THE ASPEN EQUIVALENT OF A RENAISSANCE FAIR
by Todd Hartley
Despite the fact that I’m a little nerdy, spent my college years just a short drive from Larkspur, home of the Colorado Renaissance Festival, and actually used to play Dungeons & Dragons, I’ve never been to a Renaissance fair. There’s no particular reason for this. It’s just never happened.
I’ve heard wondrous tales, of course — tales of spit-roasted flesh being eaten right off the bone and buxom lasses serving flagons of mead — and, obviously, these stories pique my interest. In fact, given my usual predilections, it’s downright shocking that I’m not a rabid devotee of Renaissance fairs, but, alas, I have yet to partake in their pleasures.
Likewise, despite being a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and his ilk, I have only seen one episode of “Game of Thrones.” I know some folks think it’s the best show ever, but it seemed a little heavier than my usual fare (think “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “South Park”), and I wasn’t willing to commit myself to it at the time.
So, given all that, it’s fair to say that my practical experience with medieval practices is practically nonexistent, or at least it was before last week. But then I got to attend an event in Snowmass Village called the Cochon Heritage Fire, and that was about as medieval as I think I’m willing to get.
Technically, the Heritage Fire, which bills itself as a “wood-fired, meat-laden feast” that spotlights “traditional outdoor cooking techniques,” is not a Renaissance fair. There was no jousting and the DJ was playing rap rather than lute music and Gregorian chants, but one look was enough to tell me that I’d stumbled across whatever the Aspen equivalent of a Renaissance fair would be.
The event was set up on the lawn of Base Village, with numerous booths serving food and drinks, but what was really impressive was what was happening just above the booths on the slopes of Fanny Hill. That was where the meat was being cooked, and if it didn’t resemble a scene from “Game of Thrones,” then I must have the wrong idea about that show.
A bunch of cooking fires had been lit right on the ground, and the smoke from them wafted this way and that, as if a heated battle had just ended. Standing amid the fires were about 10 metal racks that looked vaguely like crosses, and on each rack there was a pig or lamb that had been split down the middle and crucified for our dining pleasure.
There was another, larger rack in the center of the whole array from which dangled a huge sturgeon, another big fish and a whole octopus, and while they’d all been smoked to an appetizing hue, nothing had been done to disguise their true natures. They looked as if they’d just been pulled from the water and strung right up.
At first I was a little taken aback by the crucified pigs, lambs and aquatic creatures, but that was before I got to the serving tables and saw that many of them were actually decorated with severed pig and lamb heads. This was indeed a meat-laden feast, a vegan’s worst nightmare and everything PETA has ever railed against.
Naturally, it was delicious. There was beef and pork served in about two dozen different ways. There was smoked fish and octopus, and one inspired chef even made a lamb-ducken of sorts that consisted of a boneless lamb leg stuffed with sausage and other meats. It was an affront to God, admittedly, but it sure tasted good.
Unfortunately, there were no flagons of mead, just oceans of tequila and bourbon. There was a water jug, too, but as it was a hot day, the water disappeared quickly, and before long there was nothing nonalcoholic to drink. This led to more than a few drunken patrons, many of whom started grabbing severed pig and lamb heads to take selfies with. It was flat-out debaucherous and a heck of a lot of fun.
I remarked to someone that the Heritage Fire, more than any other event I’ve attended, was a true bacchanal, and they agreed. Later, however, I wondered if I was using that word correctly, so I looked up the definition, which was simply: “Orgy.”
So, yes, it was an epicurean bacchanal, but was it an orgy such as the ones HBO shows in “Game of Thrones”? No, but that would be an interesting twist for the organizers to add next year.
Todd Hartley is a 20th-level, chaotic-neutral Paladin, even though that’s impossible.