Saturday, September 16, 2006

Farmer U

Oh, how I wished I had a camera!

U and I went down to the 8th annual Food for Thought Festival of sustainable agriculture by the Capitol Square. I hadn't planned on going, but attending the reception at L'Etoile yesterday after work got me wanting to go. I was among those invited for working on or helping to publicize the event. It was my third invite -- I had an article about the fest in Madison Magazine in 2001, and one in Dane County Kids in 2002. This time I featured co-keynoter Mollie Katzen in my monthly ANEW column. Seeing all my old foodie friends from pre-U days got me pining for the ol' scene, so the next morning, I packed him in the van and we drove on down.

What with running circles after U, I got to hear about 10 minutes of co-keynoter Anna Lappe's talk, and just enough of the baba ganouj cooking demo by Chef Sabi to get a sample at the end, realize that it was the best BG I'd ever tasted, and not have any idea what it was that made it so much tastier and creamier than mine. But I didn't mind. It was fun just to be there, to be in a crowd, to be outside, to bump into various acquaintances, and to be out with U.

All over downtown are the lifesize, painted, fiberglass statues of the CowParade. U enjoyed running from one to another, gently patting their sides and looking at the pictures painted on them. During Lappe's talk, he was absorbed with looking at the pictures of animals on a cow's side, patting them, and making their sounds. A doggie: "arf, arf." A kitty: "mew." A pig: "oink." And so on. Occasionally he would let out a short, high-pitched "moo" to the fiberglass cows themselves. One was rigged like an old-fashioned locomotive engine. That one was for trying hard to climb up on and into.

While we were walking back to the van, we encountered Brown Swiss in front of the post office. No gimmicky shapes or bright colors or fanciful designs: just elegant tiles in shades of creamy brown. Ulysses stopped.

He walked all around Brown Swiss, slowly all the while gazing at her, as if reverently. Then he circled behind her, reached his hands between her hindlegs, firmly grasped a pair of udders and started squeezing. And making squirty sounds through his teeth.

Farmer U was hard at work this way for several minutes, scampering from one member of the herd to another, then hunkering down to serious milking. Much to the delight of passersby. A group of teenage girls walked past. I thought they might faint with glee, they were so thrilled at the sight of the little shirtless boy squatting in his blue microfiber shorts, earnestly milking statues of cows.

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