Feasting at the fair

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Pat Cummings of Fritch, Texas, pulls a load of cotton candy out of the metal bowl Tuesday night at the Curry County Fair. Mullins said a 16-ounce cup of sugar and flavoring makes about 10 bags of the treat.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Fair time means the cooking oil is hot. It means the drinks are cool. And it’s pretty much the time everybody looks forward to those once-a-year food favorites.

The Curry County Fair is no exception, as vendors from across New Mexico and Texas sell foodstuffs that just don’t seem reasonable during the other 51 weeks of 2009.

“They’re OK with spending a little more money,” said Debbie Mitchell at the Sweets and Eats booth located in the center of the Curry County Fairgrounds with other food merchants, “because it’s a once-a-year thing.”

Vendors gave the same reason why all of these foods (which combined violate any recommended diet) only gain traction during the fair. Just as people don’t drink eggnog in the summer, avoid turkey and stuffing until November, and are preconditioned to avoid a funnel cake in February.

But for all the special feelings associated, the staples of a fair meal aren’t that difficult.

Funnel cakes

What is it: It’s a fried piece of batter, about the size of a paper plate.

How is it made: Chris Lopez said the batter includes milk, water, sugar, baking soda, salt and flour. Lopez makes big batches at a time, including a five-pound bag of flour, so the batter gets mixed with a drill.

The batter is then ladled into a plastic funnel and poured into 350-degree oil. The funnel produces a layered effect.

“Once we see the bottom is golden brown,” Lopez said, “we flip it over.”

Customers then go with powdered sugar and/or cinnamon, though Lopez says some of the more extreme funnel cake outfits offer toppings such as caramel, chocolate and fruit.

Why it’s good: Lopez said the food is similar to a waffle in taste and texture, and it’s easy to break into small pieces.