The Maryland Renaissance Festival, aka The World Series of Cleavage, features a lot of weird things (its clientele typically chief among them), but it's possible that nothing there is more bizarre than the food. Last weekend, I set out to eat these experiments in gastronomic mad science, because I am just that committed to comedy/taking vengeance against my digestive tract.
It's worth noting that I didn't eat everything below by myself, although that should be fairly evident by the fact that I'm sitting here typing this rather than spending time in an ICU. Both my girlfriend and a friend of ours joined me for this misadventure, and we split most of the items below between us. Also lending sympathetic (no) texts were Jezebel's own Isha Aran, Mark Shrayber, and Tracy Moore, all of whom reacted to everything I was shoving in my face without once urging me to seek medical attention. I actually appreciate that, because I too consider comedy to take primacy over my own physical well-being.
The classic Renaissance Festival turkey leg may look like an infected scab on the outside and a biology textbook muscle map on the inside, and it may photograph about as well as a dumpster fire, but there's something incredibly compelling about it. This is doubly confusing when you consider that 90% of all turkey legs are thrown away half-eaten because fighting through to get to the meat is basically the shitty eating version of summiting Everest.
Tracy: That turkey leg is the profile of a very sad dog who looks like Elvis.
Isha: It looks like a frog if the frog was a burn victim.
Mark: That turkey leg has Ebola. It looks like a rhinoceros penis with Ebola.
Tracy: I showed my four-year-old that turkey leg. "It looks like somebody touching blood on a bone."
Verdict: The classic turkey leg has no earthly right to be as delicious as it is, yet here we are. Every year I think "maybe I won't get one of those this time," and every year I wind up going "NOPE, GET THAT FUCKER IN MY FACEHOLE."
I expected this to be just a nominally cheesecake-flavored ice cream bar, but no, this was an actual wedge of cheesecake, complete with crust and everything, coated in chocolate. If nothing else, I have to commend their commitment to not half-assing it — they straight up dunked a cheesecake in a metric ton of chocolate. There's something noble about that (no, there isn't).
Tracy: Torpedo poop.
Isha: No thank you. I can only handle two of those three gimmicks at a time.
Tracy: Four-year-old: "It looks like a popsicle that has blood on it." I think my kid is messed-up a little.
Mark: I would absolutely eat that. I would deep-throat the shit out of that cheesecake. I imagine heaven is just Bea Arthur, Rue McLanahan, and Sophia Petrillo just deepthroating frozen cheesecake.
Verdict: Better than I had expected. I mean, still weird, cloying, and a little bit terrifying, but better than I expected.
If you've never had a crab pretzel (possibly because you live in some unfortunate place where "crab" is considered an exotic foodstuff), it's basically just a soft pretzel with crab, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese lumped on top of it. If you're in Maryland when you eat one, I'm reasonably sure you are legally required to dump so much old bay on it that you practically asphyxiate with each bite, so thanks to my girlfriend for helpfully complying with the law here. Trufax: we were home three days and we ate two of these things, because that's what you do when you go to Maryland. I feel like if the various States were Game of Thrones Houses, Maryland's banner would just be a picture of one of these and the words "None More Maryland."
Tracy: Is that a cheese loaf?
Mark: That crab pretzel looks like a barrier method.
Verdict: Fuck all y'all, this shit was bananas. Maybe the best thing I had all day. Life tip: always order the crab pretzel.
While I have and will continue to argue that Maryland is not the South (well, not the counties that actually matter, which, to be fair, is like five of them), they're really not helping their case by serving tons of fried weirdness on sticks. C'mon, Maryland, Southerners hate you because you didn't rebel in support of literally enslaving other human beings; don't try to live up to that standard. Don't be that guy.
Tracy: Cheese-fried-cheese is never not going to be appealing.
Isha: OK, both of those last two things could be anything. I think they only have three ingredients at the Renn Faire and they just arrange them in different ways.
Mark: The ingredients are sadness, self-hatred, and cheese.
Verdict: Good, but good in a way you don't want to experience again any time soon, kind of like the movie Se7en. To quote the people I was with, "Those were good, but I think that's probably enough of those for the next year."
I knew this was a bad idea going in. As I've noted before, I'm not the biggest fan of oysters, and floating in a minicup full of cocktail sauce didn't do a whole lot to improve the situation. The fact that the Coors Light chaser (WHY?!) actually WAS an improvement should be pretty telling.
Also, yes, I drank the Coors Light chaser (and someone else's who didn't want it). Why? Because I paid for it, dammit.
Isha: Oh good. Afterbirth. Yum.
Tracy: Those look like bodily fluid body shots.
Mark: Liquid oysters or hemlock? Who can tell? Which is better? Probably hemlock because you die and don't have to worry about gastrointestinal distress for 24-48 hours.
Verdict: About as well as you'd expect a wad of horseradishy phlegm to taste.
If you've never had a scotch egg before, yes, that is in fact a hard-boiled egg wrapped in fried sausage. That's a thing the Scots came up with, and America should just bow down to them now for their clear and frankly surprising superiority in epic fried disaster engineering. You win, Scots — Outlander is awesome, kilts are the height of fashion, and bagpipe music is...semi-tolerable.*
Mark: This is the kind of shit that makes me want to go to the Renn Faire as a robot from the future (year 1999) to warn people about high blood pressure and diabetes.
Isha: The idea of holding that thing and sausage touching the palm of my hand really freaks me out.
Tracy: My four-year-old: "It looks like a burned table."
Verdict: While I agree with Mike Myers that all Scottish food originally started as a dare, in this case it's a dare I actually appreciate. It's actually not surprising that this works — "egg + sausage + murderous amounts of grease = delicious" is a recipe that has served the McDonald's breakfast menu well for decades now.
This is my pork chop on a stick. There are many pork honks like it but this one is mine. I will eat with it, I will sleep with it, I will have diarrhea with it. My pork honk is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my colon. I must eat it despite the fact that I know it will fire true out of my butt in a couple hours. I must resist the voice in my head screaming that my pork honk is trying to kill me. I must eat it before it eats me.
Tracy: That is a catcher's mitt of meat.
Isha: OK, I'm officially done with things on sticks.
Mark: Isn't a pork chop already on a stick by default? This seems unnecessary.
Verdict: Why does putting it on a stick somehow make it taste better? It shouldn't, and yet it does. A+, Pork Chop on a Stick. A-fucking-plus.
Since you can't really tell from looking at it, the King's Baked Potato was filled with nacho cheese, bacon, sour cream, butter, and broccoli. This ingredient miasma should've been horrifying, and it was...but it was also strangely appealing. Like, I immediately wanted another one appealing. In a related story, I can't feel my legs.
Also, my colleagues went NUTS with this one:
Isha: That baked potato looks like a Taco Bell item, which is about the worst thing I could say about it.
Mark : That baked potato looks amazing. I have had a potato with nacho cheese before, and let me tell you, it was an EVENT.
Isha: No way, Mark. That thing looks like the future version of itself. Post-poop.
Mark: Because it is the shit. Like, obviously it is the shit because you shit yourself real hard after. But it's delicious, so it's worth it.
Tracy: Four-year-old: "That looks like a burned eggplant."
Isha: That nacho cheese looks like stress putty.
Mark: Honestly, I think the sour cream looks more offensive. Like someone just splooged some dairy on a potato.
Tracy: The sour cream is the one thing that looks amazing to me.
Mark: That's a potato facial. A pokkake. Bet Tracy Moore wishes she had a picture of this potato while giving birth!
Tracy: I wish a baby felt only like a potato coming out.
Mark: Tracy would you rather shit yourself eating a potato or give birth again? Like, here is your choice: you go to the Faire, eat ten of these potatoes, and have the dairy constipation, or you have to give birth again. Which would you choose?
Tracy: Talk about a Sophie's Choice! The potato.
Isha: Sophie's Choice is still a better love story than that sour cream.
Not that I'm actually complaining (there is no word in that title that doesn't sound delicious), but I question whether this dish makes sense in context. Did Queen Elizabeth have a favorite Thai place? Did Michaelangelo sculpt a statue commemorating Lorenzo de Medici's legendary love of Pad Thai? I am dubious.
Mark: Lots of thai green beans during the Renaissance. Shakespeare loved them.
Tracy: This seems so exotic compared to everything else.
Isha: If at first you don't succeed with putting shit on sticks, Thai, Thai again.**
Verdict: Thematic inappropriateness be damned, this was the best fucking thing I ate all day other than maybe the crab pretzel.
That's New England Clam Chowder, not jizz. I'm almost positive. Wait, does jizz taste like clams? Shit, did I just eat a jizz bowl? Is this my trembling bukkake?
Mark: Jizz. Drink up!
Tracy: Definitely jizz.
Isha: Jizz. That is the whitest thing I have ever seen in my life, in all senses of the word.
Verdict: The soup wasn't bad, but the bread is some sub-Wonder Bread bullshit. Come on, Ren Faire. You can do better.
This photo is not doctored in any way. That was literally taken within ten seconds of them handing it to us. I wasn't even going to bother taking a picture of it before ordering (because I didn't eat it), but when I saw them hand my friend a bowl full of moldy bear diarrhea topped with a lone, suffering gummy worm, I couldn't resist.
Isha: If you have to put a fucking gummy worm on your food to spruce it up, you're not doing it right.
Tracy: For some reason, I just heard the words "baby's Oreo surprise" in a very Southern redneck voice in my head. That thing would be a huge hit at Sonic.
Mark: Would eat. No ragrets (misspelling intentional).
Verdict: I chose not to partake, because if I'd vomited at this point it would've been basically pure Velveeta. The person who did gave every sign of enjoying this poop disaster, though. She even ate the gummy worm.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to spend the next month doing unspeakable things to my toilet.
* Look, I can only stretch the truth so far.
** This is my single favorite text of the entire day.
Image via FomaA/Shutterstock. Bonus points because this image was titled (I swear I'm not making this up) "Healthy breakfast of meat stuffed egg on the lettuce."