Hello and welcome to the blog. Today I visited the tiny town of Vining, Iowa – about 45 minutes west of Cedar Rapids.
Yes, it’s Friday the 13th, a day that many people fear… But this was a very unlucky day for some Iowa swine. Vining, Iowa (population 50) was the site of a “Rocky Mountain Oyster” fry known as the “Testicle Festival”.
What are “Rocky Mountain Oysters”? Basically, animal nuts that have been peeled, sliced, soaked, pounded, breaded, and fried. These happen to be from pigs. The same colloquialism is often used to refer to the analogous parts of sheep and cows.
For Iowans it is difficult to discuss the topic of pigs’ balls without the locals talking about our newly elected State Senator, Joni Ernst. She grew up on a farm and often discusses castrating pigs when she was younger. Throughout her campaign, Joni promised to go to Washington and “Make ’em squeal” when she “cut pork.” Thank goodness they didn’t play the song “Dueling Banjos” although it would not have surprised me! I liked it better when Iowa’s motto was simply “The Tall Corn State”. We’ll leave it at that.
The town of Vining is located in Tama County, near the casino in the Tama / Toledo area. Vining is a Czech community of just fifty people. At the yearly rocky mountain oyster fry, as many as 800 folks attend! The town itself is just a few blocks square… I couldn’t find a convenience store while waiting for the dinner to start. Some people smoke everywhere they go. I have to have a Diet Coke.
Down the road a few miles is Elberon, Iowa. It is a much larger town – 196 people! I still did not find a place to get a Diet Coke! Oh well…
I liked the old hotel in Elberon. It you can see on the sign, it says “Hotel – Bathhouse – Saloon – Dry Goods”. A camper would have found everything he or she would have needed back in the day!
Once back in Vining, things were rocking and rolling. The dinner started at 5:00 but people were entering at 4:30 so I joined them. By 5:30 there was a line so long you would have thought it was Black Friday!
I devoured two plates of the breaded hog nuts. One of them shed its cracker crumb coating and you can see it on the right. The “oysters” have a slightly rubbery texture – somewhat like a shitake mushroom. The flavor is rich yet pretty mild. The piece of bread on the right has red onions, tartar sauce, a little horseradish, and some of the fried gonads. That’s not Diet Coke… With a meal this fine, one needed beer…
The picture on your left is the “Bohemie Alps” between Vining and Elberon. It’s remote but I found some great places to fish, camp, and fly the drone on future visits.
These rural festivals are great family events, drawing people from all over the area. In a month or two there is one near home. The town of Olin, about 12 miles from where I live, has an upcoming meal. After trying this delicacy, a camping trip and visit to that event is a must. There are also meals of raccoon and ‘possum. I’m sure one of those will make the blog, too!
In closing, I hope the friends had a peaceful Friday the 13th. Have a terrific Valentine’s Day. Spring is just around the corner – we are almost there!
Take care and thanks for visiting today.
Brad, Serena, and Jesse James
Currently in the “Bohemie Alps” of Tama County, Iowa