Sunday, March 30, 2014

Getting my AgNerd on at the Houston Rodeo

Most people wouldn't guess this by meeting me now, but I grew up in an area of the country that was, and remains to be, tied to an agricultural identity.  We had an annual census and usually cows outnumbered people.  These days urbanization and suburban creep are moving in and it's doubtful that cows still outnumber people, but my former high school still boasts one of the largest FFAs in the state. This is especially impressive considering the high school is one of the smaller ones in the state.

I've written before on the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, but focused mostly on what you can eat while you're there.  So much more goes on at the Rodeo, even if you don't bother to purchase the concert tickets (you must purchase the concert ticket to see the bull riding, bronc busting, and other events typically associated with a rodeo).  

First and foremost the show gives city dwellers a chance to connect with where their food comes from. This year there was a new exhibit that showcased the foods that are produced in Texas and highlighted the specialties from each region of this very large state. Most people are aware that beef, grapefruit, and cotton are produced in Texas, but did you know that peanuts and rice also are grown in Texas? And that the state is a major producer of chicken and angora goats. In addition to beef, Texas has a number of successful dairies, and not just with cow's milk, there are goat milk dairies too. Texas is also a leading producer of sorghum, a grain that is often used to make gluten free beer, in addition to cereals and animal feed.

You simply can't have an ag show without having a chick hatchery. 
You also must have a milking demonstration at every ag show.
The Tour of Texas was new this year.  And, yes, Texas is a wine producer.

Texas has a number of different geographical and temperate regions.  The climate and soil are different in each region.  I live in the Prairies and Lakes Region. There are cotton farms and beef cattle ranches all around, and people grow pecans here, including the ones we grow in our yard. We also grow pomegranates, figs, olives, and Cabernet grapes in our yard.

You can also cultivate bees in Texas. Our yard is not ideal for them, however it would be if it was just a little bit larger.
This is part of a much larger display explaining how insects and arachnids contribute towards Texas agriculture.
Texas has a number of different soil orders. Knowing your soil order will help you select crops that are most likely to succeed on your property.
The show is also a scholarship contest for Texas children. The children raise animals for the show, transport them to Houston and the animals are then judged according to how they meet a breed standard.  At the end of the show the animals are auctioned and the proceeds go towards a college/university scholarship for participating children. The grand champion and reserve grand champion animals are put on display following their auctions.

This is the grand champion hog from the show. She sold for more than $200,000 and set a world record. 
Reserve grand champion goat taking a nap.
Reserve grand champion heifer resting.
Most people associate branding with ownership.  For centuries American cattle producers have branded their animals to make it obvious who owns which animals on free ranging properties.  Brands are also used for traceability.  Animals at the Houston Rodeo are branded to show they came from the Houston Rodeo. In the unlikely event a disease happens in animals at the Rodeo, all animals leaving the Rodeo can easily be recognized by their brands and the disease could be traced back.  In addition to the brands there are electronic records for transport and sale/exchange of the animals.
There are shows for non-livestock animals as well. Llamas and alpacas participate in a number of competitions including the quality of their fleece and the round out the show with a costume contest. Weeks earlier in the Rodeo there were horsemanship competitions and a donkey and mule show.  There are also shows for rabbits, herding dogs, FFA mechanical groups (that teach how to build the items used on the farm/ranch), and many other events related to all things ag.

How often do you see a llama dressed as a tractor?
Alpacas are just so  incredibly cute.
Llamas checking out the action in the arena.
The show also gives all attendees a chance to connect with rodeo, Western, and Americana culture.  This year there was a new rodeo event called cowboy mounted shooting.  The name is quite descriptive.  The competition involves a person riding a horse while shooting at targets.  In the case of the competition I watched they shot at a round of balloons with a pistol, then rode to the end of the arena and shot at a line of balloons with a rifle The person who completes the course the fastest with the fewest misses wins the round.  The ammunition was theatrical blanks so there was little risk to the audience.  The Lovely Spouse, who was born in the big city and has only been on a horse once, got so fired up about it he now wants to try it. [If anyone knows how to make this happen, please let me know.] The competition was exciting and quite easy for the audience to get interested in the action. I hope this event come back next year. And I predict it will eventually be part of the large stadium action and will be televised.

There's also shopping and a bit of an agricultural trade show at the rodeo. Things that I didn't get pictures of include some of the most beautiful horse trailers/RVs I've ever seen, gorgeous farm/ranch gates, and some of the latest farm/ranch technology.

Shopping.  Lots and lots of shopping.
John Deere representing.  And, no, I didn't see anything similar for Kubota or any other tractor company. 
My readers are accustomed to me showing what to eat in every post, so here's a little summary of what was new for this year.  First and foremost my little Polish heart was all aflutter to find a Polish restaurant at the Rodeo.  This is the same restaurant that has a shop at the Texas Renaissance Festival and they had many of the same options, including perogi (fried dumplings with a variety of fillings) and golabki (stuffed cabbage).

Polish food at the Houston Rodeo. At some point I will make it to their restaurant in Houston.
I also saw something new...on a stick.  In this case it was Texas steak dinner...on a stick.  The Lovely Spouse had this for his dinner and it should have been called steak kabob with a dinner roll on a stick. Still, the marketing was cute.

So much to choose from.
If it can be fried, it will be. I was amused to see one vendor dedicated to the fried pickle.
And, yes, they really did have a Texas steak dinner on a stick. 
The results, as presented by The Lovely Spouse.
My favorite place for smoked boudin had a longer than normal line...
Turns out they won a well-deserved Gold Buckle Foodie award. 
More food options indoors, where you can enjoy air conditioning, even if there is no available seating.
Really, there is so much STUFF to choose from.
And a carnival for kids and kids at heart.
And, finally, I managed to get 2 interesting shots of the Astrodome and Reliant (soon to be NRG) Stadium so I thought I'd share 'em with y'all. 

Reliant (soon to be NRG) Stadium
The Astrodome. The staircases were recently imploded. In the foreground is one of the massive food tents put up only for the Rodeo.
The Houston Rodeo has finished for this year.  This means you have until next March to plan your trip there so you can get your AgNerd on. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Houston Rodeo Find: Deep Fried Nutella

This year's mission at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was supposed to be deep fried Nutter Butters. I love peanut butter and I love Nutter Butters.  And deep fried makes everything better right?  And it's only a once a year kind of thing so it's okay if it's not perfectly healthy.

Where to find the goodness.  This was located in the carnival section of the rodeo.
Then I took a walk around the rodeo grounds and low and behold what did my wandering eye perceive?  Deep Fried Nutella.  SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

Oh yes, yes I did.  And the results were nothing short of amazing. Amazeballs, as the cool kids used to say.  [I always find out what the cool kids say after it's no longer cool.]

As you can see it's a large fritter on a stick.  Filled with Nutella.
So how was the experience? The batter resembled a pancake batter wrapped around ooey, gooey Nutella.  I'm going to guess they froze Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut spread, in an ice cube tray (rectangular) with the stick on it, then dunked it in the batter and fried it. The stick is so they can retrieve the goodness from the oil.  When it's first served the entire thing is hot and the Nutella is like lava so I let it cool...a little bit...and dug in.

The inside is all Nutella goodness.  The powdered sugar was just for presentation.
And while I'm trying to eat healthier these days, truth be told, I'd totally do it again.  You have to indulge once in awhile, amirite?

I regret nothing.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has finished for this year but will return to Houston next March. I know what I'll be eating.  The deep fried Nutella was $7.50 and other options, such as the deep fried cookie dough The Lovely Spouse sampled were $6.

Note: a google search on deep fried Nutella yields a article about something with the same name served at the Texas State Fair and the caption of "Don't Eat This".  Reading the article it appears the creation served at the Texas State Fair was completely different from the one served at the Houston Rodeo.