My mission: find healthful food options at The Puyallup Fair. It was going to be a labor, I knew, but Hercules had it worse and he was still able to capture boars, birds and bulls. Incidentally, all three of those can be found barbecued at the fair.
To help me with my daunting task, I recruited MultiCare nutritionist Beverly Utt. Utt recognizes that many fairgoers come just for the food. “People do eat their way through here,” she said as we walked through the purple gate.
But a visit to the fair doesn’t have to be a diet-wrecking, artery-hardening adventure, Utt says. Come up with a plan, prioritize your food purchases and pace yourself. But that can be challenging in a place where the food goes by names like Monster, Earthquake, Tower, Elephant, Jumbo and something called Alienade.
At the Sales Family Krusty Pup stand, a child’s size version can provide the same experience at only half the size (and calories). But few adults order them, said worker Don Swanson. “Even if I was a kid, I’d want the big one,” he said.
At a nearby stand, worker Emily McCoy was offering up fruit smoothies. Utt frowned at the 45 grams of sugar but gave the fiber content and nearly full day’s requirement of Vitamin C high marks. McCoy said she imbibes occasionally. “That’s the best part of working here. (But) I try not to do it every day.”
At BBQ Pete’s, we investigated corn roasted in the husk ($4). Utt said it was an excellent choice – before being basted in butter, that is. But even with the butter, “it’s still a better choice than a Krusty Pup,” she said.
The Mongolian Wok looked promising. Six trays held fresh and frozen vegetables that can be mixed with chicken or beef and served over white rice. But the $7.50 plate left us wanting with its mushy peas, salty meat and bland rice. “I’d rather eat an Earthquake Burger,” Utt said.
Options running out, I resorted to my ace in the hole: the Grange displays. Taking up one end of the ShowPlex, fresh produce is displayed in fanciful butterfly and pinwheel shapes. I wished it wasn’t so pretty. I was going to feel guilty when I dismantled it and ate it.
It was then that agricultural-horticutural (ag-hort to those in the know) worker Donna DuBois stepped in. She described herself as a “worker bee” while standing next to the Pierce County Beekeeper Association’s display. No irony was intended.
Did she ever get the urge to nibble? “We don’t dine from our stuff in here,” she said, clearly accustomed to inane questions.
DuBois said the rest of the fair doesn’t follow the examples on display in Ag-Hort. “They deep fry anything they can get their hands on,” she said.
DuBois said most fair workers bring their lunches from home. “We can’t afford it – money-wise or butt-wise,” she said while slapping her posterior.
On the way out of the fair, we spotted a sign: “Yogurt is a delicious and satisfying part of a healthy diet.” Patrons were filling their cups so high with yogurt and candy toppings they looked like looters leaving an electronics store. Bucking that trend was Erik Lindsay, 20, and his wife, Alyssa, 22. Each was buying modestly filled cups. They told us they had just split an onion burger combo meal. Their resistance to gorging earned them high marks from Utt.
“We’re doing good and not even thinking about it,” Erik said, pleased. The chocolate yogurts topped with caramel represented the last shared treat for the couple for a long time to come. The next day Pfc. Erik Lindsay would ship out to Iraq with the U.S. Army’s 724th Engineer Battalion.
There are some moments in life that just cry out for a sweet indulgence.
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541 firstname.lastname@example.org