Sunday, September 09, 2007

Eating our way through the fair

Oh sure, you may think tractor pulls, demolition derbies, rides, exhibits and games of chance when someone mentions "county fair," but the only thing I'm thinking about as I walk through the fairground's gates -- having already paid a small fortune in admission -- is where to acquire a $5 vat of (real) lemonade and a king-sized pillow of fried dough.

No matter what I may tell you about the down-home goodness of attending the county fair -- the love of the poultry house tour or the leisurely stroll down the semi-clear aisles of the cattle barns, the local quaintness of 4-H booths or the nostalgia that comes with puffs of smoke from the barn where the antique engines rattle and hum -- deep down in my soul, it's the fair fare that makes the annual trek to the dusty grounds a must.

Blooming onions, cotton candy, corn dogs, fried dough, funnel cakes, vinegar fries, ice cream, pretzels, popcorn, pulled pork, steak sandwiches, gyros, chili dogs, barbecue chicken, Italian sausages, kabobs, sno-cones, corn on the cob, kettle corn, elephant ears, nachos, fritters, hush puppies, candied apples, carmel apples and NEW this year -- fried Oreos and fried Twinkies. Oh boy!

What could be better? Theoretically, as I wind my way from the grandstand to the cow barn I could consume 4 million calories ... not to mention a cow once I get there.

This isn't just the fair facts of life; this is what nursing hunger looks like.

Pregnancy hunger was nothing compared to what's on the menu for a person providing the primary source of food for an infant.

I swear I could eat morning, noon and night if it wasn't for the likelihood I'd soon wind up looking like a sideshow Dolly Dimples.

It doesn't help that the fair fare usually has an unfair cost. The folks at the concessions could rival movie theaters with their $6 for a tubs of popcorn. In addition to my billion calorie meal with its 29 million grams of fat I need a wheelbarrow full of cash to get it to the communal picnic tables near the Captain and Tennille cover band.

Most years we burn through the contents of our wallets at a few stops along the midway. We leave the place -- with its bright lights and blaring sounds -- with a moderate amount of food consumption guilt and a small, sawdust stuffed bear of unquestionably bad quality, usually purple. And as we leave it never fails that we pass the one food vendor that might have actually provided some nutrition: the county's own baked potato brigade.

These folks have been in the Grange Hall probably before the yellow building was erected. Wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn the hall had been built around them. Of course every year we pass by the hall on our way to the car, having stuffed ourselves with pulled pork, curly fries and double scoop milkshakes, leaving no room for a spud made to order.

Every year I vow to start with the potato.

And every year, including this one, I forget. I never even consider the hot potato when juggling all the lesser food choices ... Hot dog? Hamburger? One of each?

Of course this year nursing hunger allowed me to end the fair, as I always have, leaving the gates with a milkshake from the dairy bar but also with enough room leftover for a locally-grown spud with a pat of butter and a single dollop of low-fat sour cream. I was so proud of myself; I told them to hold the cheese.

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