Cotton candy ice cream cone. County fairs are made for children. There’s magic and mania in their eyes as their little brains gobble everything up. Then you come back year after year through your whole life to the fair and yearn for the nostalgia that was imprinted on your brains as a child, to feel young again, to feel free and innocent and safe, untouched by a carney’s leering stare or a sexist comment or the harshness of life. The flavours – everything extra salty and extra sweet, the smell of fried foods, the hot bubbly oil turning out floating hot donuts sprinkled in cinnamon and sugar, the marquee twinkling lights, the creaky old colourful rides, the grunge and the grime. What is the flavour of cotton candy? It’s been replicated so much in other products – cotton candy toothpaste and children’s Tylenol. Sugar meets faux berry flavour? Soft melting clouds on the tongue, gone in an instant, whirled high like an air filled beehive on a paper stick.
Our favourite stops at the PNE include the tiny soft serve shack painted in red and white stripes, a white haired woman with deep creases on her face runs it, happily dispenses blobs of cool soft serve into sundae cups and cones.
Those little donuts are the deep fried gems of yesteryear. Their design remains untouched, as does the grease filled mini machines that endlessly pump out rings of batter into piping hot fat, flipped over once to brown and along the river of oil it goes til it’s all cooked, sliding down into hot lights to get scooped out into paper bags and shaken with cinnamon and sugar.
Puffy bags of cotton candy tucked into our stroller – I gave Teddy a big swab of it and he happily gobbled it down and asked for more. He munched on mini donuts, letting them sit on his knee to cool down. He got his mini “baby cone” from the soft serve ice cream stand, a blobette and a swirl piped into a tiny cone. Food memories imprinted on his little three year old mind, a place to revisit year after year. xo Lyndsay