Alright, I just returned to the office directly from a trip to the Van Wert County Fair. My office is less than a mile from the Fairgrounds, so the smells of the fair are still embedded deep in my olfactory receptors. For the next hour or so, I will be smelling the glorious aromas of what we know as fair food. Even those people who claim they go to the fair for other, more noble reasons, it comes down to the food also.

Foods we maybe shouldn’t eat, but more likely, we wouldn’t miss. Everyone has favorites. For some, an elephant ear is required each year. Others look forward to pork sandwiches or beef sandwiches. Some counties have associations of pork producers who sell at a booth. Those are never bad offerings.

I’ve visited maybe five county fairs this year. The food that sticks in my mind as delicious is that which I can still smell. On the list is the elephant ear or sometimes a funnel cake. Fried dough is almost always great, but keep the fruit toppings off of it. Fair food is not meant to have good-for-you-fruit on it, even if the fruit is coated in oozing, sugary goop that almost makes it truly “fair food.”

Speaking of fruit, I will generally have a lemon shake-up at some point. I think you may be required to buy one at the fair, check the back of your ticket to be sure. And I know what you’re thinking, “It’s fruit. Good-for-me fruit.” Yeah, but isn’t that something like a five-pound bag of sugar at the bottom of each cup? It’s really a very sweet lemonade that someone had to wrestle to make taste good. A “lemon stir-up” wouldn’t taste quite the same.

We want some effort put into the preparation of our fair treats! At most every fair, there are places where you can buy deep-fried stuff. Candy bars, snack cakes, and cookies can be dipped in batter and fried and we snack-happy fair-goers will gobble them up until the wallet runs dry. They’ll deep fry most anything. I’ve read about fried Kool-Aid and fried beer. I’m not really that brave — even at the fair.

I have had the chocolate-covered bacon. That was delicious. Haven’t seen it offered in a while. Probably there are other foods I haven’t had in a while, but of course fair foods are rare treats, delicacies, On my most recent round of the fair midway, I was reminded of some favorites of myself and others.

Fried cheese is very good, but I can only eat a certain amount of it, and I usually eat several bites more than the amount I should eat. It happens. I must have a milkshake whenever I pass the Farm Bureau booth at the Van Wert Fair. They actually used to be $1, but have since jumped to $2 for a bigger version. That’s convenient for me. Saves me having to buy two milkshakes and pretend I bought the second one for someone else.

The fair food that makes many people lose their minds has no real affect on me. I know several who long daily for the vinegar fries that the folks from Fiske sell by the truckload at area fairs, but I’ve never been a big fan of french fries. I do like the occasional handful of fries, but vinegar is not on my list of approved foods.

I like sausage sandwiches, but that’s not exactly fair food. I can get those several days a year. There are places to get hamburgers and pie; food that normally wouldn’t be fair food, but if a local Band Booster organization is selling it, OK, it can be fair food. Pizza, Mexican food, and food from local restaurants are good, but they aren’t fair foods. I’ll eat some of that next week.

Then there is the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, one of my favorites. Even if a similar sandwich is available elsewhere during the rest of the year, there is a strong case to be made for its status as fair food. I know someone who needed food delivered to the house locally by a family member. Fair food. His choice for yesterday’s lunch? A breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. I think that’s enough for it to qualify.

So if you are close enough to stroll the midway of a county fair in the next couple of days, have a bite of fair food: some cotton candy or a caramel apple, an Italian sausage sandwich, a corn dog, or some vinegar fries. Then wash it down with a milkshake. Then plan some sort of exercise program for next week to walk it all off. You’ll be glad you did.