The Great Minnesota Get Together
The love that Minnesotans have for their State Fair is really something to behold. People talk about it for months before hand. They anxiously await the release of the new fair foods with baited breath. The pre-fair buzz that permeates around this state is almost palpable, and all anyone can say during those precious twelve days before labor day is “Have you been to the fair yet?!” It’s like a great pilgrimage, one that seemingly rejuvenates and invigorates Minnesotans to their core. It’s as if upon birth, tiny Minnesotan babies are sprinkled with a drug that instills within them not just a love for the fair, but a need for the fair. Don’t get me wrong, I am not judging it. As a matter of fact, I’m in awe of it. Of all things for a people to bond over, I can’t think of anything more wholesome than agriculture barns and food on a stick.
Ah, there’s the rub, the food culture of the Minnesota State Fair (and all state fairs, for that matter). Your average red blooded, fair loving Minnesotan covets the list of new fair food as a sort of treasure map, a guide to the best of the best that will make this year even more special than the one before it. If you have an eating disorder, these food vendors are like land-mines.
My eating disorder was all about one word; Control. Food was the only aspect of my life that I thought I could even remotely control. Everything else may have been a chaotic mess, but when it came to calories entering my body, that was all me. I decided, no one else decided for me. Not my parents, not my friends, not my doctors, just me. I got very good at handling normal, everyday situations that usually included food. At breakfast, I would claim that I was never hungry in the morning. At lunch, I would say that I had eaten a big breakfast. At dinner, I would say that I had eaten a big lunch. I usually avoided restaurants, but if I did find myself at one, I would pull the classic tricks; pushing my food around so it looked like I had eaten, spitting food out in napkins, a couple of times I even put a plastic bag in my purse, filled the bag up with food from my plate, excused myself to the restroom, and dumped all of the food from the bag into the toilet.
None of this ever worked at the fair. It wasn’t the Minnesota State Fair mind you, it was the Wisconsin State Fair, but the premise is pretty much the same. There is just so much food, each item more fatty and caloric, more deep fried and cheese covered than the next. It’s coming at you from every angle, it’s incessant and all-consuming. The worst part was watching people enjoy it. It made me so angry. “How can they be liking this? It’s making them so fat! Don’t they even care?!” My fat-phobia knew no bounds when I was anorexic. Fat was the absolute worst thing a person could be, and the fair made me angry, spiteful, anxious, and alone. It made me feel like a different species all together. I know now that it wasn’t the fair doing all that to me, it was anorexia. I had a disease that had brainwashed me into isolation, and made me fear all of the best parts about being a human being. It stripped me of everything, and it blamed it on the fair.
I wish I could tell you that today, I absolutely love the fair just like any Minnesotan that was born here. I can’t say that yet, the crowds still make me anxious and I still don’t really “get” the whole thing, but I DO love the food. Zack and I went last Sunday and sincerely had a great time. Here’s a photo of me doing what seems to be a weirdly sneaky, State Fair version of the hamburglar pose, with a sangria slushy in one hand and a raspberry sundae from the Dairy Barn in the other.
We spent three hours there, and in addition to the aforementioned items, I had a brat, a chocolate mocha, and my new favorite thing, fried chicken with sausage gravy in a waffle cone from Blue Barn. Did I wake up the next morning feeling puffy and bloated? Yep. Did I have some pretty self-deprecating thoughts about it? You bet. The great thing is that those thoughts are getting quieter and less pervasive as I continue to practice body confidence, and I can focus on the fact that I really truly did have a great time that night. This was one of those experiences that made me take a step back and realize how much more fulfilling my life is now. I thought I had the most control when I was anorexic, but in reality I was spiraling, my disease had all of the control. Now that I’ve recovered, NOW is when I feel the most in control of my own life.
The Minnesota State Fair, and most fairs for that matter, are special because of their sentimental value. Families go every year. There was that one ride that you loved as a kid, and now you get to take your kids on that very same ride! Maybe your first kiss was at the fair, maybe you got engaged at the fair. Maybe you won an enormous stuffed monkey that your family still talks about. There are so many memories that happen here and that’s beautiful!. For me, the memories during my anorexia cloud a lot of my previous happy childhood memories from the Wisconsin State Fair. They evoke a lot of darkness and pain, but it is so exciting to make new memories now. I am already looking forward to going again next year. We’ll be joining a couple of true, born and raised Minnesotans who live and breathe the State Fair, and I can’t wait to make even more good memories there and really do this whole Minnesota State Fair thing right.
If your eating disorder or your relationship with food is keeping you from enjoying your life, just know that you are not alone and that you can get your life back. It’s hard work, but it is more rewarding than you can possibly imagine. Now go get yourself something delicious on a stick.