Depending upon whether you’re reading this Wednesday or Saturday, you may or may not already have been to the fair. If you haven’t yet taken yourself to one of our island’s major summer events, do it before it’s too late. And if you have already been, I needn’t say more, except “lucky you.”
As for me, as I write this, I’m in the anticipatory mode, ready and waiting to go to the Whidbey Island Area Fair on Thursday and again Saturday, or perhaps Sunday. I’ve not missed a Fair for more than two decades and I’m not about to miss this one. As usual, I’ll have at least two granddaughters and assorted other family members and friends with me.
Yes, I know it’s nothing like the Puyallup Fair (thank Heaven), nor even the Evergreen, or several other larger annual county fairs. It’s small, by comparison, and the rides and carnie games are somewhat limited, but our county fair is the very essence of what small fairs should be.
First of all, it’s about the animals; the 4-H “kids” and all their animals. You can get up close and personal with pigs, goats, sheep, cows, chickens (none in diapers), horses, rabbits, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and if I’ve left something out, I’m sorry. Watch young riders perform on their mounts in the center riding arena and, should you tire of that, walk a very short distance past the arena and you may be in time to watch a man spike his way to the top of a very tall pole, then rappel rapidly back down, part of the logging show that’s nearby.
In between any of these activities, stroll to the center stage and rest on the benches while you enjoy lively music and/or stage shows. After you’ve rested a bit, check out the side buildings, filled with locally grown fruit and vegetable displays, beautiful hand-made quilts, homespun yarn demonstrations with the final results also on display, amazing photography, and, of course, home baked cakes, cookies, pies, breads, and other mouth-watering entries, all adorned with their award-winning ribbons and certificates.
It’s probably obvious by now that I love the Fair, but I haven’t yet mentioned my own personal vice. It’s only once a year, so I refuse to believe it’s going to do me in if I indulge in that monster stack of curly fries. It’s the only time I ever eat them, and I share them with my companions. But I confess to other Fair food addictions, as well: the ice cream bars coated with chocolate and nuts, strawberries on a stick coated with chocolate, an elephant ear — but last year, there were no elephant ears. Have they returned this year? I’ll find out, soon.
If you haven’t yet gone, just do it. I’ll see you there, but promise not to notice what I may be eating. Life is short, and it’s only once a year.
In my extensive collection of cookbooks, there are at least two that contain recipes for cakes, cookies, jams and breads that won first place ribbons in county fairs of long ago. It was a matter of great pride for women of the 1900s to be known as a cook who won first place at a county fair; these recipes may be very old, but they’re still prize winners today. First, these unusual, dense brownies that took a blue ribbon at a county fair in Nebraska more than 70 years ago.
THREE LAYER BROWNIES
First layer: ½ cup flour
¼ t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
1 cup oatmeal (use the quick-cook type)
½ cup brown sugar
6 T. butter
Combine these ingredients until thoroughly mixed and crumbly; pat into a 7x11 baking pan. Bake 10 min. at 350 degrees; remove from oven.
Second layer: 1 sq. unsweetened chocolate, melted
4 T. butter
¾ cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
¼ t. each, baking soda and salt
¼ cup milk
½ t. vanilla
½ cup chopped nuts (use nuts of your choice; hazelnuts are very good)
Combine the chocolate, butter and sugar, mixing well. Add the egg, mixing well. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, add to the chocolate mixture alternately with the milk. Mix in vanilla and nuts. Spread this later evenly on the first layer and return to 350 degree oven; bake for 25 min., remove from oven and allow to cool.
Third layer: 1 sq. unsweetened chocolate
2 T. butter
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 t. vanilla
About 2 T. hot water
Melt chocolate and butter together. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and enough of the hot water to give mixture a soft spreadable consistency. Spread on the brownies. Cut into squares to serve.
This cake recipe took first place at a small county fair that went on as scheduled despite the rationing problems and trauma of World War II; note the “overseas shipping” advice at the end.
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
2 cups water
2 cups raisins
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3 cups flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (or other nut, whatever is available)
Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer; simmer 15-20 min., until raisins are soft. Set aside to cool.
Sift together the flour, cinnamon, soda and salt; add to cooled raisin mixture, mixing thoroughly. Add nuts; mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 min., or until cake springs back at a light touch.
A cream frosting may be used on this cake, or dust it with powdered sugar. If you bake this in a coffee can and don’t frost it, the cake keeps well for shipment overseas.