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Jim Mullen: State fair proves if you can dream it, you can fry it

Posted: September 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

I just got back from the state fair. You could tell it was the last day because people were winning big stuffed dolls on the midway. It seems that after two weeks of rarely winning a prize, yesterday’s suckers suddenly became expert marksmen and started shooting mechanical ducks right and left. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the games were rigged and the carnies simply didn’t want to pack up a lot of useless stuff at the end of their season.

It had been a good many years since I’d been to the fair. Face it, there’s a limit to how many times in your life you want to eat funnel cakes and corn dogs. That limit for me was once — which cut out half the food wagons on this trip to the fairgrounds.

The good news is that our state’s farmers are growing the most fabulous foodstuffs in the world, and those were for sale at the other half of the stands.

I didn’t realize it until I strolled around the grounds, but we must grow huge quantities of Oreos and Snickers bars in this state, because that is what the rest of the food wagons were selling. All you have to do to make them edible is batter them and throw them in a deep-fat fryer. One vendor had a long list of things he would batter and fry — Twinkies, Reese’s Pieces, bologna, cheese curds, pizza and one that I had to have — a banana smeared with peanut butter and wrapped in bacon.

“I’ll take one of those,” I told the heavily tattooed clerk. As he took my money, he turned to the cook and yelled, “One Dead Elvis!”

Now, I’m no food critic, so I may be talking through my hat, but this snack was not as good as it sounds. Hot banana and way overripe banana have a similar taste. Deep-fried, melted peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth like drying concrete. It makes you feel as if you are choking and thirsty at the same time. Your tongue is not a tough enough tool to remove it; you have to chisel it out with a spork. The only thing that was good about the Dead Elvis was the bacon, but not good enough to save it. You could get a similar effect by mixing cooked bacon into your pancake mix.

Another agricultural breakthrough seems to have occurred in the potato industry. Apparently frying potatoes in hot oil does not deliver enough calories to the average fairgoer. The scientific, farm bureau extension-approved solution is to smother them in melted, processed cheese and call them “cheesy fries.” You can add toppings such as bacon, sausage and pepperoni to your cheesy fries. Has no one thought of topping them with a Dead Elvis? If not, I’m sure they will.

Of course, no one loves the state fair as much as 1-and 2-year-old children — for about 15 minutes. After that, it is back to needy crying, diapering, breast-feeding, burping and rediapering. The fair is especially fun for toddlers who have toddler brothers or sisters, or even twins. I could not count the number of double strollers that ran over my feet or hit me in the shins. The one-kid-in-front, one-kid-behind strollers seem to be a thing of state fairs past. The preferred mode of transportation is now much wider, aisle-blocking, side-by-side strollers. They are the Hummers of strollers, and driven by the same type of people.

I also don’t remember so many people in electric carts. The problem is the carts are electric and, unlike the toddlers, they barely make a sound. They are upon you before you notice. I think if they ran on noisy, two-stroke, exhaust-belching engines, there’d be fewer disasters involving human heels and cart bumpers.

The highlight of the fair for me is always the butter sculpture. After all, what better thing can you do with butter than make large statues of historical scenes out of it? I’d like to see Rachael Ray try that with extra virgin olive oil. All you can do with that stuff is cook.

Jim Mullen’s column is distributed by Universal Uclick for United Feature Syndicate.

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