Late last night I returned from the North Judson Mint Festival. I knew very little of what to expect or the adventures I’d pursue, but after reflecting on the weekend’s experiences, I feel re-energized and increasingly passionate about the journeys that we’ll take with this exhibit, both literally and figuratively.
The route to North Judson winds through small towns, each bursting with its own special charisma and life. From large-scale corporate farms, to small backyard gardens, to diners and roadside stands, it became apparent that our Food for Thought initiative is something that intimately affects Hoosiers throughout the state.
The 33rd annual festival began Saturday and drew quite the crowd. There were a wide variety of events, some of which include the “cooking with mint” competition, a water fight (with fire hoses!), mint farm tours and even a parade! This was in addition to plenty of food, live music and games.
However, my favorite part was getting to know the people at the Mint Festival. Some were merely passersby, glancing at the exhibit or commenting on its features. Others spent a great deal of time talking and sharing about the presence of food in their lives.
Here are tidbits from a few conversations:
I spent a while talking to Daniel, a photographer with a simple but delicious homemade noodle recipe; his wife’s family has made it every Sunday for several generations. He loves it because it’s a familiar flavor and everyone participates in the cooking. Tom and Rita stopped in before a mint farm tour. They have been taking classes for the past 10 years to learn how to break into the agriculture business and finally just bought their first piece of land! Finally, I met O.E., who travels from festival to festival throughout the country selling funnel cakes, corn dogs and chicken-on-a-stick, just as his uncle did. He reflected on his lifestyle, one that revolves around feeding others, and how it has transformed throughout the years and under various cultural influences. O.E. seemed to emphasize that it’s more about the effects of people and experiences than the food itself.
What excites me most about the traveling exhibit is its ability to prompt conversation and insight into the truths about shared human condition, regardless of location, circumstance or the people themselves. At its most basic level, food is a necessity. It is vital to our existence, but when we step back and examine its cultural, personal and emotional qualities, we are enabled to more extensively share, learn and participate in our own humanity with others.