How to write about Fair Food

Recently I’ve had a few of my friends send me a link to a Buzzfeed article that listed various fair food items from the Minnesota State Fair. I hated the piece. No, hate was a bit strong there. Disappointed is a more accurate description of how I felt about that piece, and other attempts by writers to talk about food from fairs across the United States. There is a common issue of these writers providing no information about fair food other than, “wow this is so weird, right?” That’s not to say that I’m against saying a certain dish is bizarre, I just want to see some variety. With that in mind, here are some basic rules that I feel people should follow if they are going to tackle the interesting realm of fair food.

  1. Know If Something Is Actually New

One of the easiest ways to turn me off from an article about a list of food being offered from fairs, is if the writer talks about fried butter like it was something new. It’s not. Fried butter has been around for some time in ball, and stick format. Maybe back in 2009 it would have been reasonable to post about discovering fried butter and freaking out over it, but it’s 2015.

A good way to showcase some maturity in writing about fair food is to know what is new and what isn’t. A simple Google search can inform you if Fried BBQ Ribs are a brand new fair food invention (They’re not.) Researching this genre of food does not take long, and it can be pretty useful when it comes to figuring out which fairs provide the most interesting food options.

2. Who Made It?

All culinary dishes have creators, and unlike the ongoing discussion on the identity of God, it’s easy to point out who the chefs are. Although the people working food booths at the fair may not be called chefs, they still deserve credit for making food that is being shared across the internet. Which is why I’m shocked that some sites will only go as far as crediting which fair the food was made in.

I’m not saying that you need to know the exact names of who is making fried bacon wrapped Twinkies at the local fair, but finding the name of the booth that sells it is important. Believe or not, but some people reading about fair food may actually want to try it if they live nearby a fair. Adding the booth’s name can make this journey less of a hassle for people. Plus, it’s rude to not give credit.

3. Get Off Your High Horse

The one thing that bothers me most about people who talk about fair food is the writer’s attitude. For far too long I have seen countless articles joke about how fair food is a big joke to them. Here’s a fact, you are not better than the person who makes fried butter every year. Just because you made kale salad for lunch once does not mean that you are allowed to elevate yourself above the world of the fair. You are especially not allowed to look down on fair food if you work at Buzzfeed of all places.

It’s important to remember that the people who spend their lives working at the fair are real. While you have every right to not be interested in the food options at the fair, that does not give you the right to ridicule those who make that food. The people who work in fair food stands are not jokes for others to step on. Honestly, these people should be commended for finding new ways every year to put imaginative spins on food. I can’t think of another place in the world where you can find Cotton Candy Funnel Cakes.

Fair food is magical for many people, and we should all respect that.

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