After a year off from the Canadian National Exhibition I got back on the bullshit again, making the most out of one well-targeted weekday trip and a couple delivered care packages to help bump up my food explorations. It’s interesting the perspective you get when you step back for a year from a near-compulsion. One of the big things I realized this year was that most of the “stunt” food has become wildly, insultingly overpriced when one considers each item’s ingredients and the comparable non-stunt versions of similar items which are also available at the fair. It’s a psychological barrier that’s real and takes a certain amount of “when am I ever going to try this again?” to motivate a person to eat this crap. That said, nobody with a still-flickering life force goes to the Ex to eat a plain cheese slice at Pizza Nova when there’s, wait for it, pickle pizza available to try (I didn’t try the pickle pizza… that’s not stunt enough).
The new craft beer & food truck & axe-throwing boutique area near what was once an activation wasteland by the Princes’ Gates was a wonderful addition to the Ex. Likewise, the Canadian Ninja Warrior set-up that has replaced the parkour show (parkour!) with the always-entertaining MC Abdominal was a great opportunity to watch physically perfect people fail like chumps. The SuperDogs show was fun, too (Pro tip: go to the first scheduled ‘Dog event of the day. It’s the only one that isn’t psycho-rammed with exasperated parents who don’t know how to navigate crowds.)
The biggest surprise of the year? A food-based redemption arc. If I didn’t experience it with my very own mouth hole I wouldn’t have believed it could happen. On to the food…
Here’s what I ate at the CNE in 2019:
My late, great grandmother used to make the most 10 out of 10-est fudge in the history of fudge and I’ve been fitfully chasing that high ever since. Would these compare? No, of course they wouldn’t. But there were still some good mouth times…
So yeah, we’re all for the new craft beer corner of the Ex that allows you to sit down for a drink in a spot that isn’t a) meant for gambling, b) has terrible country music, or c) features a whoooaaa Québécois Styx cover band.
It used to be that the Ex was a glorious place for cheap eats and free samples. Then for a long time it wasn’t. It appears that a few companies have figured out freebies are a good thing, though.
THE DARING, AUDACIOUS, DELICIOUS AND DISGUSTING
Things I didn’t eat at the CNE in 2018 because I boycotted to support unionized workers who were fighting The Man.
Things I ate at the CNE in 2017. Including Deep Fried Chicken Foot and Savory Fried Spaghetti Donut Ball.
Things I ate at the CNE in 2016. Including Bug Dog with Roasted Crickets and Deep Fried Butter Tarts.
Things I ate at the CNE in 2015. Including Corrado’s S&M Burger and Iron Skillet’s Frosted Flakes Chicken On A Stick.
Things I ate at the CNE in 2014. Including Fran’s Thanksgiving Turkey Waffle and Coco’s Fried Chicken Cocoa Chicken.
Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2013. Including Nutella Jalapeno Poppers and the S’more Dog.
Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2012. Including the Chocolate Eclair Dog and Bacon Nation Nutella BBBLT.
Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2011. Including the Krispy Kreme Hamburger and Deep Fried Twix.
Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2010. Including Deep Fried Butter and Taco In A Bag.