Oh how my life has changed in the last 3 months. We used to hurry because we didn’t want to miss dinner reservations, or a flight to Bologna. Now it’s the tractor pull. Waking up at 6:00 on a brisk Tuesday morning, we set off down painted tunnels of autumn leaves. The country roads were clogged with creeping carloads of ‘leaf peepers,’ and we were filled with excitement as we got closer and closer to Fryeburg, Maine, and the granddaddy of all state fairs.
In the crisp autumn air, we watched grown men bouncing up and down on their farm equipment, beer bellies jiggling in the slanted sunlight, exhaust intermingling with cigarette smoke to billow around contestants’ heads while they pulled their concrete loads forward inch by inch. It was mesmerising.
After a quick snack break, we checked out the livestock. The poultry house was especially impressive, with birds sporting various plumages as exotic as their beautiful names: red golden pheasant, grey saddleback pom, buff orpington, wheaten millay. They sound like Farrow and Ball paint colors—I’d take a living room in ‘salmon faverolle’ any day.
We climbed into the grandstand for the afternoon to watch the harness races. After a few practice rounds and a long look at the program, we got serious and placed some bets. I won $3.40 on No Shoes, but unfortunately spent $10 for the privilege. We cut our losses and moved on.
By now we had worked up an appetite, and got to the real business of the fair. Pulled pork barbecue, which has been cooking so low and slow all day that it falls apart on its own. The bloomin’ onion, a massive white onion which has been peeled, sliced to but not through the root until it resembles a lotus flower, and then battered and deep fried and served with remoulade sauce for dipping. The corndog: an American standard involving one hot dog on a stick which has been enveloped in a cornbread jacket and then (what else?) fried. These things are completely foreign to my English fella, so we had to have one of each. But the piece de resistance? Elephant ears. Beaver tails. Pizza Frita. Flying saucers. These names are all very cute, but here in New England, people call it what it is. Fried dough.
It’s a mainline of grease into the system. You might as well just chew on a sponge soaked in hot fat. So why does it taste so good? Standing next to the midway under a clear blue sky, $3.40 (minus $10) burning a hole in my pocket, it just seems right. I guess it’s all about context.
(adapted from Cooks.com)
1 ½ cups milk
1 T sugar
6 T melted butter
2 T dry yeast
4 cups flour
Oil for frying
Combine milk, sugar, salt, and butter, and then mix in the yeast. Whisk in flour until combined, then cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in size. Pinch off golf ball-sized pieces, and roll out to ½ inch thick discs. Fry in a deep fryer or a few inches of oil until it puffs up, then turn over and fry for 30 more seconds. Drain on paper towels, and dust with icing sugar.