Hope's Corner: ‘Dining on the midway’: Fair food prompts home cooking

Jackie Hope is a humor columnist for The Dickinson Press.

Jackie Hope BW.jpg
Dickinson Press humor columnist Jackie Hope. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Hope)

Want to know our biggest disappointment of the summer, far and away above all the failed garden crops and the Great Vole Invasion? We did not get to go to the State Fair.

The fair is our must-see, an annual road trip. At the fair we always start with the huge farm equipment, where we pet the classic Farmall tractors. Then we pet the goats. We move on to the horses and pigs. One of us refuses to pet pigs. That person is not me.

We do not do carnival rides. Because the rides seriously interfere with our second-favorite fair destination, after the goats. We totally love fair food. Mini donuts and Lutheran ladies’ pies. Indian tacos and chili cheese fries. After milk shakes and chocolate covered bananas, it is unwise to venture onto any rides. We visit the racing pigs, instead.

But this year, because of a family gathering and because of the triple-digit temperatures on the Minot midway, we did not go to the State Fair. No Farmall tractors. No goats. No fair food.

We raced Maxine the Bunny up and down the hallway, but she just lacked the excitement of Daryl’s Racing Pigs. I petted my Corvette, which is absolutely nothing like a Farmall, but is still wicked cool. We longed for fair food.


Last Saturday, as I stood peering into the refrigerator, contemplating a mixed buffet of leftovers, I had fantasies of Indian tacos. Wait, that was something I could perhaps manage to make at home. I consulted Google.

The first ingredient was fry bread. There was a long and detailed recipe for DIY fry bread. I found some only vaguely out-of-date pita flatbreads in the back of the refrigerator. Good enough.

Next I needed ground meat and chili seasoning. Well, chili is my middle name, so I was down with that. Add a layer of refried beans. I had cans of tamales, cans of kidney beans, and cans of Green Giant corn. No refried anything.

The recipe for refried beans began, “Soak 1 pound of pinto beans overnight. Drain, and add to 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 hours.” That would put supper at about 9:30 on the following Sunday night. What to do? Here’s your cooking hack: if you have a meat hammer, you can turn kidney beans into refried beans. Season them liberally with Tabasco, and nobody will be the wiser.

Now, here is where I really have to brag. The tacos needed to be garnished with lettuce and tomatoes. Well, I picked my first beautiful Roma tomato that very same morning. Never mind that the rabbits ate my lettuce, roots and all, in mid-June. I had a home-grown tomato, which turned my tacos into perfection.

Were the tacos as good as fair food? Almost. The only thing they lacked were the little plastic knives and forks, and the excitement of dining on the midway. Next year, Minot, we are coming.

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