Monday, July 30, 2007

Oh, it's big

Friday before last my girlfriend had the day off, so I used a bit of my copious vacation time and we traveled down to Costa Mesa to attend the Orange County Fair. Yes, "the OC" has a county fair.

Having been to state fairs in the Midwest, she expected to see gargantuan vegetables. However, as we were in the middle of the nation's most famous suburbs, and because it was early in the year (the over sized plants tend to be an autumnal occurrence), the closest we could find was the "world's largest corn dog."

We didn't find it right away, of course. I had a regular corn dog in the late afternoon while still oblivious to it. Really, after that, there was no reason to get another corn dog. A county fair is a paean to the deep-fried, certainly, but one corn dog should be enough.

However, well into the evening, after having had deep-fried artichoke hearts and cheese fries, and while waiting in line for a funnel cake I spotted one of the stands with the world's largest corn dog. My girlfriend noticed me glance over and said, "We can get one." I replied, "We don't need one."

That was absolutely true. Granted, no one ever "needs" a corn dog (of any size), but even in this context, there was no justifying getting more food; we weren't that hungry after the cheese fries, and the funnel cake was how we would finish the evening—that much was certain. And one funnel cake would be more than sufficient.

Of course we went over and got a "world's largest corn dog"; there's no story without that happening. I'm not going to try to explain what compelled me to do it. I suppose it's just what one does when at a county fair. Perhaps such events tap into some latent tendencies in our being. There must be some reason why there continues to be an Orange County Fair in the 21st century; the area is quite removed from its agricultural origins, so there's little reason why it should still exist in the age of X Games and iPods and YouTube, but obviously it does.

The world's largest corn dog is approximately 18 inches long. Really. The stick extends through the entire thing (otherwise it would collapse), so we had to eat around the sides, rather than being able to bite through. It was tricky to dip in the mustard and ketchup. The corn meal wasn't as tasty as the smaller one I'd had earlier.

But it was a foot-and-a-half's worth of corn dog.

We gave it the ol' college try, but still didn't even between the two of us didn't make it halfway down. We wrapped it up and put it in our bag, under the guise of eating more later.

That was the most ridiculous aspect of the whole incident, of course.

After walking around the carnival portion of the fairgrounds for a while, we came to our senses and accepted that there was no way we'd actually consume any of the leftover portion of the corn dog. Even if it did prove still edible, the reality of the situation remained unchanged: It wasn't that good. It was not inexpensive, as corn dogs go (even at fair prices), but our finances were not strapped to the point where we needed to get our "money's worth" and consume the rest of it to spare a future snack.

Still, as we approached the exit and stopped at a garbage can, we experienced a certain sadness about disposing of it. There was no logical explanation for the sense of… what was it? I'm not sure exactly. At best it was a novelty, purchased more for the photo op than out of hunger. Could it be simply that by identified in the extreme terms it was ("world's largest"), we were manipulated into giving it more importance than any corn dog should receive? Could we be so conditioned to respond to the "-est" suffix that we could not help but feel… protective of whatever it was used to describe?

I grasp how silly that sounds, over a week after the incident. My intellect makes me slightly ashamed when I ruminate about it now. All I can say is I know that was how we felt then.

We did throw it out. We didn't allow the emotion of the moment to overwhelm our reason and put it back in the bag. However, we did pause to document the disposal with a photo (a corn dog funeral of sorts?); we couldn't put it out of our lives unceremoniously.

I know. I know.

The worst part: Even in relating the story now, I find myself feeling pangs of that same sensation. Intellectually I know I shouldn't. It was a frickin' corn dog where all it had going for it was enormous length; it was otherwise unremarkable regarding taste. In fact, it was more troublesome than a normal-sized corn dog to eat.

Maybe that's the key: We didn't just eat (part of) it; we invested emotionally in it. Such is the magic of the world's largest corn dog*: It's not merely a snack—it's an experience.

That must be why there's still county fairs.

* If you buy one, however, I suggest you have a group of at least four to share in it. You'll bond in eating the communal cornmeal-wrapped hot dog, and with any luck you'll finish it and be spared the sense of loss when you have to throw away an uneaten portion. You don't need that much of an experience.


  1. After consulting my ruler I have to say that JESUS GOD that is a big corn dog. I think food like that is meant as a competition of sorts (are you glutton enough to finish it?), and that really, the real winners are the ones who fail at consuming ridiculous amounts of food.Did you at least eat the corndog crustie at the bottom before you threw it away?

    I saw The Simpsons Movie on Friday...LOVED IT! I've been waiting for you blog analysis...where is it?


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