Sunday, September 23, 2007

All fried up

Today, on a whim, we drove out to The Big E, an expo that brings the farmers, crafters, vendors and carnies of the six New England states together in one place for the educational, homemade-soap-need-fulfilling, artery-clogging benefit of the general public.

We saw purebred Guernsey cows, insane-looking sheep, alpacas and llamas (not, apparently, the same thing). We saw baby chicks hatching, bees dancing in their hive and a whole passel of Clydesdales.

We watched old ladies spinning wool, little girls showjumping on ponies and a guy carving a wooden bear sculpture with a chainsaw.

And then we wandered around the midway, which was almost hallucinatory in its sensory-overload layers of color and sound, and watched people being flung through the air, rotated at high speeds, jerked in unnatural directions and generally terrified for their enjoyment.

And in between all of this, we ate.

Our first rule of fairground food: it should be something you can't get at home. So no french fries, no hotdogs, no pizza, no chicken nuggets.

Okay, we kinda sorta broke the rule with the first one, but we arrived hungry, and the little tiny donuts had just come out of the fryer.

But we got back on track once we saw the barbecued-pork-chop-sandwich place.

It wasn't the greatest sandwich ever--the chop was tasty but a little dry, and the whole thing only really worked because of the sauerkraut--but it was enough to hold us until we tracked down the ultimate country-fair food.

Finnish pancake with blueberry sauce. Rich and creamy, a denser version of flan. Exquisite.

I guess this is something I could, in theory, make at home--I picked up the recipe on our previous visit--but I stop short at the part that says Ingredients: 8 large eggs, 1 qt whole milk, 1/4 lb butter ...

Luckily, just around the corner from the pancakes (which were served under a sign that read "If it's not eggs, it's not breakfast"), we found fresh local raspberries in both red and golden varieties. A healthy-snack oasis in a fried-dough desert.

And so we were satisfied. For a while. Until we encountered a stall selling all manner of Puerto Rican snacks: arepas, chicharrĂ³n, alcapurria. Naturally, we were obliged to pick up at least one relleno de papa, a tennis-ball-sized sphere of deep-fried mashed potato stuffed with ground beef. And we both decided it was one of the best we'd had: a generously meaty filling, fluffy potato, and a slight crunch to the surrounding batter. (It is testament to its yumminess that it was gone before I thought to take a picture.)

Just as we finished inhaling that treat, The Boy spotted the cheese curd stall.

How could we not?

The batter was incredibly light, with a delicate crunch; the curds had a pleasant tanginess and were chewy but not rubbery. They'd make mozzarella sticks stare at their feet and mumble an apology.

By now it was getting late, so it seemed like a good time to find dessert. But what to try? The deep-fried Oreos or the apple fritters?

Winner: fritters. Check out the snowcap of powdered cinnamon sugar.

I know, I know; doesn't this seem like a disgusting amount of food? But in our defense, we didn't eat the entirety of every dish (some were just too humongously proportioned to manage). Plus there were all kinds of things we didn't eat. Like Freudian foot-long corn dogs.

And smoked turkey drumsticks.

And ... um ... this ...

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