By Dominic A. Riley
The cow’s reign is over. Remove the Burger King crown from its two-toned face. There’s new royalty ascending the meat throne and it’s not “chikin”—good try Chick-fil-A—it’s actually pig. Out with “where’s the beef?” and in with “swine is fine.” America has completed its transition from a nation of fat cows to a nation of greedy pigs. And no coronation would be complete without a celebration or parade in its honor. Thankfully for us patriotic types, fair season is in full swing.
Once the weather becomes consistently nice in California, county fairs pop up all over the state, the biggest one being the Los Angeles County Fair. Most fairs intend to showcase agricultural products, artisan crafts, barf-inducing rides, seemingly content animals and most importantly, the unhealthiest of culinary treats. This year, in an attempt to outdo its neighboring county and embrace the inner pig in each of its attendees, California’s Orange County Fair is running with the theme “Let’s Eat!”
On paper, the food options sound enticing. And once inside, the smell of charcoal and wood-burning grills gets the stomach’s attention. Just when a pulled pork sandwich or turkey leg seems like the go-to meal, the fair’s true colors begin to show in the form of ironically tantalizing pictures.
Deep fried butter. Chocolate covered corndogs. Fried Krispy Kreme Donut chicken sandwiches. Beer battered bacon. Fried Kool-Aid. There’s food porn and then there’s overweight fetish food porn; and this kind of stuff isn’t for everyone. Or, maybe it is. The lengthy lines for each food stand serving up cholesterol and diabetes on a paper plate, are quite telling of this new, porkier America.
“You can taste the heart attack, but it’s worth it,” said one fair attendee after trying the deep fried butter for the first time. While it’s hard to imagine what fried butter would look like, its appearance makes up for its actual taste. A hollowed out churro stuffed with butter is deep fried then coated with cinnamon and sugar and topped with whipped cream. On first bite (shame on anyone who goes beyond bite one) the butter oozes out coating the tongue in oily fat and giving one’s fingers a glossy spit-shine. Churros definitely weren’t meant for this treatment.
The fried Kool-Aid is spherical shaped cake bites flavored with the cherry drink powder mix then deep fried. It looks like a doughnut hole but tastes as dry as eating the powder by itself. One man suggested the treat needed to be dipped in frosting, but suggesting any one to even order the dough ball is a crime in itself.
One fried treat stood out as normal in concept and taste and probably wouldn’t lead to any literal food comas. Australian Battered Potatoes serves up a sizeable stack of potato slices hand battered in an extremely crispy tempura-like crust. Topped with a choice of cheese sauce, ranch dressing, sour cream, sweet chili sauce or a combination of two, this Australian inspired spud gives the French fry a run (or waddle) for its money.
The fair’s fare includes dozens of eateries and more practical food items including tri-tip sandwiches, sausages with peppers and onion, chili-cheese fries, corn dogs, frozen lemonade, kettle corn, cotton candy and even sushi. Good luck finding anything fresh and green, even the candied apples are deep fried.
As the county fairgrounds prove, Americans are living up to their names as greedy pigs by metaphorically rolling around in troughs of leftover frying oil. For those eager to dip a toe in or clandestinely judge from a distance, there’s surely a county fair coming to city near you. And as one food stand, aptly named Juciy’s, forewarns, “You won’t be hungry after leaving.” You may not be breathing either.