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Fair Food: so wrong it’s right

August 1, 2010

Just what is it about fair food (and by “fair” I mean county fairs, festivals, and the like) that makes people go crazy over.  You know, funnel cake, corn dogs, cotton candy, caramel apples, etc.  Could it be that these treats are only offered during a short segment of the year and that in that space between July and September we feel obliged to take advantage of their limited offering?  We humans do by nature desire what we can’t always have.  Or could it be the abundance of grease and/or sugar that permeates every nook and cranny of this “cuisine” that so attracts us?  Or maybe it’s the sheer fact that most of this food is really nothing that we encounter in our regular cooking rituals, providing that we care about the health of our arteries, so its rarity makes it that much better. And then there’s that euphoric atmosphere that entices us.  Amidst the swirly twirly lights of the scrambler and the sweet and lovingly suffocating fried smell we find ourselves succumbing to our every desires. Well, it must be a culmination of all these things (or else some voodoo magic cast upon us by the gypsy carnies) because in the age of whole foods and healthfulness, nothing else could cause the consumption of these sinful treats.

So let me just reflect on a few of my favorites

Funnel Cake
It’s really not a fair without a funnel cake.  You smell the sweetness from about a mile away and even the huge line that will take about a half hour doesn’t deter you.  It’s time for funnel cake.  You contemplate the topping but you already know you’re going to get classic powdered sugar.  The second that sugar hits the hot, oil covered dough, it melts into a slippery goop that will, in time, manage to coat the entirety of your hands and leave great white stains on your shirt.  They finally give you your funnel cake on a flimsy paper plate that has already been soaked through with grease.  It threatens to give out any minute.  And then, right when you are ready to dig in you realize it may be near impossible to eat.  You stand there, awkwardly holding the wilting plate with one hand while the other tries to pry off a piece of the dense and chewy dough.  It doesn’t work and all you really manage to do is make your hands more slippery.  Next you try to take a bite directly off the whole cake only to burn your tongue on the little beads of hot oil that remain.  You panic slightly; this things needs to be eaten while it still good and crispy so you have no choice but to sit smack dab where your feet just were, the ground as your table and two free hands to pull apart the cake with ease.  You devour it within seconds, loving both the crispy bits and the middle pieces that melt into a soft mass in your mouth, and take the last few moments to lick every powdered sugar clump from your fingers.  The job is done and you know that the grease and sugar coma is about to set in, so you figure the ground is probably a good place to remain for now.  And as the waves of nausea come in more frequently, you secretly can’t wait for next year when you get to do this again.

Kettle Corn
You’ve tried it.  Gone to the store and picked up a pack of Orville Redenbacher kettle corn in the hopes of bringing back those memories of the fair, and it’s just not the same.  Nothing can compare to the taste of kettle corn that you literally just watched popping in front of you in those big iron kettles of miracles.  The buttery sweet smell wafts around and you and everybody watches the popcorn makers in awe as if you’ve never seen a more outstanding craft.  They must have trained for years to master this.  Your first instinct is to get the medium sized bag.  One body can only handle so much of that salty sweet goodness.  But…what the hell, you’ll go with the supersize bag.  The fair only comes once a year.

Deep-Fried Oreos
You’re pretty skeptical at first.  What could this possibly be besides a guaranteed heart attack?  Someone ahead of you orders them and you nosily try to sneak a peek at these curious little items.  And when it’s your turn to order, you get to thinking, well, nothing can possibly be ruined by deep-frying it; the grease only makes it better, right?  You get the plate of crispy brown balls that look like a mere funnel cake bites, but your eye does not see the Oreo present within the fried batter.  You take a mouth-burning bite only to be pleasantly surprised by the way the Oreo has gone from grainy wafer to a soft and melty cookies-and cream filling.  How could you ever have any doubt about this delicacy and furthermore, why don’t they sell this at restaurants…well, maybe its better they don’t.


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