Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Why We Need To Support Exhibitions & Fairs

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

It’s time for the Exhibition. 
I have to admit my attendance at the Cumberland County Exhibition (CCE) has been spotty over the past seven years and for that, I apologize. 
So I’m putting my money where my mouth is. If I’m going to write about supporting events and businesses and organizations in rural Nova Scotia, then I have to show up and do my part.
Please take a wander through the Multi-Purpose Building this week and take a look at all the wonderful flowers and vegetables, baked goods and handcrafts on display. Grown, created and assembled by your neighbours.
Including my mother and me. I realized if we, both the individual and the greater community,  don’t support the non-livestock part of the CCE, sponsors will pull out, exhibitors will pull out and we’ll be losing an essential link to the traditions, skills and history that have built not only this county but this country. 

Summer exhibitions and fall fairs are one of the last places to get reconnected with the vanishing world that was devoted to farming, animals and the land, to celebrate the hard work of rural people and the products they create. Gathering together for a week or weekend every year is a legacy and a gift. 
When I was a kid, the highlight of summer, after our annual family vacation in Pugwash, of course, was the Canadian National Exhibition (the Ex) in Toronto. 
Back in the seventies and eighties, you could get a taste of anything for free in the Food building. My father was particularly fond of stuffed mushroom caps and this is my clearest memory of the Ex because one, I hated mushrooms when I was a kid and two, Dad made me stand in the long line by myself to get him a second helping. 
From my mother comes a completely different food memory and unlike the stuffed mushroom caps, this one can be recreated, even shared, now that I am an adult. 
When she was growing up, my mother’s extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins spent summers at their cottage in central Ontario where  Uncle Everett managed a huge garden. The Ex opened at the same time his tomatoes ripened so the family ate a meal they called “Exhibition Dish”. 
“We had one of those table-top electric toasters where you had to turn the slices of bread yourself in order to get them toasted on both sides,” my mother remembers. “We were supposed to be watching it but we always wandered off and the toast burnt.”
You didn’t throw out the toast, of course, that would be wasteful so Exhibition Dish generally was served over burnt toast. 
Since this is Exhibition week in Cumberland County, I invite you to make this dish a new tradition in your home.

3 or 4 ripe tomatoes
2 medium onions
Cook the onions first for a few minutes and then added peeled, cut up tomatoes. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup grated cheese. Thicken with 1 teaspoon of corn starch mixed with a little cold water. Add a small piece of butter. Serve on toast.

On the recipe above that final “toast”, my mother has written “well-browned”.
While my mother insists Exhibition Dish must be eaten on burnt toast, I’ll leave it to you to create your own special memory. 

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