Blog: The Educated Reporter

Eating one’s way through the fair.

I am conflicted about all the amazed look-at-the-fried-food travelogues that come out of the state fairs, and the one-upmanship of the carts themselves (fried butter! they have that!) for reasons both of both culinary interest and public health. I do love fairs, and I do love junk food, and I do love quite a number of fried things. But the idea that deep-frying can improve anything is a myth.Deep-frying improves eggplant sticks to an unimaginable degree, but frying ruins Oreos, Twinkies and just about every other sweet food. 

And then there is the fact that journalists hop into this sort of scene as a pop culture digression (I HATED David Foster Wallace’s fair story), but to many fairgoers this is an extension of the way they already eat. I first thought of this at a pow-wow in Montana a decade ago as I ate fry bread. It truly is awful for you, and no wonder nearly everyone around me (in their breathtakingly beaded costumes) was obese.  

Do they have a booth at the state fair that says, “Chain smoke five cigarettes!” next to one that says, “Chain smoke six unfiltered cigarettes!” next to one that says, “Chain smoke seven unfiltered cigarettes and then huff three spray paint cans!”? Because that’s basically what these food carts are. 

The preachiness of Michael Pollan and Alice Waters and the like tends to grate on me, and I am generally no stick in the mud when it comes to a good fair or a good bout of junk food, but this summer’s fair dispatches have started to appall me. Is that what happens when a gal gets old?