We've all seen the news stories, the ewwww!-inducing groans and the "can you believe it?" news stories about what's new at the Indiana State Fair, food-wise.
Indiana freaked out several years ago when deep-fried Twinkies hit the state. And we went into an apoplectic shock when we heard about deep-fried butter. (I can't tell you how many "my arteries are slamming shut" jokes I had to smile politely at that year.)
Batter-Dipped, Deep Fried Twinkies! It ain't a state fair 'til something's been batter-dipped and deep fried.
And this year was a banner year as each state fair food vendor, and each state fair, tried to outdo the others with the deep-fried, grease-dripping, calorie-laden, gut-busting creations.
There were the bacon-glazed doughnuts, deep-fried olives (if they're green olives, I'll be all over them), red velvet funnel cake, and the thing I wanted to try (but wasn't allowed to; been married for 19 years), the Redneck Burger — a hamburger topped with cheese, bacon, fried bologna, baked beans, and potato sticks.
Any organic-local-food-eating-never-let-processed-food-pass-these-lips health nut reads and watches those stories with revulsion and disgust, and launches into a healthier-than-thou lecture to anyone within earshot about how these foods are bad for us, and we shouldn't eat them, and yada yada yada live longer, blah blah blah.
Yes, we know these foods are bad for us. Yes, we know we need to eat healthy — er, healthier — than we have been. Yes, we've heard the "arteries slamming shut" joke before. Should we eat these foods at all? Probably not. Definitely not more than once. Certainly not once a week, or even once a month.
But this is the state fair. This happens once a year. This is not something we should be doing every day, and for the most part, people typically don't eat redneck burgers or deep-fried Twinkies on a regular basis. (Granted, that doesn't mean they wouldn't, they just don't get the chance.)
Where is your sense of adventure? Where is your sense of wonder and curiosity? How rigid and myopic are you that you can't see the fun of sharing an elephant ear with your family, or the oozing satisfaction of biting into something that you know is very bad for you, but is one of the best tasting sensations you will ever put in your mouth.
I don't care how many Facebook photos you put up, or how many times you tell me "it's just as good." I am never going to believe that a bowl of fruit is just as good as a bowl of ice cream, or that a soy burger is just as good as a real burger.
But I'll meet you halfway. I'll eat a soy burger, and I won't say a word about how nasty and plasticky it tastes, but you have to eat a redneck burger. You can't complain, you can't lecture, and you can't make fake gagging noises.
I just want you to live a little. To enjoy what this world, this state, and this fair has to offer. The whole point of the fair is to see what Indiana produces, and to share the bounty that our state provides. (Granted, we're not known for our bologna and potato stick production, but you get my point.) The fair only comes once a year and lasts for 17 days.
If you eat one piece of state fair food on one day, and are perfect the other 364 days a year, nothing bad will happen to you. You won't die. You won't be struck dead. You won't be stoned with soy burgers and soy hot dogs (although I tried a soy hot dog once; I think it could do the trick).
After the health weenies ruined Cookie Monster and made him think "cookies are a sometimes food," we recognize that state fair food is a sometimes food as well. That means we can only eat it sometimes, not all the time. At least most of us recognize that.
Similarly, the health nuts need to recognize the same fact — there are some times you have to experience life at its greasiest, bacon-filled best. You can't go through life extolling its virtues and claiming you're living life to the fullest while trying to mumble around a mouthful of edamame or bringing your own gluten-free vinaigrette dressing to a restaurant. You at least need to know what you're not eating, what you're telling us to give up. You need to stick a deep-fried Twinkie in your mouth just one time, just one lousy Twinkie, and make sure you know what you're missing.
The state fair only comes once a year, and on August 19th, when the food vendors have packed up and slid out of town, you can go back to your healthy snacks and your bowls of fruit, and tell us how bad you think those fried greasy foods are for you.
But don't tell me you don't secretly think about that bacon-wrapped corn dog once in a while, and smile to yourself when no one's looking.
Photo credit: Paul W. Locke (Flickr, Creative Commons)