At first, I was disappointed by my first country fair. No one told me that 75% of the New York State Fair is awful stuff you've already come to hate. I was expecting some fascinating slice of Americana and instead I saw what you see at any cheesy fair: people selling sunglasses, cheap belts, novelty signs that say things like "Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder." (When I see these fairs in NYC, I just want to tell tourists, "This is not New York! Go to SoHo, the Village, Times Square, even!) I thought I'd see ghastly food redeemed by a sort of greasy, grotesque genius, but much of it was really boring. There were tons of indiscriminate stands selling funnel cake, pizza, sausage, lemonade, shave ice, taffy, kettle corn. You'd think they'd try to set themselves apart, but for the most part, they don't.
I saw things like a Bucket-o-Fries, a foot-long corn dog, and 3-foot long fried dough. The weirdest deep-fried thing was a bacon-wrapped Oreo, which seems a bit obvious, but maybe that's just easy for me to say. A cart named Dr. Vegetable had the moxie to serve only "fresh deep-fried vegetables."
But enough negativity. There were foods I actually liked! Our first taste on arrival was a Laotian interpretation of fair food -- sweet potatoes and plantains dipped in a batter of wheat flour, coconut milk, sugar, and sesame seeds. It was exotic and enameled, like a savory candy shell. Wine slushies sound like a terrible idea, but they are amazing on a hot day and will someday come to NYC once they are rebranded Hand-Shaved Tempranillo Ice. The corn was so juicy, it squirted when I ate it. New York-grown donut peaches = worth the hype.
The Dairy Products Building was fun, too. For 25 cents, you could get a glass of ice-cold New York milk. I don't usually drink milk straight, so I just thought of it as diet ice cream. There was also an all-butter sculpture of a mother teaching her children about healthy eating (moxie: see above). I enjoyed a spectacular performance on a Mighty Wurlitzer, a sort of super-organ with three keyboards for your hands, a keyboard for your left foot, pedals for your right foot, and some other nozzles and spigots and another piano across the room that you operate via supernatural ability.
Oh and the animals! Now I don't know enough about animals to say that this Holstein is superior to that one. But who can resist the charms of cotton candy-colored chickens, a calf improbably curled into a ball, and a humongous pig smiling as she's getting her hose-down (like Babe!). Not my city-hardened heart.
So will I be coming back to Syracuse? Yes, I will. The reason why … is in my next post.