Friday, September 02, 2016

Fat Chance

Labor Day was established as a public holiday to honor the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country. 

A noble gesture indeed.

Here in our neck of the woods, it also marks the opening of the L.A. County Fair which, instead of celebrating working stiffs, has become a showcase for some of the most waist-expanding, heart attack-inducing, imagination-defying, deep-fried-and-dipped-in-sugar culinary monstrosities known to the human race.

One wonders if the fair is an attempt to kill off the working class.

And it’s not just the L.A. event.  Fairs across the country are turning into a celebration of gluttony that would make Henry VIII proud. In Arizona they’ll feed you Deep-Fried Scorpion on a Stick, in Minnesota a plate of Spam Curds and in Texas, Fried Frito pie washed down with Deep-Fried Beer.

The L.A. fair reportedly offers unique dishes, such as Deep Fried Guacamole (served with a tub of ranch dressing) and a burger lathered with a hefty spread of grape jam, peanut butter, and a squirt of Sriracha hot sauce. A flame grilled patty is then topped with a handful of bacon.

And since Chicken and Waffles is a popular dish in L.A., one vendor takes it a step farther by wrapping his chicken in bacon before frying it, setting it atop a waffle, and dousing it in maple syrup.

You might want to have your cardiologist on speed dial.

Not to be outdone, the Orange County Fair offers the Pepsi Donut Bacon Dog: a quarter-pound bacon-wrapped beef hot dog on a doughnut bun topped with Pepsi glaze; the Bacon Nutella Pickle: dill pickle wrapped in bacon and filled with the popular hazelnut cocoa spread; French Toast Bacon Bombs: sweet dough stuffed with cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, deep fried, sprinkled with sugar and topped with maple syrup; and the S'moreo Doughnut: a 10-inch glazed doughnut topped with chocolate, Oreo cookie crumbles, graham crackers and marshmallow cream.

While you’re digesting that, you may wonder: How did fairs become the incubators of junk food?

According to noted food writer Robert Moss, “If you believe the popular tales, more new American foods were invented at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, than during any other single event in history.

“The list includes the hamburger, the hot dog, peanut butter, iced tea, the club sandwich, cotton candy, and the ice cream cone, to name just a few. If all the pop histories and internet stories have it right, American foodways would be almost unrecognizable if the 1904 fair had not been held.”

Alas, some of this is good old American hyperbole.  Hamburger had been around since Civil War days and iced tea was a drink of choice in the 1880s.

It won’t be the first time legends trumped truth and it would appear that the spirit of St. Louis continues to this day in fairgrounds throughout our land.

How else could we explain Deep Fried Kool Aid, Deep Fried Butter, Chicken Fried Bacon, a Deep Fried Spaghetti-Stuffed Meatball, Chocolate Bacon on a Stick or Deep-Fried Tequila Shots.  All available at a fair near you.

But wait, there’s more: a Hot Beef Sundae, layered with mashed potatoes, marinated beef, gravy, cheese, corn "sprinkles" and a cherry (tomato); Grilled python kebabs seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, Old Bay and lemon-pepper (let me guess, it tastes like chicken); Elvis on a Stick: a deep fried banana-battered peanut butter cup with bacon; and deep fried mashed potatoes on a stick.

It’s enough to make Paula Deen look like Jenny Craig.

So why do we eat this stuff?  Leave it to the New York Times to delve deeply into the subject and come up with an explanation only a psychiatrist would love:

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 mental energy.

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 consequences.

OK, that works for me. Now pass me that Deep Fried Butter. And add a dash of Lipitor.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

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