Monday, May 2, 2011

Fair Food

  The Verde Valley Fair has ended for another year.  We didn't show any goats this year, so our participation was minimal. For the last eight years, "fair week" has meant that we had to rearrange our schedules, take time off from work and school and be generally stretched real thin for 7 full days. Going to the fairgrounds every day, twice a day, to feed, water, clean pens, attend livestock shows and the auction and help the younger kids in the poultry and goat clubs. It was a real burn-out, but one we looked forward to. Josh's senior schedule and new job at Orion Bakery made him simply too busy to participate. He stayed in 4H, but did a photography project instead.

  Since Josh had photos entered, Katie decided at the last minute to enter one of her paintings in the art show too. It's an older one, sorry I don't have a pic of it, a watercolor of a little ruin that's in Chinle Wash, about a mile upstream from the wash's confluence with the San Juan River in Utah. A favorite place of ours for many years. She entered as an amateur because amateurs entry fees are only a dollar versus a ten dollar fee for "professionals". Somehow, in typical Verde Valley Fair fashion, she won best of show in Professional Class, and got a real spiffy ribbon and....drumroll.....a THIRTEEN DOLLAR premium!

  Josh's photos didn't win any ribbons or lucrative prize money, but he got lots of positive comments on them. Seeing the photo winners, it was pretty obvious that the judges were looking for "pictures that grandma would buy", as my friend Bobdog Brubaker says. You know, pretty closeups of flowers, or some old rusty car or wagon wheel. Josh's photos are gritty, require some thought. Here's one of my favorites, it's worth clicking on the image to see the larger version:

  As a result, we were able to actually attend the fair as regular fair-goers, gawking at all the carny type people and munching fair food. Fair food, in case you've not noticed, is a culinary genre with a huge following. It's also a category of food that's growing and changing all the time. It's truly amazing to see the novel ways that fair food chefs can transform the five food groups; sugar, salt, potatoes, grease and meat into gustatory delicacies designed to delight young and old.

  Skipping fair food while attending the fair out of some kind of silly nose-in-the-air culinary snobbery is to miss out on one of the main ingredients in the fair experience. You gotta at least get a funnel cake, and spill powdered sugar all over your shirt, or a big greasy barbecue sandwich, or a giant block of curly fries, or one of those enormous mutant-turkey legs. Roasted corn on a stick, all slathered with "butter" and lots of salt?  Come on. It's once a year, dive in head first.

  Katie has a particular fondness for the Grand Daddy of Fair Food Delicacies; The Corn Dog. A weenie on a stick, dipped in cornmeal batter and fried to golden deliciousness. Somehow, she missed getting one, so last night we endeavored to recreate them at home. Ours came out really well. Your author had never made a corn dog before, but I figured, how hard can it be? So I used blue corn flour to make the batter. It's simple really. Half a cup each of blue corn meal and white flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, an egg, half a cup of milk and a pinch each of salt and sugar. Get a big pot of oil going to about 360 degrees. You can test it by dropping some batter in; if it puffs up and turns brown, it's ready. I used Farmer John smoked sausages on bamboo skewers. Make sure the sausages are dry, dust them with flour, dip them in the batter and dunk them in the oil until they're all nice and puffed and brown. Mustard and Ketchup are the traditional condiments, but it occurred to me that since these were smoked sausages and not just your average weenie, I'd try some maple syrup as a dunk instead. A revelation, lemme tell ya. An ale from Prescott Brewing Company and some Flat Tire ale were the wash downs. The curly fries pictured are another story I'm just not going to tell.

  There's a disorganized slide show below of the arcane corndog cooking process if you're really bored. Meantime, it's May second and my tomatoes are crying to be planted.