The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Food

September 6, 2011

Take your time and enjoy the fair

ENID — How long has it been since you have attended a fair? Think about it.

When I was a kid, fair time was the only time we ever were allowed to miss school days. It was the only excused absence. My parents thought it was a true learning experience, so they felt it was all right if we went to the fair instead of being in the actual school room. We learned as much at the fair showing animals and exhibiting canning and sewing as we did attending classes in public school. It never took the place of school, but we did learn a lot about animals and practical things.

Most country kids were in 4-H or FFA, so they groomed and fattened out cattle or sheep or pigs all year to compete at the fair. We almost ate and slept with those animals. We became so attached to them, we always were sorry when the fair was over and they had to be slaughtered or sold. Hopefully they would go on to the state fair and win prizes and ribbons. It was fun to show them in the rings and see the results of all our training and grooming and care.

What a joy it is to view the many produce exhibits. I love to see those enormous pumpkins and watermelons they display. It also is a visual pleasure to see the paper plates of apples, okra, tomatoes and such. It is a beautiful show of God’s bounty. My parents were right: It is educational to see the various varieties of wheat and other grains, as well as grasses and such.  There is a lot to be learned about nature at fairs. Everything is right there before us to compare and take in.  

The antique collections and other collections are interesting, too. What makes some people collect the things they do? Isn’t it interesting to see them? China painting, quilting, and other artistic endeavors are very time-consuming and pleasing to the eye. They all are part of any fair.

Now so many people go to fairs and never even look at the exhibits and animals. Their only reason to go is the “midway” and the food and the industrial booths. When we sign up at those demonstrations and display booths in the industrial buildings, we receive calls and letters all year long wanting to show us something or sell us something. We learn about the newest machinery and updates on things by stopping by those displays.

I always have thought the petting zoo for little kids is one of the most interesting parts of any fair. Sometimes it is the only close interaction any of those kids will have with sheep and goats and chickens and things. That is certainly educational and interesting.

Mother canned all year for the fair. Those green beans had to be in perfect order in those jars to be acceptable. She also made lots of jams and jellies. I always thought her canning was perfect just like it was, but for the fair, it has to be extra special. It always was. We kidded Mother about her canning and cooking being of fair quality, so when she made a cookbook for her daughters, she called it, “Recipes of Fair Quality.” Others may have thought “average or mediocre,” but we meant “fair” as in prize-winning. She had many blue ribbons to show for her efforts.

She also sewed and was a master at it. Sewing for five daughters gave her lots of practice. She also made crocheted rag rugs and curtains and other things. There was a certain number of things all clubs had to enter to win. I think she qualified for every entry.

When I think of state fair now, I think of the food. Those cinnamon rolls that smell much better then they taste. The corn on the cob that is dripping in butter sauce that makes one remember the roasting ears of our youth, straight from the field. State fair was my first introduction to corn dogs, those wieners dipped in batter and fried, then dipped in mustard to eat them. Cotton candy and snow cones always are readily available and every kid wears the red syrup home on the fronts of their shirts or blouses. Every year, someone thinks of something new to fry. Pork sandwiches are rather new things. I have not eaten them, but they look good. Some church always has a lunch room where we ate lunch or a hearty breakfast. There was food everywhere. One certainly never went hungry at a fair.

The midway (why is it called that?) is a big attraction for many. I never was crazy about a Ferris wheel or most of those rides that went too high and too fast for me. They always seemed noisy and loud and smelly with old popcorn and stuff. I disliked the throwing games and the “come-ons” to play them. If a person won a prize, they had to lug that bear or rabbit or whatever all day no matter where they went.

Up until just a few years ago, Jim and I always went to the ice shows. They were clean and cool and entertaining ... if ever a bit too young for us. Guess we were nearing our second childhood. The ice shows ran for about three days and then they moved a rodeo into the same building. Many people enjoyed those, too.

There always are some big-name entertainers performing at the state fair. If they aren’t big names now, they will be. Many entertainers get their starts at state fairs. Also, usually there are car races or truck pulls at the fair.  There is something for everybody.

Fair time usually means rain and a change from the really hot weather. It feels like a time of year to get out and do something after sitting under air conditioning all summer. We are ready to cook something in our ovens that have been on hiatus all summer. I think you will enjoy this different potato dish. It is great with brisket.

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