The first day of the fair was rainy and there weren’t many people, so I took a small break and browsed the prize vegetables, flowers, and flower arrangements.
I grew up going to the Dutchess County Fair and I like county fairs very much. I like that they offer people a chance to display their pride in what they grow, raise and make. Especially for things like flowers and vegetables, whose moments of perfection are fleeting — they grown, they bloom, they fruit, and then either they wilt and rot or (best-case scenario) someone eats them. All the work that goes into bringing them into being is often hidden, except to other growers, who can understand the path that led to the squash next to their squash:
The search for perfection in a vegetable is also a little creepy, and speaks (to get pompous here for a second) to some cultural fears of / obsessions with blemish and decay. Apples that look perfect, however they taste and however many synthetic fertilizers and pesticides you need to make them so, sell better.* Judging vegetables is predicated on the assumption that there’s an ideal green bean and yours is almost there, is getting close.
A love of the unusual, the extreme, even the grotesque isn’t different from that — it’s another face of it. The biggest …
..the heaviest …
… and the most “deformed.”
Competition creeps me out, although I feel its power. I don’t think there’s anything inherently good about it or that it has an automatic improving effect on results, and assuming either or both can lead to a lot of bad behavior. I wonder if humans at large could learn to recognize other kinds of rewards for work, for beauty, as well as multiple forms of both.
Well! That got a little heavy (sort of like a prizewinning squash), so here are the entries in the Decorated Vegetable contest (note distribution of prizes):
*I actually don’t know how the vegetables in these contests were grown or what methods their growers used.