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Corn dogs, paint and other fair scents
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This is a corn dog, hot dog, funnel cake, crab cake, mini donut, cotton candy, kettle corn, caramel corn, sweet corn, gyro, taco, slider, snow cone, chocolate-covered frozen banana time of year. State fairs, county fairs and any other sorts of affairs bring good folks together during warm weather months for one clear purpose, and it isn't about walking along dusty gravel roads touring barns and viewing farm animals - although I certainly enjoy a good bunny or pig exhibit when I see one.

The actual fair experience centers on the scents and smells - of the food, not the swine. Imagine: Cotton candy machines throwing sweetness into the air. Kettle corn aroma surrounding you with buttery goodness. Turkey legs roasting. Kabobs grilling. Barbecue barbecuing. Deep fryers overflowing with corn dogs, funnel cakes and sizzling Snickers bars.

It's enough to put a regular person into a sensory stupor. We're talking olfactory overload - an odiferous odyssey. Pause. Take it all in - and out. Just breathe.

According to my highly scientific sources (AKA Google), 110,000 different smells exist in nature. Most humans can perceive about 100 to 200, but there are six basic smells most often detected by our noses. They are sweet, spicy, fruity, burned, putrid and paint. Yeah, paint. Go figure.

I love visiting the fair. Each summer, I attempt to smell - and eat - my way from entrance to exit. This year, I got waylaid. Not by corn dogs or bunny exhibits, but by paint. While other people indulged in fruity funnel cakes and spicy whatchamacallits on a stick, I held a paintbrush and breathed in odor number six on the list of scents to catch a whiff of in 2012.

This could have been the end of my olfactory experience, except for the dog. She must have eaten food that disagreed with her stomach - perhaps an errant corn dog or deep-fried something-or-other. Whatever it was, she had tummy troubles - in a word, gas. And she was passing it generously throughout the room, like an overflowing bag of mini donuts. My luck kept getting better and better.

I painted. The dog tooted, filling the atmosphere with anything but a mini donut aroma - if you catch my drift. I believe flatulence is covered under the category of putrid scents, which is number five on the scientific list. I found myself longing to catch a whiff of good old number six. Not even the ceiling fan or open windows served to help my plight.

I tried to focus on pleasant thoughts. State fair food fodder is legendary. You'll find crawfish and frog legs in Louisiana, croco tacos in Florida. Minnesota serves up deep fried lamb testicles and camel on a stick. For a bacon peanut banana burger (aka "the Elvis") head to Indiana. Fried jelly beans are the pride of New York; fried bubble gum gets chewy in Texas. You can purchase deep fried butter in Iowa, deep fried beer in Wisconsin and pickle soda pop in Kansas. California serves Caesar salad on a stick (of course). For dessert, order a mealworm covered caramel apple in Arizona (if you dare).

All these thoughts of food made me hungry. Luckily, my paint bucket was as empty as my stomach, so I stepped over the dog and headed to the kitchen for a bite to eat. Since we didn't have any deep fried Pop Tarts, dill pickles or watermelon, and we were plum out of nachos or spaghetti on a stick, I opted for the culinary classic: peanut butter and jelly on toast. It may have looked like a normal sandwich, but in my mind, it was deep fried, on a stick, dipped in rich dark chocolate and rolled in nuts.

Boy, did it smell good. Well, better than the dog, at least.

- Jill Pertler's column appears every Thursday in the Times. She can be reached at