Tuesday, July 30, 1996
Feeling blue? Try high-fat, low-tech diet

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Do you feel in need of fresh air?

Would you like to go someplace with your family where you don't have to walk through a metal detector?

Have you just about had it with tofu and fake fat and noodles that are called pasta?

Are you looking for a little reassurance that America, as you know it, has not been completely ruined by lunatics?

Go to a county fair. Last week I checked myself into the Butler County Fair, and I felt better immediately.

Any county fair will do, but the best ones are far from city traffic and urban amusements. Look for one where the big attractions are still 4-H kids with cows and an innocence that can produce an adolescent girl proud to be called Pork Queen. Try to find one where they give a blue ribbon for the best apron.

The original nose rings

If you see a bank of video games and corporate sponsors and people wearing topsiders and lime green pants, you are in the wrong place. You should be seeing old boots with real mud and belt buckles the size of dinner plates.

The nose rings are on the cattle.

You want to look for truck and tractor pulls, demolition derbies, flower shows, mountain clog dancers and livestock sales. There should be pony rides and a Ferris wheel and a dunking booth. Competition for the best canned beans should be fierce. But there is no competition for parking.

For $1, I could leave my car all day in the shade at the fairgrounds north of Hamilton. The young man who directed me to my space in the grass allowed enough room on either side for me to open my door without dinging the car on either side.

He held my purse while I looked for my sunglasses.

For another dollar, I bought an enormous cloud of pink cotton candy, which looked just exactly like Tammy Faye Bakker's hair on a good day. Never mind that two hours earlier, in another life, I insisted that the waiter deliver my salad with the dressing on the side.

In search of cholesterol

There's something wonderfully liberating about eating a funnel cake in public and standing in line to buy something called ''fried dough.'' Nothing had labels on the side with nagging reminders about sodium and potassium. No mention was made of nutrition, and I think we can assume that anything you eat while walking down a midway has no socially or nutritionally redeeming value.

That's the point. Just about the most dangerous experience you'll have at a county fair is cholesterol overload. Or a sugar high.

If your kids want to pet the lambs, you don't have to check first to see whether there are razor blades hidden in the wool. The bunnies do not have explosives in their ears. You do not have to pay extra to see the sheep shearing.

No one is smoking dope in the audience at the grandstand during the horse show or the harness racing.

Politicians in shirt sleeves give away refrigerator magnets and note paper and rulers. But they don't make you listen to any speeches or ask for money. They don't even try to kiss your baby. It's too hot, and there are no TV cameras.

The big police presence at the Butler County Fair was a sheriff's department tent with Officer Bob and his horse. No guns were drawn, and I scored another refrigerator magnet.

If somebody jostles you while you're trying to win a hat at the dart games, they'll apologize and offer to buy you a round of darts. I am not kidding. You can usually toss a ring and for about 10 times what it would cost in a store, win a 2-liter bottle of Coke.

I never did see a salad bar.

Maybe you'd just like your kids to see ''the other white meat'' on the hoof. Or meet Officer Bob's horse. Maybe you'd simply like to remember what it felt like to be safe.

Fried dough, corn dogs, cotton candy and French waffles with powdered sugar and a contest to see who made the best apron may not be conventional medicine. But it's a lot cheaper than Prozac.

And it feels a lot better than giving up.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.9 MHz) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.