Sunday, October 2, 2011

Maui Fair 2011 - Highlights and Ag Pavilion - Avocados, Apples, and More

Striped bananas from Maui Nui Botanical Gardens

Maui apples from Kula

Maui Fair 2011 Map - just in case you get lost

Somehow I convinced my husband that it was a good idea to go to the fair this year. We had skipped it last year, and I was feeling that “fair in the air” kind of feeling that permeates Kahului and central Maui.  “Why do you want to go the fair anyway?” he challenged.  “It’s busy, it’s crowded.”

Well, the fair is one place on Maui that reminds me of Oahu.  Yes, the fair is busy and crowded (yes, kind of like Oahu), but it’s a place that is mostly attended by local residents rather than tourists or part-time folks who live in Canada or wherever. I enjoy interacting with tourists too, but since I also work with them and get to meet them in my free time, it’s refreshing to be in an environment dominated by people born and raised on Maui. Ok, I was not born on Oahu either, but I grew up in the boonies of Wahiawa, kinda like Maui, far from town – meaning Honolulu, so going into to town was a big deal as a kid.  So going to the Maui County Fair, now renamed the Maui Fair, is kind of like being immersed in a nostalgia bath. It feels local, rooted in community, and more working-class.
The hooker was the temptation of a turkey leg, which one of the fair booths offered 2 years ago. So my husband spent the last week dreaming of eating a big turkey leg the size of a plate, caveman style at the fair, as a prelude to the fair itself. So last night, on the busiest night of the fair, we waited for the shuttle at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, and “talked story” with a local guy at the shuttle stop. He urged us to try the deep fried bacon, “When you get to the food area, look for the booth with the bacon. They dip it in batter and deep fry it. It’s so good, but it will like, triple your cholesterol level.”  Actually, he didn’t say it quite like that, but I had to translate it to something I could write.

We did find the deep fried bacon booth, labeled “chicken fried bacon” run by Maui Cheer Babes and ordered one serving: 3 pieces of batter-fried bacon. Yes, the order clerk insisted, “You really have to try it. It’s really good.” Yes, the cholesterol level is going wild, like a game show when the winner picks the right door and the audience is madly clapping. One serving was enough for both of us.  Well, what could I expect from someone who also talked about how “ono” (meaning good) the $30 all you can eat buffet was at Las Vegas?  But we were still hungry. And, instead of picking the one healthy food item at the fair, the Caesar salad offered by the Girl Scout booth, well, we had to have the smoked pork plate offered by Mana’o Radio, where to our surprise, local celebrity Kathy “Tita” Collins was decked out in a kitchen scrub outfit and taking orders. I almost asked to take her picture, but thought, “Naaaa, no need.”  The light was bad, and who wants to have a picture of oneself decked out in a greasy kitchen apron on the internet?  I’m sure someone else took a picture of her. 

We managed to avoid the typical fair foods: funnel cake, the deep-fried twinkie, the pizza, as well as the other heavy “local kine grinds” (pidgin for local food): the malasadas (Portuguese deep fried doughnuts coated in sugar), chicken hekka, Korean style chicken, the smoked meat plate, the locomoco (hamburger patty placed over 2 scoops of white rice, fried egg, and lots of gravy), and the Filipino adobo plate (usually pork cubes with veggies and “adobo” seasoning) and other offering te food stands run by mostly churches and the occasional community group.  There sure are a lot of churches on Maui.

Filipino Food booth - You know you're not in Kansas!

Hawaiian Plate - Keiki Bowl (Children's portion),
not a bowl full of keiki (children), I think.

Where to find your lost keiki after they ate the keiki bowl (pic above). 
Hopefully, the Girl Scouts know where they are.

My favorite place in the fair is the Ag Pavilion. It’s peaceful and there are handcrafts on display in one section. Like quilts and fabric covered bulletin boards and beadwork, made by various school children and some adults.  Plus there is a photo exhibit and school art work.


The rest of the Ag Pavilion is appropriately devoted to agriculture: a booth for the Master Gardeners program run by the County Extension office, produce on display – all imaginable kinds of produce from exotic fruits to normal fruits that one doesn’t expect to grown on Maui – like apples which grow higher up on Haleakala, and many kinds of avocados, jackfruit, bananas, vegetables - mostly wilted by the third night of the fair, some herbs and spices, and other random plant items.

I was excited to see all the avocados – maybe I can finally figure out the varieties that are growing outside our Maui jungalow.  I really enjoyed some of the avocado tags – where the variety was asked for, the answer was “driveway” or “back yard” or “side of house” or “Brian’s.”  I’m not the only person who doesn’t know how to identify avocados! 

But I took note of the avocado names: Sharwill, Butter, Black, Haas (usually the kind sold in the supermarket, even on Maui), Reed, San Miguel, Lamb Haas… Lamb Haas??? Is that like a Haas avocado that bleats?

Mysterious avocado without a pit,
left by someone Friday night at the Maui Master Gardeners booth.

There were some cool cashews on display by Ono Farms. I was surprised to see cashews, and cashew “apples” but remember reading that they grow in Thailand. Maui’s climate is not so different.

Cashews and Cashew Apples from Ono Farms in Hana
Actually, Ono Farms displayed a lot of very interesting and weird looking fruit: soursop, durian, egg fruit, sapote, sweet sop, Malabar chestnuts, vi fruit…


Abiu from Ono Farms, also available at Mana Foods in Paia

Malabar Chestnut

Some of the fruits were so large, they were bigger than a dinner plate.
Jackfruit - more on jackfruit in last week's blog



There are also orchids for sale by the Maui Orchid Society, a bonsai exhibit, flower arrangements, native plants on sale, and more orchids arranged around papier mache gorilla and giraffe creatures.  It’s nothing like the Philadelphia Flower Show, but still enjoyable.  Outside the Ag Pavilion, there were some public information booths about Invasive Species and beekeeping, but most of the booths had closed by then.

We saw some Japanese taiko drummers at one of the event locations, visited a couple of “commercial tents’ with tons of things to buy… where I discovered where to buy those Maui style car decals.. and then well, that was enough.

Maybe if we were younger, we’d be chowing down on more deep fried bacon and washing it down with a sipper (drink bottles of some high fructose syrup drink shaped like animals), followed by a funnel cake and chow mein.  But my tummy’s not up for that. We never found any caveman turkey legs either, but that's okay too. There was also a livestock pavilion that we missed, but that can wait for next year… or the year after.


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