A Good Reason to Cheat

I don’t have time to write and cook today. I’m half way down I-95, nowhere near my desk/kitchen, headed to my family in Philadelphia to be with our aunt. Like the rest of us, she’s been cooped up in her apartment since mid-March, even passing her 91st birthday with no more fanfare than calls and deliveries of flowers, wine and chocolate covered strawberries.

Her retirement community posted green lights last Friday and, by noon, my sister Sue, and I had plotted a plan: I pick her up then drive down to Sue’s little New Jersey shore house. We’re a very lucky family in that none of us have fallen ill and Sue, a strict medical professional, gave equally strict instructions for keeping our aunt safe. She’ll sit way in the back seat of my car and Sue’s house will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected by the time we arrive. We’ll be outside as much as possible and, when not, maintain social distancing, always wearing our masks. It will be a heavenly two day escape from limbo.

Thus, this little story from the 2019 archive. Its subject is the tradition of politicians campaigning at summer fairs across the country. It comes from a job a few years back that required running around the country where writers and photographers in the Depression era’s Works Progress Administration traveled in search of community feasts that formed the bases of American food.

The work involved devouring as much food as possible at state fairs, church suppers, community dinners, cooking contests, country barbecues, small town celebrations and local civic organizational’s fund raisers. Pounds and pounds later, I waddled into an editor’s office to deliver pages jammed with what I found.

Enjoy What They Ate at the Fair!

I’ll see you later in the week. . . .

Note about photographs: Many of the most famous photographers and writers of the 20th century got their start in the WPA, including Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, and Marion Post Wolcott; Richard Wright, Saul Bellows, Eudora Welty; and Ralph Ellison. Photos used here represent the work of Russell Lee (top row, left, cowboys; second row, middle, Iowa fair). The rest are from Marion Post Wolcott.

Cover photo: Russell Lee “Cake and pies for community barbecue fair in Pie Town, NM.”

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