There is a moment when you think about the State Fair and you can actually taste it. Your olfactory senses go into overdrive and the cookies, pronto pups, cheese curds, and alligator on a stick (really?) are palpable. It may be when you hear preparations are going on at the fairgrounds in mid-summer, or when you park the car in the Como lot, or when you buy the ticket, but there is an actual moment when it happens. Food does that to us.
But I learned this weekend that it’s not really the food, it’s the experience. After I took my kids to the fair and worked at the @wccoradio booth for the John Williams Show, the kids, my fiancée, and I hopped on a plane to New Jersey for a small engagement party my parents were throwing for us. All I could think about was the food. For breakfast, there are real bagels with whitefish and lox, and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. For lunch, there’s pizza by the slice you can fold and pat with a napkin to soak up the grease. And for the party, there were sloppy joes and extra-sour pickles.
Your version of a sloppy joe is different than mine. It’s not the ground beef or pulled pork in BBQ or tomato sauce on a messy bun. My version comes from a kosher deli in Jersey. Three thin slices of rye bread are stacked with turkey, pastrami, and corned beef, and layered with coleslaw and Russian dressing. It’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. Sloppy joes were present at most family gatherings when I was growing up, but only on special occasions—they’re expensive. I was regaling my fiancée the whole way to Jersey with the fact (it’s a fact) that this was the most delicious thing he would ever eat.
It was a beautiful weekend, full of family, laughter, reconnecting, celebrating and food. (We’ll talk later about how weird it is to be a bride-to-be again at 42.) On the way home, after I packed up a flew sloppy joes for the plane, I turned to my fiancée. “So wasn’t it the best thing you’ve ever tasted?” I asked.
His response was… Less than enthusiastic. Yes, it’s a great sandwich, but he doesn’t have the memories to relish with every bite like I do. I get it. (He’s wrong, but I get it.) The way I get that a trip to the fair isn’t complete without your favorite foods. Even my kids, who’ve only been to the fair a few times, have favorites already (right now it’s soft serve at the Dairy Barn and Sweet Martha’s Cookies). For me, it’s the sweet corn. Those foods will taste better and better in the years to come, because memories of family fun with be baked or grilled into every bite.
Come see me at the WCCORadio booth and tell me your favorite, but you also have to tell me why. Because behind every delicious bite, there’s always a great memory.