Thank goodness Summerfest is done, so we can concentrate on summer’s real Big Gig: Church Festival Season.

Some of us wait all year to play Chuck-a-Luck and, more importantly, to eat our fill (and then some) of those deep-fried Italian doughnuts.

It took me until last summer to finally indulge in “fried dough” — a delicacy so special it goes by several names.

The first place to get these doughnuts is the Mount Carmel Church Festival, conveniently opening Friday night.

I had been told by several local experts that until I sampled that hot, sweet, doughy summer treat, I could not in good conscience pass myself off as a “true” Kenoshan. Seriously. Being born here means nothing until I’ve joined the Fried Dough Club.

My husband, Rex, and I started off that fateful night at the festival with various warm-up foods — deep-fried ravioli and eggplant strips, pizza and corn on the cob — to lay down a layer of festival food grease in our stomachs.

Being new to the fried doughnut game, we were unsure of how to proceed. Luckily, folks at the festival sensed our confusion and told us that, to find the elusive doughnuts, we needed to walk past the festival grounds entrance and head toward a garage. There, they would exchange cash for doughnuts, which can be eaten plain or rolled in sugar or powdered sugar. Why someone would choose “plain” when powdered sugar is an option escapes me, but I would eat everything — broccoli included — rolled in powdered sugar if I could withstand the public shame.

“Going to a second location just makes this more exciting,” Rex said as we crept toward that doughnut garage. “It lends more weight to their mysterious reputation and feels slightly illegal.”

Fried dough tips

There are three things I learned from that initial fried dough/Italian doughnut encounter:

Bring along a Doughnut Buddy. I am a two-bite doughnut eater. No way could I eat more than that — especially after consuming all those warm-up foods.

Make sure you have plenty of hand wipes; a napkin along won’t do for this sticky concoction.

Carry some cash with you. Deep-fried Italian doughnuts aren’t an expensive food, but they do cost more than your average sweet roll. However, they are also bigger than your head and are perfect for sharing. I did hear from a reader who said she and her mother thought $3.50 a piece (the 2018 price) was too much. “Our reasoning is that we could get a whole box of doughnuts for that price and eat all week long on them and not just for one night.” I applaud the self-control of anyone who can make a box of doughnuts last more than a few hours ... or minutes.

The good news is that every weekend from now through August, you can eat your own way through our local church festivals. Each event has its own specialties, which are fun to discover. If you’re mad for fried dough, Holy Rosary has its own booth, which regularly sells out.

The best part? Church festival calories do not count against your daily total. (At least that’s what I tell myself.)

Look in the GO Kenosha section each Thursday for church festival previews. You may just discover your own local food legend.

Have a comment? Email Liz at esnyder@kenoshanews.com or call her at 262-656-6271.

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