Monday September 30, 2013 | 08:41 AM

I went to the Cumberland Country Fair on its last day this past Saturday.  I arrived in the late morning feeling fit and trim and left several hours later having foraged through every stuffed, fried, grilled and battered morsel of junk food that’s so much a fixture of these fairs now. 

Inside one of the "general" exhibition halls where there was food, flowers, animals and souvenirs

Ice cream at the fair

Aren’t county fairs supposed to be all about our local agricultural heritage--live-stock shows, rodeos, farming and the like?  And that the food should be secondary to give the visitor the sustenance to go from one exhibit to the next?

Instead, they have turned into culinary blue ribbons  for fried dough, humongous hero rolls filled with grilled sausage and onions and all else that make the  fair grounds smell like one giant fryolator.

I must, however, admit to my weakness for corn dogs.  It’s not that I have these very often but generally make a bee-line to the nearest vendor who sells these unctuous corn-coated dogs pierced with a stick.  I found my corn dog eventually and couldn’t finish the greasy concoction with its tasteless frankfurter inside.

But then I stumbled upon an actual food hall--a vast space that could have held hundreds of spectators.  Inside was the North Yarmouth Fire Company holding court with a great display of their fire-house baked beans served from huge cauldrons. There were four kinds--Jacob’s cattle, Peaberry, yellow eye and kidney.  Sides included Cole slaw, biscuits, pork rinds and carrot cake.  For $10 you could get the works filled to the brim in a Styrofoam compartmentalized container.  

At the entryway to the North Yarmouth Fire Company's Bean Hole Dinner

I couldn’t eat all of it but had a cup of beans (excellent) and an irresistible looking slice of carrot cake.  The beans were very good and not overly sweet.  And the cake had a terrific cream cheese icing.  At least this was civilized, home-style fare, something regional that Maine can call its own. 

These fire company's baked beans were some of the best food served at the fair 

Members of the North Yarmouth Fire Company tending to their bean pots 

the fire company's excellent carrot cake

I eventually got my corn dog.  Now I’m over them.  This one was  too greasy and fatty and the actual hot dog  was tasteless.  I nibbled on some fried dough because I had to try it and slurped on excellent chowder from Orr’s Island.  I walked around going to many of the exhibits, both out of interest and to walk off all that food. 

If you missed this fair and the Common Ground Fair  before, there’s always Fryeburg, which opened this past Sunday.

Pictorial review of the Cumberland County Fair and food.

The corn dog at the fair

A popular vendor at the fair

Not a good sign for this vendor

What's a county fair without candied apples?

Chicken fingers (local?) were big at the fair this year

Fried dough vendors predominated at the fair

Very good chowder from this vendor

Nachos and the mystery burrito

Excellent fish and chips

The ever popular grilled sausages

Cows at rest


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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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