Why Hello there, and Welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes. Today, we’re inventing a new segment, because the holiday meant Alan and I didn’t talk, so I was free to do anything I pleased! GAWK AT THE POWER I WOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED ANYWAY, BECAUSE I LITERALLY HOLD COMPLETE EDITORIAL MANDATE OVER THE SITE! HA HA HA!
Sorry, I had a lot of sugar this afternoon. While I was out of town, Nate started a diet, and today was his cheat day, so everyone in the household got McDonald’s and ice cream. That’s how diets work, right? Everyone else gets to eat more on your cheat day? Anyway, it’s kind of appropriate, as I had a not-insubstantial portion of sweets in today’s topic! So what is that topic? Well, read the title, DUMMY.
I Pity the Illiterate!
I’m sorry, that was rude. Anyway, in the last month, I’ve gone to like, 3 different fairs. And I’m planning on working a fair-like event for 3 weeks in October, and there’s also a fair on my birthday. The point is that there’s a lot of outdoor eating opportunities, and if I just walk around fairgrounds and take pictures of what I eat, I can make posts without trying too hard and giving myself headaches.
Of course, since I’m but a mortal man, I can’t eat TOO many things at any given fair, so posts might also include food I bought at the fair to take home, or foods other people bought/ate, in order to make a valid post, because even when I’m phoning it in, for God’s sake I’m going to make it a long phone call. (Actually, I HATE long phone calls. If you and I are on the phone for more than 6 minutes, understand that I have begun trying to physically escape my torment by aimlessly wandering my area until the call ends.)
Anyway, the Kitsap County Fair.
Headin’ to the County Line
So, I ended up at THIS fair for a variety of bad reasons. Specifically, because other people had volunteered their time, and I had nothing better planned. And because, when the idea of being allowed to wander around a fair for a couple hours was presented to me, I realized I could make a post out of it. So I rolled out of bed at the offensive-to-me time of 8 AM, and went on our not-so merry way.
This is not the way the shadows are supposed to go outside my house.
In my foolish haste, I forgot this meant that I was then the only logical choice for running errands in the group, so my precious dickin’ around time was quickly consumed with menial labor. “Jon, go see if the car’s locked”, “Jon, hold this plate”, “Jon, go get quotes from all the roofing companies in the exhibition hall, so I can compare prices.” (My mother is doing some home renovations that she’s wanted to do for years, but could not agree with my father how to accomplish. This problem has recently…resolved itself, as you are hopefully already aware, so onward and upward. )
At least, however, the exhibition hall had foods to sample as well, though this process was not without its irritations. See, my mother is an early riser, like, “3-4 AM” early. My brother gets up before 6. So when they volunteered to help out, they picked the earliest possible time-slot, hence why I was forced awake at 8 to get to the fair on time. And by “on time”, I mean I was forced to sit in the car for 15 minutes because the fair hadn’t actually OPENED yet when we got there.
Once I was IN the fair… it was the first 30 minutes of the fair. How many people do you THINK were wandering around the aisles of home renovators, artists, and food stalls? Total, I counted maybe 6 people walking around in a room with at least 35 exhibitors. So every food vendor I approached, I did so alone. And not simply alone, but “the only person for 20 feet” alone.
About this level of dead, yeah.
Enhancing this awkwardness was my inherent laziness: I knew, standing at these stalls, that it was currently 15 minutes into a trip that was certain to take at least four and a half hours. Meaning if I bought a bunch of stuff NOW, I’d have to haul it around for a sixth of a day. So I was approaching people who wanted to sell me food, while entirely alone, and hoping I could stave them off with “that’s cool, I’ll be back later.” (And, in my defense, I did come back to all of them later.)
Let's Meat our Contenders
Our first stop was a business whose name is still somewhat confusing to me. Their sign said “Smokey Bag Jerky”, so of course I stopped there. My love of cured meats is perhaps my most well-recorded trait, after all. Most of their product, however, was marked “Bakke Brothers” or “Jerky Hut”. But they GAVE me that product in a, well, smokey bag.
Sometimes you just gotta go with the classics.
That bag there is, honestly, some great branding. For one thing, it IS smoked. Faintly, but still. They also had a deal going where, basically, If you bought N amount of jerky, you got N-1 free bags of meat sticks. So I picked up some Habanero Teriyaki jerky, Maple Bourbon jerky, Garlic Lover's jerky, and got two free bags of sticks. Their jerky’s pretty good. It’s a softer jerky than many, with an almost crumbly texture. Just a nice little company.
The NEXT stall I hit up was vinegars. Well, vinegars and oils. I don’t really know why my family are such fans of flavored balsamics and olive oils. We like to pick them up ALL the time, but we don’t actually tend to use them all that often. I think, in the end, it’s Cosmo’s fault. Cosmo is not, in this instance, a green married fairy who spends a lot of time around pink-wearing young boys, but rather literally, “cosmo’s”, a local Italian restaurant that has a great bread service of warm bread with a balsamic and olive oil dip. (This presentation is broadly used across America, but NOT in Italy, where both the vinegar and olive are too respected to be used in such a manner.)
These guys had a system that appealed to my laziness: i bought my stuff, they wrote my name on it, and I just came back a couple hours later and picked it up.
There's no joke here, just wanted to explain that I didn't personally write my name on my bag of vinegars.
A lovely little stall gave me these two dynamite vinegars. And understand me that the adjective there is not wholly complimentary: these are INTENSE vinegars. Great flavors, but a bit of a smack in the mouth. A little culinary ‘rough trade’ if you will. Or won’t. That’s kind of the point of the trade, innit? Sorry, veering dangerously toward cockney there.
With my spiced meats and tart vinegars, is it any wonder that my next stop was for some sweetness? Candied Popcorn, which came in a dazzling array of shade, but from which I snatched out some Strawberry Cheesecake. We’ll have to see if I have a picture of it come the morning, as I have no idea where the hell the bag went.
I could not find it, so instead enjoy this picture of some flavored nuts I picked up at another stall, in a growing pile of evidence that my claim of not liking almonds is flawed.
All of this, of course, took roughly…15 minutes. I spent the next 3 hours looking at livestock, sitting on my phone, and loitering around the display my family was working as they had wooden blocks hurled into their torsos. This was not the INTENDED course of action for the day. Rather, they were there representing our woodturning association, turning out tops on lathes for passing children. However, on of the lathes’…shit, I should know this word…“Chuck”, I think, somewhat poetically. The chuck is the part that physically holds the wood, and this one wasn’t right for the shape of wood being turned, so it was, well, chucking the wood off.
The Consumption Finally Commences
Eventually it neared a reasonable time to eat things, so I wandered off and bought lumpia.
We weren't allowed to bring food or drink into the exhibition hall, a rule I treated with moderate impunity.
Lumpia, for those of you not living near large Filipino populations, are a type of fried spring roll. Specifically, lumpia have a distinct wrapper used that’s remarkably light, and the filling is typically a single product. Whereas, say, a Vietnamese spring roll might have shrimp and veggies, or a chinese egg roll have pork mixed with veggies, lumpia tend to have just ground meat or diced veggies. They’re also smaller, with a standard lumpia being only barely bigger than one of my fingers. They’re a great little snack or appetizer.
I got pork, because they were like, half the price of beef. Lumpia is served with a variety of sauces, depending on who made it. Many use a sweet-and-sour sauce, like the kind often served with egg rolls. Others use a sweet-and spicy mixture, some use a savory sauce, there’s a lot of variety. The one I have the longest exposure to, and therefore consider the “correct” option is the sweet-and-sour. And these guys LOOKED like they used sweet-and-sour, but I suspect it was actually a Banana Ketchup-based sauce. (Yes, banana ketchup is a thing. Trust me, there’s a LOT of ketchups. We’ll make some eventually, and talk about it.) Which was fine, but it was a bit of a let-down, to have something that LOOKED like my preferred sauce, but didn’t taste like it.
Disheartened, I ate like, a sixth of a funnel cake. Normally, I’d eat more, but it wasn’t actually my funnel cake. Nate had asked me to get him some, and was checking to see if Mom wanted what was left. So I turned the 1/3rd of the cake he left her into ¼ of a cake.
Which I magically remade into a whole cake through the power of "taking the picture before eating it."
This valiant mission completed, I meandered briefly, debating what I would eat. At this juncture, I assumed we’d get lunch at the fair once my family was done with their activity, so I didn’t want anything too filling. No whole burgers, or giant containers of curly fries. I saw a stand for ribbon fries which excited me, but I figured I could wait. (Ribbon fries, if you’re unaware, is a particular way of cutting a potato and frying it, in a single curled sheet. Imagine the half-way point between a potato chip and a curly fry, if you can.) IN any case, I eventually spotted something that motivated me. So my snack while I waited for my family turned out to be: a Red-Curry Chicken and Pad Thai combo plate.
The actual chain of thought for this went: "I wonder if I just bought every spring roll or lumpia in this fair, if that would be a fun/funny post. Oh, I can get it with Pad Thai. Oh, I can get curry chicken with it too." I literally upsold myself from a $2 or $4 spring roll to a whole combo meal.
Yeah, this was an instance of my eyes and tongue outreaching my mind and stomach. I really like Thai food, as we’ve discussed plenty of times before, and I particularly love Pad Thai as a side dish for some reason. So I bought a CURRY dish at a County FAIR, as a SNACK. There’s a lot of dumb packed into that sentence.
Let me be clear, though: the pad thai was great. My favorite kind of side Pad Thai: sweet, a little spicy, a faintly gummy texture. The red curry chicken was, by contrast, simply adequate. The curry was a little broken, in the sense that the emulsion of the sauce was separating. The flavors were fine, just the texture of the sauce was a little mealy.
I finished that, and awaited my family’s return. Who immediately dismissed the idea of getting lunch, instead just wanting to pick up whatever swag I thought important and go. Maybe it was the chunks of wood hurled into their guts. Amazingly, I suffered absolutely no repercussions for my fair-food curry choice. In fact, all of the foods I picked up have been completely worth it so far. The Jerky’s been great, the almonds fine, the popcorn a culinary ninja. Overall, I’d call the trip a great success.
When next we visit the fair, I eat even LESS, but buy a lot more, as I hit up a festival at the last minute…so I can hit up a DIFFERENT fair later in the day.
These fair tickets don’t buy themselves, you know! (actually, of the 3 fairs we’ve done so far, 2 had free entry, so they kind of do.) BUT STILL, a little cash can go a long way to ensuring Jon can be thrown out of even finer festivals. If you’d like to sponsor our wandering gourmand, check out our Patreon page, where for a small monthly charge, you can build your credit, AND help support the site! Of course, fairs are meant for the masses, so if you’re unwilling or unable to spend a little on the site, feel free to self-conscript as a digital carnival barker by sharing our material on social media! Just getting more eyes on our material always makes us happy. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!
MONDAY: JON DELIVERS ON A PROMISE MADE MONTHS AGO, AND WE GET SOME MESSY MEAT MISSILES IN CASIAN (CAJASIAN?) POTSTICKERS
THURSDAY: LET’S TALK ADAPTATION, AND DISCUSS MY PROCESS WHEN I MAKE A MEAL MY OWN. DOES THAT SOUND INTERESTING? I HOPE SO, CUZ IT’S WHAT I’M DOING IF I DON’T GET ANOTHER IDEA BEFORE TUESDAY.