You know, I'm sure there are reasons other than food for going to fairs, I just can't think of any at the moment.
Fair food has become a fetish unto itself, with things beyond your wildest fevered imagination impaled upon a stick.
Seriously, they will deep fat fry anything they can get their hands on. Keep an eye on grandma.
The Iowa State Fair, I'm told, had 200 food booths this year, including 70 different varieties of foods on a stick and 20 different types of corn dogs.
Where else in the world do you even encounter a corn dog, let alone have to decide between 20 different recipes?
Seriously, you would think corn dogs would be everywhere around here. What does Iowa have more of than corn and pigs, right? And yet I read the entire state economic development commission plan and it fails to mention corn dogs even once.
Without fairs, would we even get to have the life-altering experience of tator tots with cheese, funnel cakes, kettle korn, warm fried mini-doughnuts, or cowboy cones? (In case you are leading a highly-deprived life, a cowboy cone is a massive ice cream waffle cone filled with pulled pork, melted cheese and BBQ sauce). Step aside Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck, you have been schooled.
Yes, we might live longer without such artery-clogging concoctions, but why bother?
This brings us to the Clay County Fair, the annual last gasp of summer celebration of eating stuff that you never imagined might end up in your digestive system.
This fair is so obsessed with food that it holds its own "World's Greatest County Fair Food Finalists" contest, pitting the likes of Mini-Choco pie against SPAM curds against crab tots.
Combine them all, I say - the culinary equivalent of the annoying kid in front of you in a restaurant that insists on mixing every kind of pop in the dispenser into one toxic combination. likely to taste something like bubble gum scaped off the bottom of a sanitary sewer worker's boots.
An exhaustive study of the various menus on the grounds of the recent Clay County Fair uncovered a few eyebrow-raising options.
The bacon-wrapped jalapeno corndog sounds like the one that most makes me wish I had opened a Tums stand next door.
A close runner up would have to be the buffalo wing sno cone. I admire both of those things, but together? I think I'll pass. There's also a peanut butter and jelly sno cone, if that's your thing.
The chili cheese tenderloin, on the other hand, sounds like an odd combination that just might work. But only once a year. Have you ever seen the green poop that comes out of a Canada goose? Just saying. You've been warned.
Of course, there's no shortage of deep-fat-fried fare (DFFF) on the Clay fairgrounds, from Oreos to pickles to pancake with sausage fried up on a stick.
One concessionare offered - and I am not making this up - "Baconade." Yep, bacon-favored lemonade. And, because it's impossible to eat too much hoggy goodness at a fair, the Jaycees came up with chocolate-covered bacon.
The salmon burger is an intriguing offering out of block 28 of food booth row. The roasted sweet potatoes next door is also going on my bucket list.
Getting my nod for best booth name has to be "Wok-n-Roll," the Chinese food booth, just edging out Gobblestop Turkey Shop.
There are things at that fair I can't even identify - what the heck are "corn monkeys" "spudnuts," "pepper rings" and "danger dogs?" Guess you have to eat them to find out. I'm ashamed to admit that I have lived in Iowa all my life, and still do not know what "fritters" are - but there were two fair booths selling them to more enlightened folk than I.
I'm not sure if "walking tacos" are a particularly Iowan thing, but you pretty much can't go to any fair or festival anywhere in the state without encountering this ingenious invention.
The Clay Fair had plenty of versions of the outdoor delicacy, but nothing to quite match The Slopper that the State Fair had offered: a junior bag of Fritos carefully opened, with chopped hot dogs, jalapeños, sauerkraut, cheese, sour cream, pickles, onions, chili and a partridge in a pair tree smooshed in. (Yes, I realize that Webster's Dictionary does not recognize "smoosh" as a word, but if they eat one of these and survive, they would.)
Four different booths in Spencer were peddling grilled cheese sandwiches. Now I'm all in favor of grilled cheese, unless you make it with Velveeta, which is downright unAmerican. But on a sweltering day dripping sweat while trudging around a fairgrounds, I'm not sure I'd go that route. You don't wear white after Labor Day, and I don't eat grilled cheese until October.
Shrimp? Nah, again, not a fit for a fair.
Sloppy Joes, taffy apples, salted peanuts and the like have that element of nostalgia. Ahhh.
I haven't got a clue what The Original Minneapolis Pie is, but as long as it's made by someone's mom, I'm willing to bet it's worth the investment.
Northing surprises me any more in fair food. Deep fried rattlesnake elbows in unicorn sauce topped with baby panda-flavored ice cream? Why not.
In fact, the only thing I found truly, utterly, soul-shatteringly weird in all of this unque food was - *shudder* - three stands selling (oh I can barely bring myself to say the terrible word) ...salad.
Salad? Did you say salad? What kind of person goes to the world's biggest county fair to order a salad?? That should be grounds for immediate deportation.
Fairs don't serve salad! They serve vast amounts of delicious sugar and fat, which taste like angels singing.
They serve animals - any animal, any part.
And if you are a parent, you just hope the animal you order isn't the one your young children were just petting in the barns a minute before.