While I stuffed my face with bacon cheesecake, bacon upside down cake and what could have been a bacon birthday cake, pounds and pounds of food were going bad around me.

That’s right – the Napa Town & Country Fair, in all its dining glory, made me think of not only of starving children but also my own bare refrigerator. I understand that people want to be recognized for growing the biggest, prettiest, and most exotic produce and exhibiting it at the fair, but it seems like a waste.

I would trade a big blue ribbon for a 5-pound zucchini any day. That one zucchini alone could provide lunches for a week. Instead it’s sitting out among the other rotting fruits and vegetables at the Expo’s Chardonnay Hall, deprived of air conditioning and a mouth to feed.

I counted four large tables and two smaller tables packed with nature’s bounty. Tomatoes were developing soft spots and peppers wrinkled like aging fingers.

It isn’t just the produce that’s going bad either – it’s all the fresh food products that have been sitting out since Monday. That includes at least 14 types of cookies, six loaves of bread, three kinds of fudge and several cakes whose frosting began sinking into itself like a waterlogged Wicked Witch of the West.

The majority of this food is just thrown out when the fair is over – if it lasts that long. Even during Thursday’s Bakin’ with Bacon competition, flies loitered around the edges of cakes so why wouldn’t they be camped out inside a blueberry cobbler? Isn’t that where you would be if you were a fly?

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The gross factor aside, though, it really is a lot of food to waste, especially for the sake of pride. Isn’t that what it’s about? Showing the rest of the community that you’re the best at growing persimmon, the best at arranging flowers, decorating succulents and baking cookies.

Maybe I’m being too critical of the tradition but I truly believe that there must be another way. Is it possible to display the items for a shorter amount of time? Can we take a photo of it instead and display the photo? Can the food be donated before it expires?

Do the farmers and gardeners displaying their crops at the fair think about these things or do they grow so much food that it doesn’t matter? If it’s the latter, I hope they find better ways to share the bounty. (Feel free to ship items to 1615 Soscol Ave. in care of Jersey Girl. Just kidding. Maybe.)

If you end up at the fair today — it continues from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday — you’ll see what I mean— so much food going bad. Alas, even the cookies.

Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. Jersey Girl runs every other Sunday. Follow her on Twitter at @RiaSestito or email her at msestito@napanews.com.

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