COLUMN: PNE’s wacky food lineup is a lot to digest

In my 21 years in Metro Vancouver, I’ve strolled through gates of the PNE exactly once. Well, technically twice, since I did leave at the end of the day. But in my single visit to the fair several summers ago, I didn’t test my mettle on the midway rides or tour the famous prize home.

I did take in a free concert, caught the tail end of a Super-dogs show and managed to inflict some serious damage to my bank account in the marketplace. (I regret nothing as I’m snaking my bathroom sink drain and cleaning my floors with my fancy steam-mop.)

With this limited exposure, I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert on the annual exhibition.

Food, on the other hand, has been a lifelong love of mine. Nothing fancy, mind you – I’m not into molecular gastronomy (food blended into foam, for the uninitiated) or gourmet haute cuisine (where every course is a new game of ‘what is this thing on my plate?’) But this is the PNE, and so, clearly, that’s not what we’re talking about.

One characteristic these offerings do all have in common, though, is that most of them appear to be based on a dare.

If it can be battered and deep-fried, someone at the fair will batter and fry it.

And someone else will eat it.

As is tradition, the annual list of unique culinary offerings from the PNE – the fair fare, if you will – has been released a few weeks before the gates are set to swing open.

Saturday, Aug. 17 will mark the beginning of another season of fairgoers gorging on greasy meals and then working to keep it all down while being tossed, turned, twisted and twirled high above the pavement.

So what new and exciting food items will those below need to keep a lookout for this year?

Topping the menu for 2019 are Atomic tacos and Buddha-Ful vegetarian selections, as the PNE boasts an “increased focus on plant-based vegan and vegetarian options.”

If that all sounds a little too healthy, wait just a minute. The next paragraph is where it really gets good.

This year’s new offerings will also include such intriguing items as Butter Beer ice cream, devil’s ramen and – wait for it – pickle flavour cotton candy.

If that’s not enough to get your salivary glands going, there’s always pulled pork tater tot nachos, pickle pizza or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos corn dogs. And you can wash it all down with a tipsy unicorn dry ice drink or jalapeño lemonade.

From here, there’s really nowhere to go but up. And at the PNE, that means hitting the midway and soaring into the Atmosfear or riding the Hellevator to the top before plummeting back to earth (hopefully, bringing your stomach’s contents with you).

There’s actually something kind of symbolic about the PNE falling at the end of summer as it does. It offers adventure seekers a chance for one last hurrah – whether that means facing down your fear of heights or challenging your digestive system to a duel. Once the fair is over, it’s back to school or work, and boring bagged lunches or sensible salads.

So if you’re dying to snarf down funnel cake pizza or a snickly dog (weird how my computer keeps trying to autocorrect that to sickly) this is likely going to be your one chance all year.

Why not slap on some sunscreen, (no reason for all sense to go out the window) bring a hat (not your best one) and send summer hurling out on a high note.

Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News.

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