Coconut oil. Blueberries. Kale. Like most people who have ever waited in a checkout line by the magazines and tabloids, or been on the internet, I feel that I have a fairly cursory understanding of the latest foods that are touted to promote better health and deliver the heftiest punch of antioxidants.
So why is it that when I am in attendance at the fair, I ignore everything that I know and fall prey to all kinds of full-fat atrocities that could not be justified (or even imagined!) anywhere else?
For example, though I rarely eat hot-dogs at any other time of the year, as soon as I inhale the deep haze of frying onions I must have one. In its wildly inappropriate snow-white cushiony bun, the dog itself is sleek, glistening with all the toppings and a goodly spoonful of hot peppers. The pedigree of this particular meat is of course best not dwelled upon, nor that characteristic squeaky “give” when I bite in: piping hot, laden with nitrates and not a gram of fiber in sight. It. Is. Delicious.
With a hot dog as the gateway snack (no pun intended) it’s time to forget everything Dr. Oz has ever said and counterbalance with a new sense of liberation. (The whole theme of fair food is, after all, ping-ponging between the extremes of salty and sweet). We pass a few vendors offering to scrape the remains of what appears to be a slowly rotating carpet slipper onto a plate — what is that stuff? Even the kids recoil from this, so it’s time to hit the sweet section.
Elephant ears? Beaver tails? Funnel cake? How about those tiny doughnuts bobbing up and down in hot oil? Fried dough with sugar is at least a homey, honest thing, and great gusts of powdered sugar tend to make everything right.
Incidentally, I’ve also noticed that many of the sweet things at a fair are either hot pink or electric blue (it’s not unlike comparing windshield washer fluids) and cotton candy is no exception. I always feel cheated if it’s already in a bag because as a child I loved watching them roll it around and around that special cone, thus ensuring sugary-damp gnarly bits to be enjoyed on the cardboard.
Everyone is desperate for a candy apple and it is beautiful to behold with that hard, brittle shell the colour of Dorothy’s red slippers, but I have never seen anyone actually finish one. Mothers everywhere will be relegated to carrying this sticky mess about with them for the rest of the evening. (Perhaps this is why cotton candy comes in a bag. Hmmm.)
Then it’s back to the savoury — thin triangles of hot pizza that sag in the middle and must be supported by hands, soft pretzels with their dabs of grainy mustard and perhaps a side order of waffles and gravy? (Why, oh why, didn’t we think to save our deep fried butter for this moment?)
By the end of the day, I feel like a clichéd commercial for antacids as I lie grimly and very still in my bed, holding my bloated frame and suddenly requiring lots of (filtered) water. Remorseful yet freshly earnest, I promise myself that I will make a green smoothie in the morning — though I never have before — loaded with cruciferous vegetables and a touch of agave syrup for sweetness.
I cannot say if a smoothie will counteract all the dietary evils I have committed — but I do know it’s my version of Fair Trade.
Sue Sutherland-Wood is an award-winning freelance writer who lives and works in Old South London. She is also a regular contributor to eatdrink.