Cambrian: Slice of Life

Missing out on the Mid-State Fair? Make it seem like you were there

Kathe Tanner
Kathe Tanner

Poor baby! You haven’t gotten to the California Mid-State Fair either? What a bummer.

Illness and other factors kept us away this year, so I’m with you … yearning for the fair fun we missed.

Undaunted, we’ll enjoy some fair experiences anyway, with the help of some Tanner “fair hacks.” They’re not the same as really being there, but in a pinch, they’ll do.

It’s pinch time.

For instance, we love people-watching at the fair, strolling on the midway or sitting in Pioneer Square to see the wide variety of humans passing by, and we giggle while we share vicariously the joy of fairgoing youngsters.

Our fair hack? We can hang out at Hearst Castle’s visitor center, sit on a bench on Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, stroll on the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk or go to Shamel Park beach. We’ll see a full range of sizes, shapes, ages and types of folks, both local and visitors. And let’s be real … watching kids playing at the shore rivals watching kids at the fair any day.

(Side note: Have you noticed how sloppily many tourists dress these days? I wouldn’t wear those clothes to a wash-a-mat at midnight!)

▪  Without our annual fair visit, we won’t see the amazing photo, artwork and other pavilion displays showcasing such a wide array of talents. The creations range from pictures taken by young, fledgling photogs and spot-on paintings by professionals to floral designs, museum-quality quilts and cakes decorated by bakery artisans.

We marvel at the progression of talent through the years, as young participants grow up and mature into full-fledged artists, and adults go from amateur level to pro.

As nonfairgoers in 2016, we won’t get the full range of artwork, the 12-course meal, so to speak, all in the same place at the same time. But, our fair hack provides a few creative snacks at each visit, when we go to community art galleries, craft fairs, shops and school showings.

You’ve been meaning to do more of that, haven’t you? I know we have.

▪  I suspect that what we’ll all miss most from our “no-fair year” is the food. With the Mid-State Fair’s 85 different vendors, the choices are as dizzying as a whirly-gig ride.

Barbecued corn-on-the-cob, drenched in butter. Barbecued ribs slathered with spicy sauce. And of course, deep-fried everything … funnel cakes, corn dogs and hand-cut french fries, seafood and batter-dipped Snickers bars.

The corn is easy enough to hack at home on an outdoor grill. We’ll get our rib fix at Mo’s or Rib Line.

Deep fried? That’s a problem. Cooking aromas (and airborne droplets of fat) migrate throughout our kitchen/great room, so we avoid frying anything in a fat-filled pan.

I’ve considered taking a deep-fat-fryer outside but haven’t gotten up my nerve yet.

For one thing, I’m not sure how the jays, hummers and other birds would react, and I’d hate to wind up with accidentally deep-fried curious squirrel.

We do so miss the funnel cakes! Sob.

Hurrah! We found an easy, reasonable-facsimile “fair hack” for funnel cakes, one that doesn’t involve a quart of canola oil.

Buy top-quality, glazed old-fashioned doughnuts (we get ours at Dolly’s in Morro Bay — the best!).

Put a doughnut in a toaster oven. Toast it long enough so the pastry gets hot, the crust crisps up and the glaze caramelizes a bit. Sprinkle on some powdered sugar.

It smells like fresh funnel cake. It tastes 90 percent like a funnel cake. Bingo! A successful fair hack!

Syrups, whipped cream and fruit? Sure, if you want them. But the pseudo funnel cake really doesn’t need them.

It won’t replace a visit to the fair, but it helps.

Sure, some fair experiences can’t be duplicated: being in the Chumash Grandstand Arena with 14,000 of your closest friends; riding the Ferris wheel and other spinners (before the funnel cake, please!); watching dogs, horses and kids compete and show off; discovering new crafts and products; seeing the farm animals there to be judged and the ranch kids who will soon give them up. Or just walking down the midway amid the sights, sounds and smells of the fair.

Oh, well. Maybe next year. In the meantime, happy fair hacking!