The first “Cookin’ with Karl” column debuted on July 18, 2015.
My first three columns in that hot July were about American classics (hot dogs and root beer), great summer drinks and everything you need to know about sweet corn. Here I am, four years, three weeks and 211 columns later circling back to my fourth column, which was “Fair Food Frenzy.”
With a weekly average of 750 words, I have written approximately 158,250 words deliberating on food, drinks, great restaurants and talented chefs. The best places to catch a sunset, to eat outside, to find Pho and, recently, to snag some decent cheese. Every week, every day, has been a wonderful journey and learning experience, a chance to explore, ask questions and simply continue my lifelong fascination with the art of food and entertaining.
Which brings me back to the uniquely American idea of fair food, the wonderfully good, yet terribly bad for you, food that many of us feel compelled to have each year at our county and state fairs and festivals around the country. Even more so in the Midwest. Everything in moderation, right?
How can I be thinking about the best cheeses from around the world, the finest balsamic vinegar from Modena, a sublimely grilled strip steak, a perfectly made salad nicoise and all the finer aspects of dining and then suddenly dwell on the awesomeness of fair food?
Well, I’ll tell you. Fair food is all about the experience of eating just about anything battered and deep fried on a stick. A truly Midwest America tradition that compels many to break diets, forget swimsuit season and just indulge under the neon lights of the rides on a hot summer night.
I must admit that moving to Medina shortly after the world did not end on New Year’s Eve 1999 was the beginning of my love for county fairs. Medina County puts on a great fair, as do Wayne County and Lorain County. The whole spectacle of the fair draws you in, and next thing you know, you are eating things you would never consider on any day in April or November or really ever except for fair week. And you are loving it!
You are literally petting the noses of pigs and goats and horses one minute, then snacking on thin greasy fries dripping in malt vinegar the next minute, chasing it with bites off a shared elephant ear, sipping a sugar water with a fresh squeezed lemon or two added. Then, you make the decision to try a deep fried Twinkie. And it is good. That is why I love fair week.
Fair week is a perfect example of the crowded restaurant theory. The activity, the lines, the many interactions and the energy surrounding you make you feel good about being there, which elevates the whole situation. One of the most enjoyable parts of the fair, though, is seeing the 4-H projects and the kids that make them happen.
This is a look into the real-life “where does my food come from and how is the future looking?” While I have written often about talented chefs and the products they use to elevate your dining experience, I have written much, as well, about our small local farmers and how amazing they are. These 4-H kids and their families are the reason that talented chefs and home cooks have quality products to use. Without them and all the small farmers across this country and around the world, we would not have much to write about.
Hopefully, you have all had a chance this week to get that 4-H milkshake or to try out the Masonic Donuts or the more permanent church restaurants inside the fairgrounds that serve up great meals all day long, from breakfast to burgers. If not, you have today and tomorrow. See you there!
As I sign off this week, I want to thank our benevolent advertisers for making this column possible week in and week out. I also want to thank our loyal readers for following along and for all the nice emails they send me.
Last week, reader Noel Sargent emailed me thanking me for the column promoting cheese, where I discussed the fromage (cheese) board at Sérénité Restaurant in Medina. Noel talked about our own great local cheese producers like Yellow House Cheese and his lifelong pursuit of quality cheeses from the regions in Europe that he traveled to. Thank you, Noel, for such a wonderfully written email. Cheers!