The woman stting across from me in the horse drawn cart wore a shirt she bought in Tucson that had a picture of two chili peppers on it with a caption that said, "Bite Me."
The cart was carrying my friend Cora (who goes by Sissy) and me from Meadow View Farm into the town of Bowers, PA where the annual Chile Festival was taking place. The smell of Jamaican Hot Chocolate and Biker Billy peppers rode on the breeze while the slats on the cart framed eager pepper pickers in red.
We had been in the fields ourselves minutes earlier, browsing among the twenty 150 foot long rows of I don't know how many varieties of peppers. I love peppers. I could have stayed all day. But after buying up four pounds of the stuff, I wanted to sample some Blackberry Hot Pepper Ice Cream (Sissy had the Peach Hot Pepper) and head to town.
The festival in Bowers actually started at the Meadow View farm, but outgrew it. Sissy and I arrived early, 11am, so it wasn't crowded yet. Bowers is a town so small it doesn't merit a label on this Google map. Population is about 5,000. I'm sure that figure doubles, at least, during the pepper fest. There was live music, hot and spicy food (like the jerk pork I had for lunch) and chocolate chili ice cream for dessert. Beautiful. Apparently everybody and their brother shares my opinion. By the time we left at 1pm, there had to be at least two thousand souls milling about the not particularly immense park where the festival was held.
When we saw the line of people waiting to make the horse drawn trip back to their cars, I decided to walk the mile to the farm, retrieve Sissy's car and pick her up. That saved us some time and allowed us to make a speedy exit just as thousands more, I kid you not, were arriving for the afternoon. Our peppery purchases in the trunk, we sped homeward on nearly empty roads, as every car in PA must have been looking for a spot in Bowers.
On the way home, we stopped at one of Sissy's favorite spots. An out of the way farm grocery store called Echo Hill Country Store where to my immense delight, and in perfect accord with the spirit of the day, I found some of this; chocolate with chilis. Forgive me for the irreverance, but what I like to call the Dagoba Prayer (it's their slogan, printed on the back of the chocolate chili bar) makes a perfect benediction to this day.
"You can deprive the body, but the soul needs chocolate," (with maybe some chili too...).