I have a soft spot in my heart for the Kentucky Derby. I’m not a betting kind of woman, or a proponent of mistreating animals in any way, but something about all that glorious horseflesh (especially in high-definition) makes my heart race.
My brother (who died of AIDS in 1985) used to have a fun Kentucky Derby party. Back then, TVs were really tiny, the picture was fuzzy…or at least his was. I remember he used to make corn bread muffins in those little corn cob shaped cast iron pans. Yum. (You can try it with my cheesy cowgirl cornbread recipe!)
These days, we get invited to Derby parties but rarely go. It somehow seems we always have some other obligation that is oblivious to the Derby—and then we have to show up unfashionably late because, hey…it’s the best three minutes in sports! Three minutes, that’s all I ask. I am almost always on time the whole rest of the year.
Maybe next year we should have a party. Except, I really like to focus on the build-up. There are always the crazy, emotional stories (it’s like the Olympics, only condensed!). Our tradition is to run out an hour or two before the preshow starts and pick some fresh baby apple mint to make fresh mint iced tea. It’s a poor substitute for a mint julep, but hey, no alcohol allowed in our house. Then we all snuggle up on the couch and watch the horses (picking our favorites) and feel the tension and watch the commercials, and we sing along to “My Old Kentucky Home” and turn up the TV really loud to hear the thundering horses hooves and…Wow! It’s over. Interestingly, the youngest kids always seem to pick the winning horses!
If we had a party, I’d have to be talking to people and refilling glasses and stopping the dog from jumping up on people and stealing food.
Last summer I went to Kentucky to interview farmers for my book, Organic Manifesto. I had to stop at Churchill Downs to visit, but a huge thunderstorm prevented me from taking the tour. I got just enough of a taste to know that one day I am going to have to come back for the Derby itself. And yes, I am going to buy a great big, fantabulous hat.
It’s still probably better on TV, but some things just have to be done at least once in real life. The Derby is on my list.
But what do you think? Vote!
If you have a Derby party yourself, or go to one, I’d love to live vicariously through you and hear what your favorite things on the menu are. (Not sure what to make? Check out the Kentucky Derby Recipes on Rodale.com.)