JOPLIN, Mo. —
Fall is such a magnificent time of year. The air is cool and crisp. The leaves crunch beneath our feet. The majestic maples are ablaze with color.
Yes, these things are all very nice. But my favorite part about fall is the festivals. For me, they’re a celebration of the oppressive heat coming to an end and a last hurrah before winter sludge sends me into hibernation. And I love an excuse to eat fried food from a truck -- a sure thing at all festivals.
As a Carthage native, I’m biased. The Maple Leaf Festival is my favorite fall festival, and believe you me, I’ve been to plenty. It’s held the third weekend of October, so yes, you just missed it. I look forward to the Maple Leaf Festival more than I do the holidays. The holidays are stressful. Maple Leaf is not. For natives, it’s an extended family and class reunion. But you’re not stuck in a hall or a relative’s dining room. At the parade, it’s customary to wander and chat with familiar faces, then go on your way. Perfect.
Back to the food. I do my best to be good, and generally follow some simple rules regarding diet and exercise. Our bodies are not meant to be sedentary. We also must feed them well. You know what I mean by “well.” There are certain events where I feel I must indulge my palette in order to fully experience said event. For example, at the Maple Leaf Festival, I like to have nachos for breakfast. I like to balance that out by having a locally made tamale or bratwurst for brunch. If my daughter can’t finish her doughnut, I take the burden upon myself. You want to share a large cube of curly fries in the shape of a fry basket? OK. I must do these things in order to fully experience the event.
This gastronomical affair happens only once a year. I let myself have it, because I feel ill at the end of it all and am more than ready to wait a year for the next Maple Leaf Festival. If you have more self-control than me, try these tasty, healthier alternatives for snacking during the festivities.
Popcorn snack mix
6 to 8 cups popped popcorn (air-popped is healthiest)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup raw, unsalted almonds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup diced, dried apricots
Sprinkle hot, freshly popped popcorn with cinnamon, tossing to coat evenly. In a separate bowl, combine the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cranberries and apricots. Mix well. Toss the nut, seed and fruit mixture with the popcorn. I like to add a little salt. This will help you resist the kettle corn that’s available on nearly every corner at fall festivals.
Adapted from www.goodlifeeats.com
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups walnut halves (I also use almonds, pecans or a mixture of all three)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
In a large nonstick skillet, heat honey, oil and 1 tablespoon water over medium heat. Add walnuts; toss to coat. Sprinkle the sugar, salt, cumin, coriander and cayenne over the nuts. Cook, tossing and stirring until the nuts are well-coated and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet to cool completely.
Adapted from www.wholeliving.com
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