I live in northeastern Pennsylvania where recent flooding has had a devastating effect. Many people in nearby towns were displaced; a large number of them lost their homes. Others have a long road ahead to fix up what Mother Nature tore down or muddied up.
My family and I came through unscathed. We can count our blessings for that. We really dodged a bullet, but seeing what others have gone through really puts things in perspective.
I am overweight. That's not a really big deal when others lost their lives or had their world turned upside down by record-high flood waters.
Life and family are what really matters. The rest is gravy.
And speaking of gravy…
The record floods had a side effect that probably saved me from gaining a few more pounds and raising my cholesterol level a few notches. I'm talking about the fact that the annual Bloomsburg Fair has been canceled.
The fairgrounds have been flooded many times in the past, but the fair has always managed to take place. Not this year.
I'm sad. I've been attending the fair since I was a young child. I now have young children of my own and they look forward to the attractions, the entertainment and the rigged games... and, of course, the smorgasbord of fair food.
There's something about the aroma of fair foods wafting through the air that really kicks your hunger into overdrive. We joke about eating our way through the fair. But it's no joke. It's a chip-load of fat, calories and cholesterol.
During a recent annual visit, I feasted on a savory sausage and peppers sandwich, two slices of pizza, a sauce-soaked gyro, caramel corn, a waffle and ice cream sandwich, a blue raspberry snow cone, and a large soft drink or two.
And then there were the deep-fried Oreos.
What is it about fairs and deep frying all things edible?
I think nutritionists everywhere would agree that plunging food into super-hot oil is far from the best way to cook. Sure, the act of deep-frying makes things flavorful and crunchy, but baking and broiling will give you a crunch you with a lot less bad stuff
So, I guess the philosophy is if a food – Oreos, pickles, butter, Mars bars, Twinkies and even Kool-Aid – already tastes very good, then heck... let's deep fry it and make it even better!
The foods I mention above have all been deep-fried. Each year it seems like someone dreams up yet another doozy. The deep-fried Kool-Aid seems to be this year's doozy.
Back to my deep-fried Oreos experience. I love Oreos. Who doesn't? But having my Oreo served as a gooey, hot mess is not a fun way to enjoy them. Personally, I'd rather have them crumbled up and served over ice cream.
Anyway, my point is that the fair experience lowers our guard. I can't see me sitting in a nice restaurant and ordering deep-fried Oreos or frickles (fried pickles--over 1,000 calories and 24 g fat in each order!). But I can see me walking down the midway with a deep-fried object dangling from a stick.
The father of a friend of mine once said, “Put anything on a stick and people will buy it.” I think he's right.
Just know that such “treats” will really stick it to your diet, not to mention your heart and waistline.
According to WebMD, the Minnesota State Fair, for example, 54 varieties of food on a stick at this year's fair. Gosh... I'm envious. The Minnesota fair has 54 food items on sticks!
This same feature notes that you can find stomach-friendlier fare at the fair. Somewhat surprisingly, cotton candy – which is simply colored spun sugar – is considered a better choice than a deep-fried anything. I guess it doesn't take that much sugar to make a cloud of cotton candy. (625 calories but zero grams fat in an entire bag of the fluffy stuff. Just be sure to share it.)
I could list the truly healthy fair foods, but I know most of us put our diets on hold when we hit the fair or carnival. And that's OK. Just don't be a pig like I was year I mention above.
A tip for enjoying junk without overdoing it: buy a single order of whatever food or drink it is you like and SHARE it with the others in your group. That way you get a taste without the side of guilt and the next-day self-punishment of, “I can't believe I ate the whole thing!”
Go to the fair. Go see the two-headed calves and the weird guy who hammers nails into his nose. Walk around a lot, have loads of laughs and enjoy a few of your favorite fair foods.
Just don't play the carnival games. They're rigged!
What is your favorite fair food? Do you eat it or avoid it?
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