By sheer luck, our drive up Highway 1 lands us in Ventura, CA, while the Ventura County Fair — “The County Fair with Ocean Air” — is in town.
What kind of cuisine comes to mind when you think about a county fair? Corn dogs? Funnel cakes? Chili cheese dogs? Greasy wedges of pizza, with cheap cheese and half-dollar-sized slices of pepperoni? Deep-fried Oreos dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts?
Not much for vegans, eh?
That thought is heavy on my mind as we stroll through the gates. Fair food is a huge part of being at the fair! But as a vegan … what would I eat? (“It’s a good thing,” I whisper to myself, “that I’ve already picked out a good vegan restaurant in downtown Ventura for later.”)
But then, just as we veer toward the fairway, we spy a local farmer feeding bright green unshucked ears of corn into a roaster. Who could resist that aroma? We stroll up to the counter and order two ears.
“Two dipped in butter!” the farmer replies.
“No,” I say quickly. “Just plain.”
“No butter?” the man asks, looking at me like I’m an alien. “The shaky cheese sticks to it better if you butter it.”
“Just plain,” I say, smiling. And the result is delicious:
A bit later — after wandering through the livestock pavilion and watching the goats gobble up mounds of grass — we find ourselves in front of a “Fresh Mex” food stand serving, of all things, vegan burritos! Eight dollars later, we’re chowing down on fresh veggies, rice, beans, hot peppers, and vegan cheese wrapped in a spinach tortilla:
When the time comes to leave the fairgrounds, I could barely waddle toward the gates, but that didn’t keep my nose from noticing the high, sweet, cotton-candy smell of roasting almonds. Hot roasted almonds! Dipped in cinnamon! And — lo and behold — out front of the food stall is a sign explaining how Linde’s almonds are bathed in a water-based solution … free of butter or eggs … and completely, totally vegan.
That kind of thinking has to be rewarded with a purchase … don’t you agree?
Maybe it’s because this is a county fair in Ventura … or maybe its because vendors are more attuned to dietary trends than they were when I was a kid … or maybe we’re just creative and we notice options we overlooked in the past … but it turns out the state fair is a great place to be vegan.