I went to the Fairfield County Fair in Lancaster last weekend. It's the last county fair in Ohio every year, which gives it an air of nostalgia--last fair, end of summer--quick, eat some funnel cake. Which I did, along with a lot of other stuff.
I also went to look at the food exhibitions, which I love. I've never entered anything (although come to think of it, why not?). I love the gleaming jars of jam and the giant vegetables, and the slices of pie and cake going limp, on display for days after their eat-by dates. This year, I especially liked the weird carrot exhibit, but I'm also always a sucker for outsize tomatoes and giant pumpkins.
I guess some people think of county fairs as outdated, and possibly they are, but I love their connection back to the time when Ohio, and much of the U.S., was mainly agricultural, when farming was one of the major occupations. Making a good jar of jam or canning garden produce wasn't just something you did for fun, but a survival mechanism. Long ago, in the winter, you couldn't go to the store and buy some sundried tomatoes or a jar of capers or spiced peaches. If you didn't have it in the root cellar, you did without.
This was my 1st year canning, and I admit I'm glad I don't have to depend for my winter diet on my food-preserving labor, because it was hard and time-consuming and I was thoroughly tired of it when it was over. But I don't want to lose the connection, even if it's sentimental, even if I'm being food-nostalgic.
The fair is also a wonderful spectacle, full of color and noise and movement. This was the first time I went in the daytime and I felt pleasantly overwhelmed by the sun and the blue sky, the moving crowds, the bright colors of the booths and the rides. A holdover again, right? For those benighted generations w/o electronic diversions. But a day later in front of the tv, I remembered being at the fair, when instead of sitting in front of the flat screen, I had walked in the very midst and moil of the highly-colored, doughnut and gyro scented air, able to put my hands on the giant goose-necked squash or press my face against the chainlink fence to see the sulky race.
And yes, I did have a deep-fried Twinkie.