Sunday, August 1, 2010

In Which We Eat at the County Fair

The ferris wheel is torn down, the fairgrounds are empty. I saw a lone "carny" in a truck pulling a canival game trailer heading out of town this morning. Most people around here look forward to the fair each summer. It's such a social event. The parents are thrilled to see people they haven't seen in years. The kids are thrilled to ride the rides. We all have food we only eat at the fairgrounds and can't find any other time of the year. Here is a record of how my family indulged over the last ten days.

At mealtime, our family usually takes a "divide and conquer" approach. On this evening, several members of the family ate pork burgers or pork chop sandwiches from the pork tent. Mike and the girls purchased them and saved a table for us while Brooks got our beverages and I looked for something more exotic.

I decided to try something new. I originally was headed for the Chinese food cart, because I'd heard so many people say that the eggrolls were what they looked forward to. Well, too many people had the same idea and I wasn't willing to stand in a line that stretched to the.... hey, look at that! There's a Cajun food cart. From the Cajun food cart I ordered red beans and rice, and "shrimp on a stick." I washed it all down with my favorite find from this year's fair, a frozen Pepsi from the Goat Shack.

At the Cajun cart, I was tempted by someething else on the menu: Bourbon Chicken on a Stick. Before I ordered, I saw a gentleman recieve his kabob and before he walked away, I asked if that was the Chicken on a Stick. "No, ma'am," he said. "It's Gator on a Stick." I simply had to record that menu item, even though I certainly wasn't going to order it myself. He was kind enough to let me take his picture.

When I was a kid, my parents rarely sprang for a meal at the fair. Too expensive. But we always stopped at the Dairy Bar and got soft serve ice cream on our way out of the fair to the parking lot. Our family has the same tradition.

The day we rode rides was a hot one. Ava chose to beat the heat with a Sno-Cone.

Others recommend the taco salad and I got one for the first time. It was good, but nothing I couldn't recreate at home.

Ok, we love these things. Sometimes called Saratoga Chips, sometimes called Spiral Spuds, they affix a potato to some kind of drill-looking thing and run it through a slicer. It turns a potato into a long, curly spiral, which they plop into hot fat and fry. Here they are topped with cheese, bacon and chives. While Brooks and his buddy were riding rides, there was a brief thunderstorm. They each grabbed an order of Saratoga Chips and ducked into a pavillion for their snack. After another couple of rides, they agreed that those things should be shared with several people, never as a snack for one person. They had a bit of Spiral Spud remorse.

Finally, Sirloin Tips. These things are delicious. They're seasoned beatifully. They're juicy and served with potatoes and chives and mushrooms, peppers and onions, if you wish. And they've been the hot item for the last several years. Whenever we'd walk past the cart, there was always a massive line. And whenever we ate them, there was much planning.... Who was willing to stand in the line? How would the kids be entertained while they waited? But the catch is: They are Very Expensive. During the first few years of their popularity, the price was mentioned when people raved about them, but everyone agreed that they were worth it for a once-a-year treat. In the next few years, more people were grumbling, fewer people were saying that they were worth it. We got the Sirloin Tips for our first meal, two little cardboard trays of the stuff, which we divided between the five of us. Mike said, "Enjoy it, because we'll never eat it again." It cost $26 for two orders. We don't often pay that kind of money to eat by candlelight, let alone with plastic forks. Michael finally declared it too high and it seemed that a lot of the community agreed. I never saw a line at the cart this year.

I don't know how that food looks to you. In mid-July, it would look and sound great to me. At the end of the fair... it looks a little gross. But I know I'll eat it all again next year. For now though, nothing but raw vegetables and lentils.


  1. I'm such a sucker for fair food! Making me hungry looking at your photos.
    I've eaten gator before, and some kind of snake :) There's a Cajun restaurant on the river - I was there a few times before kids, so it's been a while.

  2. Cajun restaurant? Where at? I could eat me a spiral spud right this very minute.


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