Monday, July 23, 2007

The "frot brot" fräulein

This weekend, Smalltown, Minn. had its annual Town Church Bazaar/Citywide festival. Even though I am not an official “parishioner” of the Town Church (club memberships such as these do not fit into my meager budget) I am a registered voter in Smalltown, so I volunteered to help out at a festival booth.

The booth where I was stationed for about three hours Saturday night was a German fry bread stand. Smalltown and its slightly more or less-populated neighboring cities are heavily of German descent, so I suspect this is why the stand was called Gebraten frot brot. I am not sure what that means, although I am told “frot brot” translates to “fry bread.” I don’t speak the language, so I cannot confirm or deny this. I also don’t know that concept of deep frying bread dough and sprinkling it with a cinnamon and sugar mixture is that uniquely German in origin.

Much to the relief of all who knew that I was volunteering at this booth, I did NOT have anything to do with the hot grease or the deep fryer. I was in the less perilous position of coating the “frot brots.” This required that I pick up the drip-dried “frot brots” with tongs and drop them into a sugar-filled canister. Then (after returning the lid to said canister) shake it to provide the “frot brots” with their sweet coating.

Given my track record, I mentally prepared myself for the likelihood that the canister lid would (at least) one time slip off and I would be covered in sugar and pelted with “frot brots.” Fortunately, I left the festival the same way I came - for the most part.

I didn’t actually try a “frot brot” – though I was told repeatedly I could sample the product. Inhaling their sugary fumes for three hours straight was enough to trick my stomach into thinking I had already eaten a quantity that could make me sick.

At the end of the night, some of the “frot brots” were getting cold, and the drunken city folk began to cluster around the beer garden for “last call.” It became clear we would have to give away our remaining inventory, although many of the “frot brot” booth folks thought taking them home or eating them ourselves would also be an acceptable alternative.

I kind of felt guilty giving a cardboard tray with three “frot brots” to young children for the low price of $1.25. I knew those children would eat all three “frot brots” themselves, and also that there was absolutely no nutritional value in them. They are like sweet lard-biscuits.

I just hoped that this poor, parent-approved dietary selection was reserved for fair time only.

The Town Church Festival seems to bring out the best and the worst in people. Some people become their best selves, giving of their time, their money, and their energy to help their community; others become their worst selves, drinking too much, eating too much, or just behaving badly and taking advantage of the kindness of others. In the end the two groups probably balance each other out, but it’s the prevalence of the latter that makes me happy that the festival is over.