Thursday, July 2, 2009

Picnic food, carney food and sunshine

The most sinful thing I can think of just now is deep fried oreos. We first had them at the Three River's Arts Festival a few years ago. The oreos are dipped in batter, sort of like a funnel cake batter or a donut batter, and deep fried. The cookie is softened to a cake-like center, while the creme melts completely and is absorbed into the surroundings. This place dusted the innocuous looking packets of chocolate decadence with powdered sugar. They're hot and chewy and dry all at once, an explosion of comforting flavors.

Darling Husband and I were discussing them the other day, then coincidentally ran into a deep fried oreo vendor at the Erie Festival of the Arts. These ones were not dusted in sugar, and seemed less melty than the previous, but were still scrumptious. What a fun little surprise.

Of course, you always find yummy (if overpriced) food at these festivals. Run by middle aged people seemingly impervious to the volcanic heat of fryers on asphalt in the July sun, (themselves assisted by their giggly teenaged children) these stalls are a tower of flashy canvas signs stretched over metal pipe frames. They often have samples of their wares sitting out for people to see for themselves if this is the stall from which they will buy their sausage in a bun.

Many of these vendors sell sausage and pepper sandwiches, also cheese steaks, chicken on a stick, mountains of fries or fried potato chips, blooming onions, fried rice, funnel cakes, lemonade--what Darling Husband and I affectionately call "carney food." We've recently been seeing more pita/gyro options as well. This year we tried a pita stuffed with trendy mixed salad greens, grilled shrimp, feta cheese, tomatoes, dried cranberries, cucumbers and a creamy yogurt based dressing. Or was it a vidalia onion dressing? Either way, creamy. The whole sandwich was quite refreshing.

Coming up is the Greek Festival, which is my hands-down favorite of the summer. The food is made by all these little old Greek ladies from the church, and is so incredible that I was really concerned last year that I would go into labor and miss it. I made people promise to bring me spanikopita and moussaka to the hospital if that were the case. Fortunately, I was able to go myself (big as a house, hot as anything, being beat up by a scrunched baby girl and beset by contractions, but loving it).

Summer food, though, is such a thrill for me. Maybe it's the associations with relaxing, long, sunshine filled evenings. Summer is a time of get togethers and friends, of relaxed curfews and bedtimes, of not having to wear a coat or shoes, of going to the beach and the zoo and the park and lots and lots of picnics. I love picnics. I love to eat outside, regardless of the occasion: in a restaurant, on the porch, in a pavilion, whatever. Coffee on a sunny summer morning, taken on the porch. Ahhh, I feel relaxed just thinking these things.

The grill, a summer powerhouse, gives distinctive and wonderful flavor to everything. Almost everything tastes better grilled! Meats, veggies, fruits... we do corn, chicken wings, pizza, even clams. And of course, the ubiquitous classics (oldies but goodies-they stick around for a reason!) the burgers and hot dogs.

This weekend promises picnics galore, as everyone celebrates our country's Independence in different ways. For my part, I adore fireworks. Especially with a tummy full of picnic food.

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