I think most people have a love-hate relationship with street festivals. They are fun, enjoyable and are a welcomed break from the repetition of life. However, they are also expensive, crowded, and cause traffic jams in normally sane parts of town. I tend to avoid street festivals because the activation energy to overcome the latter tends to outweigh the benefits of the former. It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy them – if I run across one by happenstance, I will generally spend some quality time at it and take pleasure in their surprises. So when I ran into three street festivals in three different cities in the same weekend, I knew that it would be hopeless to resist the urge to buy a deep-fried Twinkie.
The weekend started inauspiciously. I needed to go to work on a Saturday and I found that the road to the office was blocked off. The Armed Services Day parade wound through downtown and a large swath was transformed into a pedestrian-only haven. By the time I found parking, I had to walk over a mile to the office in the rain. And uphill. Both ways. (Which was technically true! The office is near the top of one hill and I parked on top of a different one.) When I got to the office, I realized that not only did I have a bird’s eye view overlooking the parade, but I also had undampened acoustics from the nearly twenty creatively off-key high school marching bands below. Drowning out the cacophony with Tristan und Isolda was largely unsuccessful, but John Cage would have been proud of the attempt.
Festivals, in general, are full of amusing juxtapositions. The St. Giles fair in Oxford was by far on one extreme, with a Ferris Wheel next to 16th century architecture, cotton candy sold next to a martyr’s monument and a ring toss next to a medieval graveyard. Sweden takes full advantage of a short summer season by cramming many festivals into their long summer days. Their Restaurant Festival featured the top cuisines from Sweden, Russia, China and the Middle East. The International Festival was catered by Russian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and Swedish restaurants. The Midsummer’s Party had booths from China, the Middle East, Sweden, and Russia while the American Festival had…well, you get the idea. Vikingfest in Poulsbo had a Lukefisk eating contest. What’s Vikingfest, where’s Poulsbo and what is Lukefisk, you may ask? All I will say is, “You’re not missing much.”
But I digress. The deep-fried Twinkie was quite good. It was of a limited-vintage strawberry-crème filling variety that has seasonal availability. It was gently battered and expertly fried, such that there was a crispy outside that complemented the moist cake and crème on the inside. A dusting of powdered sugar, a generous dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel enhanced the natural flavor of the Twinkie without over powering it. But as good as the deep-fried Twinkie was, it was completely left in the dust by the gooey goodness of the deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That was simply heavenly.
S. J. Russell