Sunday, September 4, 2016

I Only Gained 2 Pounds at the Minnesota State Fair (And Other Damning Confessions)

A main topic of conversation in the state of Minnesota during the summer time is a thing called "New Fair Foods." For the uninitiated, this is when vendors who will be serving food or drink at the Minnesota State Fair come up with some exciting new dish that they will be serving exclusively at the fairgrounds during the 12 days the fair is going on. Local media is all over that information, for weeks. You can't escape it.

We eat it up. Literally and figuratively.

The new foods can be culinary extremes (this is how things like deep fried candy bars come into existence), or perfectly reasonable things like BBQ burnt ends (which I will eat anywhere, anytime, y'all...). 

The most appealing things fall somewhere in between "extreme" and "I already eat that, so why not?" Like candied bacon donut sliders. Bacon? Donuts? Together? Candied Bacon Donut Sliders? Of course I would eat that. Of course I would. Only a hateful person would not eat that.

Somehow I ended up not eating that.

Hey, it happens. You get to the fair, it's a sea of humanity, you look at the line at the place where that awesome thing is being served, or the sheer logistics of getting from one side of the fairgrounds to the other as you try to dodge a quarter of a million people (260,374, to be exact), and you say things like, "What's being served within 12 feet of the place I am currently standing? Because that's kind of where my head is at for effort."

And that's what you eat.

Well...sometimes. If I was alone at the fair, I would have happily moved through the madness and hit up a lot more places--it's just easier. I wasn't alone, and we didn't go nuts. Also, there were literally a quarter-million people there. You want candied bacon sliders? YOU go get them! I'll wait here. The other things is, I didn't prepare. Pelted as I was with information about the new foods, I didn't map anything out, didn't accept the sage advice of people who mapped it out for me (yes, this is a legit service provided by food writers in Minnesota in late August) and was basically a lazy lump about the food this year.

What can I say? I was there to see Rivers Cuomo in a sombrero, and I've been a bit of a food psycho for the last 18 months. Most fair food is....white food. Yes...that food shunned by people like me who enjoy losing weight. The short description is stuff involving flour, or sugar, or things that are breaded, or involve potatoes or corn. There are not enough "cheat days" all year to cover the dietary damage I would do if I ate very much of that stuff. I still ate too much (I gained 2 pounds! Damnit!).

Here are my lazy-writing bullet-pointed highlights about the food, the drink, the show, and the rest of it...

  • The minute I walked into the gates, I made my traditional first stop: The Schell's Brewery stand. There, I stood in a very long line for a very long time to check out the new taste sensation that is Red Sangria Lager. It was worth every second. I am not a lager person--I like an IPA when it's hot outside, a stout when it's cold outside and the occasional seasonal thing during the hot-to-cold or cold-to-hot transitions. The Red Sangria Lager? I weep for the fact that it is a State Fair exclusive. Incredibly good, easy to drink, mellow, perfect summer thing. Please, Schell's, figure out a way to put this in a bottle. Please.
  • The second stop, also traditional and not fancy or new, was the James D. Payne Memorial State Fair Corn Dog. Once when we were living in Duluth, I went to the fair with a friend and he stayed behind, but he made me promise to bring him a corn dog because he ate a corn dog every year at the state fair. It was his thing. He said no corn dogs taste like state fair corn dogs. Being the dutiful wife (HA! That's a good one...) I had one of the vendors wrap the thing in foil and I presented it to him when I arrived at home, probably saying something like, "Here's your stupid corn dog." He enjoyed it immensely, and swore it was just like being there. In the four years since his passing, every time I go to the state fair, I get a corn dog. It's dumb, I know, but...they really are better at the fair.
  • By this time, I have a couple (maybe more...I'll never tell) of those amazing lagers in me and I realize that a quarter of a million people is like, no big deal. I barely care. Wooo!
  • My friend decides she needs savory food so we locate a brat for her, and I, with a lager in each hand, cannot eat another thing until I drink more because I don't have a hand free to lift food to my mouth.
  • We hang out for a couple of hours like this, waiting for a good time to head to the grandstand for Weezer. I think to myself, if I can maintain this exact level of drunkenness for the duration of their concert, that will not only make it a magical, perfect night, but also, I'll be some kind of a beer drinking wizard.
  • We eat cheese curds. They are deep fried, and perfect and I'm happy. I start to worry that I may need more Red Sangria Lager.
  • We head to the grandstand. We missed Fury Things, which is a drag, but sat down just in time for The Struts. My friend decides that their lead singer, Luke Spiller, is pretty much a fancy Mick Jagger who sounds like Klaus Meine while somehow looking like Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show. All of this is absolutely delightful.
  • Another round.
  • I take the obligatory crowd photo and post to Twitter with some smart-ass comment and a half-dozen hashtags, because Attention Pig Never Sleeps. Several minutes later, a guy behind me is looking at Twitter on his phone and reads my Weezer-related tweet out loud to his friends. They laugh. I decide not to be all, "Hey! That was me!" and base my decision entirely on whether I feel cute enough to talk to a boy at that exact moment. Meh. Not my best look. Pass.
  • Weezer takes the stage. They are perfect. Perfect, in the sense that of course they're not, and they could probably rattle off a few things that went horribly wrong during the show, but they were exactly as I expected them to be and everything sounded great. The only change I would have made is to have them sing all of The Good Life, because hello, but ultimately the show was so stuffed with great songs, I'm just being selfish. I have long maintained that Weezer is the coolest band in the U.S.A., and I stand by that statement. They're even more cool than I gave them credit for. Best show this year. I sang my ass off (and yet, somehow still managed to gain 2 pounds at the fair. What the fuh...?)
  • Would you be surprised if I told you that the beefy white dudes in front of us danced just like...beefy white dudes? Crazy, right? Totally unexpected.
  • Rivers/Sombrero combo accomplished, we spilled back out into the quarter-million (assuming some had gone home at that point, but hard to tell...) and I decide I must have barbecue. Now. 
  • We locate RC's BBQ and one, "Oh, there's brisket," later, I'm sitting down to...what the hell?? Somebody cubed the meat instead of slicing it. What cruel and awful person would do such a thing? Brisket sandwich, slice the brisket, not cube it. My friend, a recovering Texan, just about had a cow. How ironic that would have been.
  • I notice the line to the Red Sangria Lager is much shorter now, but I'm shooed off to a shuttle bus which will take us back to the car and eventually my house, two places where Red Sangria Lager does not exist. *sigh*. Next year, State Fair...

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