When I say I love the North Carolina State Fair more than most people, I don’t mean “more than most people do,” though that’s certainly true. I like the State Fair more than I like most people. I would happily live as a hermit the rest of the year in exchange for those few noisy, dusty, greasy days of mid-October.
I also really, really love junk food. My physique indicates as much. The more ill-advised a snack sounds, the more likely I am to consume it. The State Fair is rife with creative treat opportunities, and I gleefully accept its doughy challenges every year.
But never in my life have I eaten anything as foul as one of the new foods at this year’s fair: deep-fried Jell-O. At a stand on one of the edges of Kiddieland, I handed a man six dollars and, a few minutes later, received a single fried lump that was a little smaller than my fist. It sat in a Pepto-pink slurry, accompanied by a tiny pyramid of whipped cream with a maraschino cherry on top.
Most deep-fried desserts are soft and easy to start eating immediately. Not the Jell-O. Standing and balancing the little paper tray of dessert in my left hand, I stabbed at the glazed dough ball repeatedly to try to get a first bite. It felt like cracking open a geode, one that oozed an alarming, allegedly cherry-flavored red goo.
The first bite did not go well, nor did the second or the halfhearted third. The dough was hard and crusty like a hush puppy, but thanks to its innards and the sugary sauce, also managed to be unpleasantly soggy. Visually, the dessert more closely resembled a gaping cartoon wound than anything you’d want to put in your mouth. It tasted like processed sugar and sadness. I abandoned it with little remorse.
Still feeling adventurous, and with some time to kill before the evening’s concert at Dorton Arena, I moseyed to another stand, Gobblin’ Gourmet, which boasted an intriguing “Violet Vampire” funnel cake, another new offering. The spot also sells deep-fried gummy bears, which sounded too horrifying to pass up.
Like the Jell-O, the four-dollar fried gummy bear was a poor choice. The texture of the four-inch-long confection was outright bizarre, with pale, almost-undercooked batter enveloping a somewhat gooey, somewhat rubbery cherry bear. It wasn’t as bad as the Jell-O, but eating it just felt wrong, like gnawing on a pliable plastic toy. Underwhelmed but unsurprised, I ditched the gummy bear, too.
The Violet Vampire, however, was wonderful, enough to make up for the evening’s earlier shortcomings. The funnel cake batter itself has blueberries (or blueberry-like pellets) in it, and is topped with a smooth, thick blueberry sauce that’s surrounded by a halo of whipped cream. That all counts as a healthy serving of fruit, right? Like any other funnel cake, though, this one is better off shared between a friend or three.
Having properly insulted my insides, I went and saw Skylar Gudasz and Superchunk have a good time in Dorton, and then rode some rides that spun me around and upside down. Yesterday, I ate some vegetables, attempting to rectify the wrongs I did to my body last night. Even so, I’m not sure my flesh bag will ever fully forgive me.