James Lileks
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We are at the point in September where we regret, or celebrate, our State Fair impulse purchases.

One year I was watching this guy make salsa, right in front of everyone. We were all in the dark about actual salsa manufacturing before that. Oh, we knew there were tomatoes involved, and onions and cilantros, but the whole process by which they were arranged into salsa was one of those things you left to the experts. They know what they're doing.

But here was this guy casually demystifying the whole salsa paradigm, chopping and mixing. A thrill rolled through the crowd: "You know, I could do that."

Of course, once you think you can, the stranglehold of Big Salsa is broken. But then you think, "No, it can't possibly be that simple. The salsa made by experts has some flavoring, some spices I just can't whip up out of nowhere."

Turns out that's what the guy was selling. Powder! You added it to your chopped-up stuff, and you had fresh salsa. Never pay for salsa again — aside from the ingredients and the cost of the powder, of course.

But wait, there's more, he told us: "If you buy the salsa powder today at the special State Fair price, which we've cut in half in contravention to all economic laws and theories, you'll get this specially calibrated scoop for free." And by "free," he means it's been factored into the price.

I bought a pound of the stuff. I think I ended up using a teaspoon of it, and that was when I added it to some salsa I bought at the store.

On the other hand, I bought some plastic slider things that seal bags of chips and cereal, and I've used them daily for years. Yes, I got them at the special State Fair price. And get this: They threw in some other special tiny plastic slider things —- for free! They're great for resealing individual packs of sugar. I never use them.

My wife came back from the fair with a fancy lethal kitchen shear. It will cut through anything, including your hand. There's a Lifetime Guarantee, so if it breaks in 2047, head right back to the fair with your receipt clutched in the hand that still has all its fingers.

Do we need a knife this sharp? The good thing about dull knives is that you don't have to worry about IFTS, or Inadvertent Finger-Tip Separation. We have a bread knife that eventually might halve a bagel, in the sense that an emery board eventually might saw through a sequoia. But what's the point of having a knife so sharp I have to sign a waiver just to open the box?

I know this might strain credulity, but stay with me: When she bought the special finger-severing knife, at the special State Fair price, they threw in a fruit-skinner. It can shave fruit with such lethal precision that it probably was banned by international convention, but if she bought it now, it came with a kit that allowed you to convert it to fully automatic fruit skinning, which would be useful for home defense.

The other night we made steak, and I considered getting out the Death Shears to cut it, but they were in a box, and I didn't want to get the box stained by meat juice. Turned out the meat was so tender I could cut it with a yardstick, which I, of course, got at the fair. At a special price!

And because I acted quickly, they threw in a footlong ruler. Well, about a foot long.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks