By Patricia Baer
It’s County Fair time again. Of all the memories I have from Fairs over the years, the strongest one I have is from my college years.
A friend of mine was on a mission. Between work and other personal commitments, he had a small window of time to attend what he considered a cherished annual event or so it seemed when he insisted that we drive to the fairgrounds in the rain. I questioned what we were going to do since the rides would be shut down due to the weather. A mumbled response was all I got as we parked in a wet field.
When we plopped into the mud upon stepping out of the car, I began to seriously doubt our ability to get out of the lot after making our rounds of the Midway. The rain continued to fall as we rushed past the barkers hawking games. By the way he was intently searching the booths, I assumed there was a game he was obsessed with playing.
Then he spotted it. He made a beeline for something he saw in the distance, leaving me behind without a glance. When I finally made my way to the stand, I saw a booth whose sign said “Elephant Ears.” Funnel cake. I was drenched, wearing mud-soaked Keds, and facing having to push my ride home out of the sludge for fried dough and powdered sugar.
I didn’t question it. Even if he was willing to share why the fair food held such high importance, he probably couldn’t completely explain the emotional attachment. It was clearly nostalgia food. It was not comfort food—something to soothe a person after a bad day—but nostalgic nosh, something that brought back a specific memory in one’s life.
For me, that’s butterscotch. My grandmother introduced me to butterscotch hard candies one visit when I was young, maybe five or six. It was a new and unique flavor that, as a Kindergartner, seemed to expand my whole world. The way it was presented, like a secret treat my grandmother was willing to share with me, made it even more special. Still to this day whenever I indulge in a treat of butterscotch pudding, I again experience those initial moments of wonder.
I don’t know if I’ll make a trek out to the Fairgrounds to reminisce with a plateful of funnel cake, but I’ll always have it associated with a rainy day in September years ago.