Many of my foodie habits were ingrained as a child long before I officially became a chef. Part of it was my family trying to support me in my dream of pursuing culinary, but a large majority of them simply stem from my parents’ own upbringing and feelings trickling down. Fond memories of childhood adventures that once seemed kooky or simply routine now drive this deep-rooted nostalgia and naturally move me to these same habits.
One of these being following the seasonality of food. Now by this I am not referring to only eating things that grow during their set season and region, although this is a fantastic food philosophy to support. What has been deeply ingrained in me and what I speak of is that there are certain things you must eat during each season to feel you have fully experienced the passing of said season; an obligatory seasonal food bucket list as it were. Each season has one and I find I am constantly working towards checking those boxes.
So as summer slowly begins to lose its grip on the Northwest, I find I am trying to squeeze every last bit of summer from my food. I am devouring all the fresh berries I can possibly eat with plans for a blackberry cobbler already underway. Salt water taffy fills the candy jar. And I consider the possibility the wild fires might squelch my longing for a hot, gooey s’more and what that could possibly mean for me. But more than the one-off foods here and there, summer holds one of my favorite and biggest, yearly foodie adventures…the fair.
The fair is a magical and over stimulating foodie experience to be certain. A must each summer. Food booth after food booth line miles of fairground expanse, each with brightly colored signs and flair all designed specifically to lure you in to eat. Hey, it worked on Hansel and Gretel. You may have tried one type of fried dough, but have you tried this one…or better yet this one?! Seriously, the love of fried dough in various shapes and forms (fried anything really) gets us every time. But there is something beyond just eating your body weight in neon candy floss and fried food at the fair.
There are animals, exhibits, and demonstrations all talking about food or food processes. Beautiful displays of locally grown produce are displayed as art. Jars of jams and pickles line halls adorned with ribbons. Farmers alongside kids in 4-H milk their cows and goats answering questions from those passing by. These days most people are removed from the origins of their food, but at the fair it is front and center. Indeed, it seems the fair is one of the last standing places where people feel comfortable seeing and discussing food at various stages, all without losing their appetite. Besides being vibrant and simply entertaining, the fair atmosphere is one of food information and inspiration.
Where else could you speak with a farmer about piglets and how big they grow before “becoming food” (about six months I am told) and then walk just a few steps away and indulge in a yard of bacon. Yes, you read that right…a yard. of. bacon. Certainly, not in a restaurant or grocery store. It would be out of place and make people uncomfortable, while at the fair it is natural. It is simply a part of life. It provides a time when people can be curious, ask their questions, and get some answers. Yes, I go to the fair in the summer to spend the day eating, however, there is more to it. I love a good country fair for what it represents, a reflection of a simpler time. A time when people were connected and communities grew with food. I think we should all work on bringing that simpler time back. Before it is too late this year, go to the fair! Be curious. Eat and learn!
In a couple months when the weather turns and you begin to feel a longing for summer, make yourself some fried dough and marvel at the process of it all. I recommend one of my favorites, funnel cake. The best recipe I have found is below. Happy frying! **Warning: Breathing in too deeply near the funnel cake before taking a bite can cause temporary choking on powdered sugar dust. 🙂 **
Philly Dutch-Style Funnel Cakes
Credit: foodnetwork.com Recipe by Dave Lieberman
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 2 cups milk
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 stick butter, melted
- 4 cups vegetable oil
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk together.
- Gradually whisk in the milk, then the egg and vanilla, and finally the sugar and melted butter.
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over high heat to 350 degrees F.
- Pour as much batter as fits into a funnel, holding your finger at the base of the funnel to dam it. Bring the funnel over the top of the hot oil, release your finger to begin the stream of batter, and move the funnel in a circular motion to create a spiral shape. Use about ½ cup batter per funnel cake, or more or less to your liking.
- Fry 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown and slightly puffed, turning over when 1 side is golden.
- Remove from oil and place on a plate lined with 2 layers of paper towels.
- Immediately top with a good scattering of powdered sugar.
- Repeat until no batter remains.