We're all friends here, so let's be perfectly honest: We don't go to the fair for the ferris wheel—we go for the food.
When I start seeing signs for the West Louisiana Forestry Festival, my first thought is, "Yes! Funnel cake!" Admit it, so is yours.
But there are so many other edible wonders to experience down what I like to call "Appetite Alley."
This would be the fair food court—a collection of food booths established by some of Leesville's most notable community organizations.
Most of these little concessions have been serving fair goers for decades and have had years to perfect the recipes you find on their menus.
It would take a week of sampling to taste everything, but I put my mind to it and managed to find the very best flavors to be had at our fair. Your exhilarating eating experience may go something like this.
The kids are hungry upon arrival.
Pickering's concession is your first stop. Everything kids love corn dogs, hotdogs, chicken nuggets, fries, cheeseburgers...most for $5 or less.
Now, your grown-up appetite demands a grown-up appetizer—or two.
You head over to the West Louisiana Shrine Club for a "Tater Twister." I like to call it an "Infinity Fry." Imagine a cross between a home-cut, deep-fried potato chip and a twisty strand of DNA.
On the plate, you'll be hard-pressed to find where the potato begins and where it ends. $4.
"Spanky" in the kitchen describes the Tater Twister's elusive origins in flea markets far and wide until a veteran member brought the dish to the Shriner kitchen where this specialty is served year after year. Light, tasty, and oh-so-puzzling!
Appetizer #2. You're drawn to the Leesville Rotary Club's menu that seems to feature every dish that makes Louisiana, well...Louisiana. Natchitoches meat pies, Zwolle tamales, boudin, and much more.
Right now though, you want a Crawfish Pistolette—a lightly fried pillow of bread smothered under a generous ladle of creamy crawfish etouffee, homemade by Connie at the window. Louisiana on a bun. $3 magic.
Your belly is paying attention now. You get the Pilot Club's chicken and sausage gumbo, which is everything gumbo ought to be: a nice taupe Cenla roux base, rich home flavor, and a bold filé edge. $5.
You're at the peak course now. Civitan International's $6 Philly cheesesteak sandwich feels like your world is complete.
Tender, juicy steak strips with onions and bell peppers sautéed just right, layered on the creamiest white cheese on a soft poboy bun. You might secretly take home a second one to secretly eat later.
But wait...What's that impossible configuration of meat and cheese and meat and more cheese on the menu over there at the Disabled American Veterans booth?
That would be the South of the Border Homewrecker, a one-plate feast that defies the laws of culinary balance.
Toast, hamburger patty, hotdogs, chili, cheese, onions, jalapeno, and jalapeno mustard. It sounds like an abomination, but one bite, and you get a mouthful of what it means to be alive. This, my friend, is indulgence—a glorious cheeseburger-nacho-chili-dog work of art—$6. You're so glad you remembered to bring Tums, and that you suspended your diet until New Year's.
Ah, yes. Dessert! You're going to have to exercise a bit of diligence if you want to taste fair euphoria.
Before leaving the Disabled American Veterans concession, you grab an order of fried Oreos. $2.50. While you're waiting for your cookies to cool, you hustle to the other end of the food court to the little black-and-white checkered "Ice Cream" trailer and order one chocolate-dipped cheesecake.
With both desserts in hand, you take three bites in the following order: cheesecake, Oreo, cheesecake. Repeat repeatedly. This must be what heaven tastes like.
The perfect conclusion to your adventure is a comforting cup of coffee—found exclusively for $1 at American Legion Post 145.
Hot chocolate also available along with fair food classics.
You've reached the end of your quest. You may be a few dollars lighter and you may need to unbutton your pants, but this is what you've come for. This is what you come back for every year. Forget fun. The fair means FOOD.
About Ailina: Ailina Willis lives, loves, and eats with passion in Leesville, LA. firstname.lastname@example.org.