Herewith I survey the classic snacks that have become a big part of the annual tradition known as the Ex, a.k.a. the Canadian National Exhibition, on until September 7th in Toronto.
CANDY APPLE: Although they're appealingly fire engine red and touched with cherry flavouring, let's be honest about candy apples: They may be a fairground classic, but nobody actually eats them. Mine's been sitting in the trailer window a bit too long, so the caramel is melting away. The apple tastes acrid and is mushy and bruised. I toss it where it belongs, into a can piled high with cups and corncobs like a game of garbage Jenga.
HONEYDEW: Watching me enjoy the orange elixir, a CNE newbie approaches and asks, "What does that taste like?" I say: "It's Tang-like, with a little pulp." Made with real fruit juice and honey, each 8 oz. glass also contains 100% of the daily recommended dose of Vitamin C. Developed by Frederick and Donald Ryan, who some say were also the inventors of the roller skate, Honeydew was sold in shops and town halls throughout Ontario, and during Prohibition became one of Canada's most enduring beverages.
CORN DOG: These hot dogs dipped in a cornmeal coating, then deep-fried, are one of the most popular savoury courses at any expo. Fair food is largely food that has been fried, deep-fried or double deep-fried. At country fairs across the United States, I've enjoyed everything from pickles to Snickers, Oreos to cheesecake, turkey legs to tamales, all lovingly battered, impaled with wooden skewers and then dropped into vats of hot oil for 30 seconds or so. Can you say ''hot battered yumminess''?
TINY TOM DONUTS: The Flyer's gone. So is the Alpine Way. But so long as there's a CNE, there will always be Tiny Tom Donuts. Interlopers are on the grounds selling miniature sugar-coated fritters, but Tiny Tom is the benchmark, has been since 1960. Kids smoosh their noses up to the mini conveyor belt fryer, following the procession from dough, to fried, to sugar-coated. Go for the cinnamon or icing sugar. Newer flavours include chocolate and apple cinnamon, but that's just wrong. After a quick sugar shake, the mini dozen of hot deliciousness is all yours.
ICE CREAM WAFFLES: One of the biggest sellers at the fair is the The Original Hot CNE Waffle, so boasts the signs on the seven strategically placed trailers. This napkin of nirvana has always been my favourite Ex food. Blocks of snowy-white, non-premium Chapman's ice cream are sliced into a sandwich filling for two slightly spongy waffles. It's at once hot and cold, sweet and salty, crisp and smooth. And as timeless as the giant Ferris wheel.