Years ago, when I was a fresh-faced editor at a large downtown
metropolitan newspaper, I asked a grizzled veteran reporter to do a
story on the L.A. County Fair.
It wasn’t the greatest story idea I ever pulled out of my back
pocket. Indeed, newspapers large and small in Southern California
seem somehow obligated to do county fair stories each and every year.
Seeking some originality, I told Grizzled Reporter to do a story on
the logistics of the thing, how many people does it take to stage a
giant fair, who are they, how much of the rural flavor remains. That
kind of thing.
He glared at me over the rims of his glasses and said, “It’s all
about food.” He proceeded to gruffly explain, maybe lecture is a
better word, that people go to county fairs to eat. Everything else
And he proceeded to do a story about fair food, my suggestions
It was then it became clear to me why the fair gets more attention
from the media than a presidential news conference.
Reporters love a free meal. It’s a tradition that dates back to when
they got paid next to nothing. Now they make slightly more than that.
Most of them would cover a press conference introducing a new brand
of mouthwash if there was a buffet involved. I once had a framed
poster in my office showing a reporter in a fedora hat saying, “I’m
with the press. Where’s the food?”
The County Fair, of course, is the greatest spread going. And
reporters cover it like mustard on a corn dog. After all, you can’t
write about fair food without sampling it. The media generously
underwrites this effort.
The hot topic these days is the proliferation of vendors devoted to
totally irresponsible eating.
In an era when even the cereal box is made of whole grains and three
ounces of yogurt in considered lunch, the fair has become a place to
get in touch with your inner Neanderthal.
Just look at the chest-pain inducing, artery clogging , stomach
rumbling entrees available at the L.A. County Fair this year.
A company called The Ranch is offering a bacon cheeseburger for your
dining pleasure. But not just any bacon cheeseburger. This one is
For dessert, wander over to Fair Fix for a deep fried banana split.
If you get the feeling that deep fried cuisine is a hot item, you
would be correct.
Among the other offerings are deep fried candy bars, deep fried
cheesecake, deep fried mocha cake, deep fried Pop Tarts, deep fried
pickle dogs and deep fried Kool –Aid.
Not to your liking? How about macaroni and cheese on a stick,
chocolate covered bacon, pork chop on a stick or something called a
Mile Long Chili Dog.
L.A. County is not alone in offering the latest in cardiac cuisine.
Consider these offerings from various state fairs:
In Texas, they line up for Chicken Fried Bacon and wash it down with
deep fried Coca-Cola. Minnesotans like their spaghetti and meatballs
on a stick while in Iowa they chow down on something called a hot
Indiana features Pizza Cones and a pork parfait while in
Kansas you can wrap your hands around a Krispy Kreme burger, an
all-beef patty, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo in between two
The ultimate in fair food? Try the deep fried butter next time you’re
I wonder if they display warning signs, like “please consume
responsibly.” I’ll bet they don’t.
Aside from good old down-home gluttony, why on earth do we eat this
Leave it to the high-minded New York Times to offer an explanation.
It’s all about “decision fatigue.”
According to a Times article, no matter how rational and high-minded
you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying
a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue —
you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on
The more choices you make throughout the day, the article says, the
harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for
shortcuts. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively
instead of expending the energy to first think through the
OK, that works for me. Now pass me that deep fried Pepto-Bismol on a