Fair Fare: What I Ate at the St. Mary’s County Fair, Leonardtown, Maryland

I’m a big fan of county fairs. I also like state fairs, but the county fairs are more intimate, more manageable. Last year I reported on the stuffed ham at the Calvert County Fair. Read that link if you’re unfamiliar with stuffed ham, a St. Mary’s County specialty. I’ll have to miss the Calvert Fair this year, alas, so I was eager to get to the St. Mary’s County Fair.

St. Mary’s County is on the other side of the Patuxent River from Calvert County, and bounded on the other side by the Potomac. It’s blessed with many waterside crab houses and other seafood restaurants, and is more rural than Calvert County, the perfect setting for a county fair.

There was a lot to see: a parade of marching bands, farm equipment driven by young boys, emergency vehicles, antique cars, and separated clusters of supporters of the two political parties. And there was a carnival section offering rides and the sort of food you see at fairs — deep fried Oreos and candy bars, funnel cakes, and fatty meats. Have you tried a deep fried candy bar? I have, a snickers bar, when we were in Ireland. I have a tip for you: don’t get a deep fried candy bar from a fish and chips shop.

The various sausages on sale were tempting, especially since they don’t have calories when you eat them while walking. (I just learned that eating while walking is considered rude in Japan, by the way.) Instead,I went to the section selling food by local vendors. That meant a super-local stuffed ham sandwich, a must-try food, from the Chief’s, Your Neighborhood Bar/WJ Dent shop. The problem was the line.

What to do? Well, there was a fortuitous slack moment in the Calvert Crabs and Seafood shop. I darted over … actually I no longer dart — and got a soft-shell crab sandwich. I do love a soft-shell crab, and it would give me the strength to stand in line.

Thus armed, I got in line with the sandwich (it was delicious), and ordered a stuffed ham sandwich,

and, on impulse, a stuffed ham eggroll.

Both were great. The ham had been corned, and had a delicious flavor and texture. The stuffing (kale, onion, mustard seeds, peppers, etc.) was also delicious. I do find that there’s a tendency to include too much ham in the sandwich, so I removed some of the ham and set it aside, and thus achieved the perfect ham-stuffing balance.

The stuffed ham egg roll, as usual, already had that good balance, I was enjoying it when, noticing that Lily was making lunch out of a snow cone, I offered her a bite of the eggroll.

I never got it back. The snow cone didn’t have a chance. And once Lily finished the eggroll, she accepted some ham. It, too, was a hit — the corned ham really is excellent, almost as good as country ham — and so between the two of us we licked the platter clean.

There was much more. We went to the livestock barns, the pig races (don’t miss the pig races), the various first responders booths, and the 4H building. I love 4H buildings. They have prize fruits and vegetables actually grown by local kids, and we got to see a young boy, maybe 10 years old, show and answer detailed questions from the judges about the goat he had raised. What an impressive young man! The childrens’ science projects are on another level that city kids’. How many of you have seen posters on animal-breeding projects at an elementary school science fair?

We left after a taste of the professional jousting competition. Ella and Lily wanted to stay but the rest of us were worn out. We drove back and either rested or tried to walk off lunch, until Michael arrived with some beautiful ribeye steaks from Nick’s of Calvert. I have a great life.

You should go to your local county fair, if you have one. If not, go to the closest one. Next year, head for the St. Mary’s County Fair.


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