Simultaneously revered and reviled, the food you ingest at fairs and carnivals can induce both nostalgia and nausea. Who doesn’t have fond memories of huge puffs of cotton candy and giant black cauldrons of kettle corn? Well, sufferers of juvenile diabetes I guess. Anyway, “fair food” has always held a special place in my heart (and stomach) and when I first visited the midway at this year’s fair the scent of funnel cakes and grilling sausages flooded my brain with memories.
Whole Lotta’ Shakin Goin’ On
Given that this fair is held at the end of July each year, attendees tend to get thirsty early and often. And when they seek to quench that thirst, they overwhelmingly choose the venerable Lemon Shake Up which can be purchased from nearly every food vendor at the fair, although the original “Famous Lemon Shake Up” stand still sells the best version. The simple recipe is both delicious and profitable: squeeze half a lemon, toss it in a cup with ice and sugar, then shake vigorously. Parched patrons fork over anywhere from $2.50 to $5.00 and sip away their thirst.
Deep Fried Madness
When I last attended the fair 15 years ago, the funnel cake was the undisputed Champion Of Fried Pastry. My how times have changed. These days you can choose from a wide array of sweet treats that have been dipped in funnel cake batter, deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Foregoing the fried Twinkies, candy bars and peanut butter cups, I opted instead to try the Oreo cookies.
Imagine a funnel cake filled with a screaming hot melted Oreo cookie and you’ll get the idea. Even the modest portion of four cookies was difficult to polish off so I enlisted the help of a friend who remarked that she’d like to try a version with white chocolate-covered Oreos. Overkill? Only time will tell.
Tubular Meat Snacks
As Anthony Bourdain has repeatedly pointed out, all civilized cultures feature some version of street food based on grilled meats in tube form. Hot dogs, polish sausages, bratwursts, corn dogs–they’re all celebrated icons of festival gastronomy and all were well represented at this fair.
As tempting as it was to sample them all, I opted instead to tackle a single one: the 14-inch long Giant Corn Dog. Longer than my forearm (but thankfully less hairy), this massive meal costs $6 and requires both a strong will and a strong stomach. When I paused for a photo after eating half of it, I thought to myself, “this is ridiculous”. Then I smiled like a little kid and chowed through the rest of it.
And I think that’s really the point. Now where’s the Pepto?