Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chowder Time

This is the weekend of the biggest event of the year in my home town of Ledyard, Connecticut. The 65th annual "agricultural" fair. I haven't been in more than 35 years, but I always think about it the weekend following Labor Day. When I was a girl, it was the first place mothers felt safe letting their young teen daughters wander alone with friends. They probably shouldn't have even in the late 60's early 70's.. older guys hit on us and tried to take us for rides on the Ferris wheel.

I found this geat photo of the fair at the official Ledyard Fair website. I hope no one gets upset that I'm borrowing it. The midway was much like it is today at traveling carnivals that come into small towns for a weekend these days. The beckoning lights, the barkers, tinny music crackling out of bad speakers. And the games... where you could win your mother cheap sparkling cut crystal dishes for only pennies; if you were lucky enough to get your penny to land and stay inside the dish.

By morning's light you'd realize that you could have bought her the same little bowl in the dime store for fifty cents but under those twinkling magical lights, they were the most delicate crystal in the world. Who cared if it cost almost your whole allowance and buying one would have been cheaper. The feeling of satisfaction as you accepted your prize could never be bought in Bastian's.

Our fair food in those days was distinctly New England. A uniquely Ledyard version of clam chowder, clam fritters (3 for 25 cents), Italian sausage sandwiches and grinders. Most years, it would be chilly at night by mid September and the steam coming from your bowl of chowder warmed you and carried the fragrance straight into your soul. The chowder tent was discretely set up just far enough from the animals for polite society yet close enough to the tractor and horse pulls that the men would let their women and families linger to enjoy the soup.

I credit that chowder for my lifelong love of soup and my personal mission to recreate the wonderful chowder in my memory. I've developled into a pretty good soup maker, thanks to the fair.

It may still be 90 degrees at midnight here in Texas where I live now, but I think it's time for chowder and fritters for dinner.

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