year 5's May Day county-wide country dancing exhibition up at Blaise Castle was very like this.
posted by glasseyes at 4:13 PM on September 19, 2016

Alas, the season of summer shows is well and truly over here in rural middle England. We're well into Harvest Festival time, and doing the planning and gathering of wood for bonfire night. I did a Harvest Festival and the associated Supper (this is a new thing for me) earlier today; observations and links to a few pics.
posted by Wordshore at 2:45 PM on October 2, 2016

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