The kids dancing with glasses on their heads were cute. The booths with handmade baskets and Polish pottery caught our eye more than once. And the air-conditioned inside exhibits were blessed relief from the sweltering temperatures.
But let’s face it, the Texas Folklife Festival is about eating. At least to me, it is.
Several hours after leaving the UTSA HemisFair Campus, I’m still full. But I’m glad I ate every bite.
My camera-toting colleague and live-blogger, Nicholas Mistry, and I also enjoyed talking with most everyone we met at the various booths, including Susie Tolman with her painted eggs at the Czech booth; Chip Liu, who wrote out SavorSA in Chinese caligraphy for us; or Robin Pate at the Chuckwagon Gang’s booth, where coal-topped Dutch ovens were filled with steaming hot gingerbread. (On Saturday, the latter group promises free tastes of apple pie.)
James and Marieta Baer were full of ways to modify the recipe for their Wendish group’s celebrated noodles. The traditional method is to serve the noodles in a chicken stock with parsley on top. But if you prefer beef, use beef stock. Add a touch of onion or celery, even some fajita seasoning, if you like it spicy. (For the basic noodle recipe, check our recipe file.)
Now that’s a true melding of cultures, which is what Folklife celebrates each year.
I just wish some of the booths had had all of their food ready when we passed. We missed trying a few dishes because they simply weren’t there.
But we did enjoy the finely diced chicken with chiles and coconut that makes up the Guamanian kelaguen as well as that booth’s grilled chicken skewers with a healthy dose of fresh ginger in the seasoning.
A poppy seed kolache and a Pilsner Urquell at the Czech booth was most welcome, as was the shaded table offered to some weary wanderers.
We also heard people rave about the anticuchos at the Peruvian booth, the pupusas at the Salvadorian booth and the spice-sprinkled Luling watermelon from the San Antonio Men’s Garden Club, among others.
I cannot sing the praises high enough of the men who tend the grills at the various booths offering meat on a stick. This extends from Baldemar Garza grilling perfectly seasoned, tender fajitas for San Alphonsus Catholic Church to Richard Gonzales preparing shish kebabs for St. George Maronite Church’s Lebanese booth. (And, no, I did not see a woman working the grills. I think they’re too smart for that.)
Recipe hunters should be on the lookout, because a few groups were more than willing to share their recipes, from bread to wine. One was Theda Sueltenfuss, who offered her recipe for homemade sauerkraut, which Nick dubbed “German kimchee,” as well as free samples. (Check our recipe file for the recipe).
The heat, though, must be acknowledged. Though a few booths handed out paper fans, all they did was stir up more hot air. So, drink plenty of water — or the Lebanese booth’s cooling mint tea — and stay out of the sun as much as you can. At least one booth benefited from the heat in an unexpected way: at the East Texas Yamboree, the warm yam pie tasted as if it had just been removed from the oven. It was so good, my inner Homer Simpson was calling for a second slice.