Of peacock plumes, jousting, elves and turkey legs
By Molly Larmie, GLOB Correspondent
EDITOR's NOTE: Long ago in a time not too far away Molly reported on the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire and is still searching for her next nice, fat, roasted turkey leg.
For two weekends every winter, the Alachua County Fairgrounds transform into Ye Olde Medieval Faire, a lively excuse for closet nerds to bust out their elf ears and revel with people who have made carnival life their full-time occupation.
Last Sunday, for the third time in four years, I passed under the entrance arch for an afternoon of eating too much food and spending too much money on things I couldn't get elsewhere: peacock feathers, camel rides, etc.
But today was different. I had a mission: Eat my first turkey leg.
Let me start by saying that I'm a carnivore. I consume meat with the best of them. And, unlike my sister Megan, I have no problem eating it off the bone. In fact, I'd downed a four-rib dinner at Adam's Rib Co. the night before the faire.
Yet something about gnawing the flesh off a giant turkey femur freaks me out. It's so, well, medieval.
But I'm graduating from UF in the spring, and this was probably my last medieval faire. I was determined to go out in style. If I could eat turkey off the Thanksgiving platter, I could eat it off the bone.
Megan and I arrived at the fairgrounds around 3 p.m. We figured we'd reconnoiter, find the best deals and work up a raging appetite. A round of Swamp Head Hoggetowne Irish Red from the ale house sounded like a good way to start.
As we milled around, we counted at least three vendors selling smoky red turkey legs wrapped in aluminum foil. Market price: $10.
For faire-goers, the legs provide a unique advantage. Unlike the messy Greek and Italian fare, and even ye olde Dominos and Subway, turkey legs don't require utensils. For the brave, they don't even require a plate.
Just grab by the bone and go. I saw a man enter the knife toss with turkey leg in hand.
I must admit, I'd prejudged the turkey leg eaters. I had an image in my mind: Big Guys, 200-plus-pounds, tearing off large hunks, dripping juices into their beards. But I hadn't anticipated the 95-pound girls, laced into corsets, who ripped meat off the bone while browsing for crystal jewelry. Or the 7-year-old boy with a turkey leg in one hand and a wood sword in the other.
The 2013 Ye Olde Medieval Faire begins next weekend, January 26-27, and also convenes on February 1-3. You can View more Medieval Faire images in the slideshow at the bottom of this feature.
The demographics got me thinking: What could be wrong with a food so universally liked? I spotted a heaping pile of legs at the nearest vendor. My stomach gave a low rumble.
After another round of Irish Red and a show that combined acrobatics, fire and raunchy humor, the turkey leg in the hand of the man sitting next to me started to smell good. Really good.
Megan and I made our way to the back of the faire, where vendors sell food near the jousting arena. (Yes, two men charge each other on horseback with lances. The same "knights" have been performing the same routine every year I've attended. Sit in the left-hand bleachers. That guy wins).
The next contest began at 5 p.m. We had five minutes. It was time.
I marched up to Phil's Grille, a booth that advertises giant burritos and 3-pound turkey legs.
"I'm here for a turkey leg, please."
Phil, photo right, the booth's namesake, called out from his seat.
Out? But the faire didn't close for another hour. Out?!
What about across the way, at another vendor? I asked.
"Everybody is out," Phil said.
Phil's Grille had gone through five cases of 20 legs each. If the other vendors kept pace, the faire had sold at least 300 turkey legs.
And left none for me.
There is only one cure for missing out on food you really want. And that is to binge eat other food.
I bought a "Galley Roll," a deep-fried calzone stuffed with pepperoni, cheddar, marinara sauce and mozzarella.
Megan went bigger. She ordered a grande burrito from Phil's. The vendor, who pitied us, stuffed the burrito with both chicken and pork and then added mushrooms, cucumbers, lentils, tomatoes, black beans, yellow rice, lettuce, cranberries and almonds.
Delicious, but it wasn't turkey.
After the joust, as Megan visited ye olde Porta-Potty, I snuck off to the pastry booth, where I blew my last $6 on a cherry turnover and a brownie topped with fudge and M&M's.
Obscenely full, bitterly unsatisfied, we tucked tails and walked back to the shuttle bus.
Megan got a seat up front, but I had to squeeze in behind a family several rows back.
The wife turned to her husband.
"What was your favorite part?"
"The turkey legs," he said.
Damn. There's always next weekend.