I studied my opponents carefully and approached the table: They knew me and they knew what I had come for. They had the product and they had the power to manipulate me according to whatever sick whims passed through their brilliant minds.
Yes, the twelve-year-old girls who were manning the “Yankee Doodle Bakery” stand at Carpinteria’s California Avocado Festival last Friday were growing exasperated with me as I repeatedly came back to their booth for free samples. And yet, with a festival that promotes “Peace, Love and Guacamole” by offering a battalion of artistic and delicious culinary feats, how could you blame me?
The festival began in 1986 as a tool to fundraise for local non-profits and promote Carpinteria as a hidden and idyllic southern California vacation spot (which it is). Spanning about three blocks in the heart of a very tiny downtown, local food services, bands and artists set up their wares in an environment where it’s surprisingly easy for tourists and avocado-enthusiasts alike to shell out.
The artists’ avocado creations ranged from the mundane to the ridiculous. Carpinteria High School’s cheerleading team advertised its monstrous servings of chips and guacamole as “World Famous” and while I have my doubts about the legitimacy of that claim, the unique and absurdly satisfying globs of guacamole they dished out made it seem possible.
On the more bizarre end, Asian food vendors served classic Thai and Chinese dishes incorporating avocado, making for some of the most culturally-confused and tasty egg rolls I’ve ever had. Other vendors were the Sausage King, which sold the usual carnival-esque junk food with an avocado twist and Santa Barbara’s own McConnell’s Ice Cream offered its actually pretty world-famous avocado ice cream.
The frou-frou Southern California bakeries, however, took the cake. Along with Yankee Doodle Bakery’s vegan, gluten free pieces, walnut-avocado bread and macaroons, bakers offered everything from sweet avocado pies to funnel cakes.
Moreover, booths for non-edible but veggie-inspired goods like elaborately decorated candles made from vegetable glycerin and hand-painted dishware also took up a large part of the festival. And though the celebration itself only runs the course of a downtown street, the festival organizers managed to cram four stages and three days of musical line-ups to entertain tourists.
As I toured by the Arts & Grotto Stage, girl cover-band The Mynx crooned the tune “Love Shack” to a tent of dancing, red-faced wine tasters. Later in the evening, Isla Vista’s own Sprout headlined the festival on the Main Stage. This past Sunday, Sprout’s sister-band, Rainbow Girls, heralded the festival’s final day on the Seal Stage.
It’s enough to make one want to buy an avocado cookbook, isn’t it? Or at least it’s enough to tempt you to put down your book (or beer, or bong or whatever) and take a pretty utopian trip to the California Avocado Festival in beautiful Southern California next year and appreciate some mouth-wateringly delicious art — culinary and beyond.