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State Fair Madness – Once a Year, We Exhibit Our Food Insanity

August 24th, 2011 · 1 Comment

Cheesy, of course - but Wisconsin fans proudly sport foam cheese chapeaux during football games. All that's missing is snow - and bare chests.

Friend and former co-worker Tom Sears, a Wisconsin native, keeps me abreast of all things weird in the Badger State – as if cheese-hat-wearing, barechested-in-snow football nutcases weren’t enough.

Actually, I think he does it so I won’t feel so bad about my native state that makes national news daily with our own tropical brand of crazies.

He sent me a link to the story that now declares the Wisconsin State Fair the holder of the title of World’s Largest Creampuff. (Cream puffs are the state’s signature fair food.) Guinness says so, so it must be true. At 125.6 pounds, and 7.5 inches high – who can argue? You Frenchies, eat your cream puffs out – America whips you again.

State fairs never fail for weird food news

Those looking for nutso stories, food, or otherwise, can always tap the state fairs across the U.S. The Midway, what once was a fairly tame game of eating pure spun sugar or fried funnel cakes as big as your head has turned into a carnival and contest of its own. Who can fry the weirdest food? is the nature of the ridiculous, followed by the Sugar Coma contenders.

This week, Texas wins. Deep-fried butter is the heart-stopping creation of Abel Gonzales Jr. (who also brought us deep-fried cookie dough, fried PB&J sandwiches, and fried Coke – the guy’s sizzling hot with ideas) for the Big Tex competition.

The pure butter, surrounded by a deep-fat-friendly batter tinged with cinnamon and sugar, tastes like “a hot roll with butter,” says Sue Gooding, spokeswoman for the State Fair of Texas. (It’s that state’s 125th fair, Sept. 30-Oct. 23.) Read all about the butter here.

In 2008, the Lone Star state brought us Chicken-fried bacon. (Think chicken-fried steak…with bacon sitting in for the steak.)  In 2010, it was Fried Beer. Fried and beer in the same sentence usually indicates a place I’d rather not go.

For a light read called “20 Foods You Likely Didn’t Know They Could Fry,” go to ireallylikefood.com – just don’t do it if you have a weak stomach.

But the food crazies aren’t kept to only editbles.

I reported a couple of years ago about the Butter Bust tradition – the carving of Princess Kay of the Milky Way, the Butter Princess. This is from the Minnesota State Fair (milk and butter craziness is all over the Dairy Belt) which starts Thursday (Aug. 25) and continues through Labor Day.

That fair has its tradition of “food on a stick.” When we food editors met there a few years ago, we sampled one bite each of more than 120 foods on a stick. Even a nibble of each was enough to send us into a food coma. Spaghetti on a stick, fried mac and cheese on a stick, milkshakes on a stick – you name it, they ran it through with a skewer.

Lucille Ball - in seeds, nuts and beans

They also have the most impressive collection of crop art I’ve ever seen. Lucy never looked so good as when made from lentils and pumpkin seeds…

Iowa’s Butter Cow

In Iowa recently, all eyes were on politics, but they’ve got Red Velvet Funnel Cake to offer the red-state fair-goers, and not to lose any fried-sugar food points, Chocolate-covered Fried Ice Cream on a stick.

Oh, and Iowa doesn’t stop with a bust o’ butter – it carves a whole bovine out of the fat. The “World-famous Butter Cow” is in the Agriculture Building – it celebrated its 100th year at the fair. 600 pounds of “low moisture, pure cream Iowa butter” goes into the life-size sculpture.

Next to the cow is a “companion” sculpture honoring some other fair theme. In 2010 it was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss’s State Fair (60th Anniversary Edition)” target=”_blank”>State Fair? “Don’t miss it – don’t even be late!”

Florida’s own State Fair in February

In February, posing usually perfect weather, the Florida State Fair swings for 12 days. (Next one is Feb. 9-20, 2012.) I’ve been a judge at their annual wine competition and the baking contest – always fun experiences.

Chocolate covered Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger

But we have our share of food nonsense as well – remember the Krispy Kreme burgers?

They had to work hard to cap it and devised the unbelieveably evil chocolate-covered Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger – covering all the bases for sure. (Would you really like fries with that?)

Last year, a vendor presented a meatloaf sundae – grilled meatloaf, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and  a cherry-tomato topping presented in a sundae glass. A “Pancake Cupcake” with maple frosting and bacon sprinkles had some fairgoers swooning.

Fairs are for extremes

Nobody ever claims these foods are healthy  – they’re extreme novelties and we all know it. But that’s what fairs are about – extremes – the biggest pumpkin, the prettiest cows, the fastest pigs.

While it seems a dubious distinction to have the weirdest or most disgusting fried food, it’s America. Everything has to have a weird factor. For the food world, that means the most sugar and the most gallons of edible oil in one place. Welcome to the State Fair.

Tags: Today in the World of Food

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Nava Viniar // Aug 25, 2011 at 9:14 am

    I look forward to reading your article everyday – you always share interesting information-
    Thank you for what you do!!

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