The state fair is probably the closest my family comes to debauchery. I'm not talking about the beer gardens, which I don't dare enter. This is not a teetotaler's resolve; it's just that alcohol dulls the senses. One needs his wits about him while shepherding four boys carefully onto and off of rides, hurriedly past games of (minimal) chance, and gingerly by cages of animals who are not all as passive as our lazy dog.
No, our debauchery is of the food variety: corn dogs, fried cheese, pizza, funnel cakes, cookies, ice cream, cinnamon rolls, popcorn, candy apples-and that's all before dinner. The fair is like a small, free state outside the clutches of nutrition experts and federal food safety czars. We are its delighted tourists.
But as Viktor Frankl once noted of the United States, we could well use a Statue of Responsibility to offset our monument to Liberty. There is no such responsibility in evidence at the fair, as six sticky faces and slightly queasy bellies can attest during the somber ride home after every such Woodlief outing.
Gluttony is not a topic often covered in modern Protestant churches with which I'm familiar. The glitzier sex sins are so much more easily delineated and decorously hidden. Gluttony is manifested in fatness of waist and glamour of acquisitions, among other phenomena. It is, like gossip and sloth, a public sin, which is perhaps why we are less inclined to comment on it in our modern era of offend-no-soul faith.
And yet it comes into full relief at the fair, not only in what I stuff down my own gullet, but also in ubiquitous obesity. Yes, there are those poor people with vague glandular issues that predispose fatness, so we are told, just as there are people for whom the main purpose of television is viewing the History Channel. But these are a small minority of the total. We are fat, a great many of us, and while critics like Michael Pollan have valid points about how industrialization and government manipulation of the food industry have helped get us here, I can't help but think that at least a small part of it, for one or two of us, is our own gluttony.
But perhaps that's just the recovering drunkard's zeal in me, newly resolved as I am to control my appetites. At least, that is, until George Foreman comes up with a home funnel-cake machine. Or until the fair comes back to town. "Most people would like to be delivered from temptation," observed Robert Orben, "but would like it to keep in touch."