Jay Anderson

Once every several years, I feel the need to emerge for the relative wholesomeness of the central Minnesota woods and lake country to fill up on a little sleaze.

My way of getting sleaze is going to the Minnesota State Fair. Everything about it is elegantly sleazy.

The only problem is, and I should know better because it happened to me the last time I was there, I think there is going to be more and better stuff to spend my money on. I always think there’s going to be just acres of stuff to spend my wads on–I go counting on a spending spree, but it only boils down to this: food.

There is nothing to buy at the fair except balloons, pirate flags, one hundred and seventy bottom tractors with air conditioning and tape decks, and food.

It turns out the only thing I really want is food, and the food is genuine sleaze cuisine.

There were some new wrinkles this year, at least, new to me. Fried ice cream, for one. I could not possibly conceive of such a thing, so I didn’t try it. I noticed some old favorites though. There’s still the rainbow ice cream cones, but the stands are fewer. There are still places you can buy those awful frozen popsicle things: red, white and blue nose cones that taste like sticking your tongue through a screen door.

There were lots of French fry stands this year–just French fries. No Big Mac or Whooper, just fries.

Of course, the best buy for the budget-minded gourmet of genuine sleaze food is still, after all these years, the bratwurst. It was real bratwurst, not burnt Smokettes with kraut.

I’ve noticed around here this summer that all the local festivals sported taco stands. The state fair was no different. I dribbled several different types of hot sauce down the front of my shirt from several different purveyors of the world’s most difficult to eat junk food. The reason tacos sell so well is because there’s no way to turn out a bum taco, short of dropping it in the middle of the Hippodrome after the Sunday night show.

I found the heady aroma of grease fires burning the hamburgers in the beer garden just as I remembered it from years past.

I found that foot-long hot dogs were only 10 and a quarter inches long and the mile-long hot dog served at the Midway was also just 10 and a quarter inches long.

I found I could buy fried wontons and egg rolls, fried green pepper delights, or fried onions. Hot, giant pretzels with far too much salt on them–akin to devouring your cow’s mineral block–plastic malts, peanuts, popcorn, all flavors of pop, snow cones and the ever-present king of sleaze cuisine, the venerable Pronto Pup.

It was heaven, not an honest to Pete raw vegetable in sight. There was also, unfortunately, no Bromo Seltzer, Alka Seltzer or Pepto Bismol.

My wife has washed the taco sauce from my shirt, the Pronto Pup grease from my pant leg and from other parts of my clothed anatomy, a snow cone stain, mustard, grape pop, and the butterscotch some little kid in a stroller wiped on my white socks.

The sleaze is over, but the memory lingers on.

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