image courtesy of the Kentucky State Fair
You coast dwellers can keep your Jersey shore and your Venice Beach. August is state fair season, and the middle of the country is happy to stay right where they are, thank you very much. There are 4-H exhibits and livestock competitions, country music stars and carnival rides, but the real draw is the food.
If it’s worth eating, it’s worth eating on a stick.
The state fair tradition of food-on-sticks dates back to the 1947 introduction of the Pronto Pup, a corn dog-like deep-fried hot dog encased in a pancake batter coating. The modern food-on-sticks era can be traced to the seminal 2001 season of the deep-fried candy bar-on-a-stick. When macaroni and cheese-on-a-stick was introduced the following year, it was game on; competition and creativity merged as vendors vied to outdo one another to create the best-selling, the tastiest, and the most outlandish food-on-a-stick.
Frying the unfryable.
State fairs are synonymous with crowd-pleasing fried foods. Since the stick is a handy vehicle to dunk skewered products into a deep-fryer, crispy foods-on-sticks abound. Past successes from the genre include deep-fried kosher pickles; Big Fat Bacon (a one-third pound deep-fried slab); mashed potatoes, and turkey stuffing-on-a-stick, the last two of which emerge from the oil like over-sized bread-crumbed lollipops. Less successful were batter-coated spaghetti-stuffed meatballs, fried corned beef reuben sandwiches, too-chewy pig ears, and crispy, crumb-coated chopped liver-on-a-stick.
Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona— they all have their stick cultures, but nowhere is the competition fiercer and the passion more fervent than at the Minnesota State Fair. One-upmanship has resulted in 81 foods-on-stick at last year’s fair, known as the Great Minnesota Get-Together.
As they say in Minnesota, If you can’t eat it on a stick, then my goodness, why bother eating it at all?
Preview the 2012 lineup when it goes live on the Minnesota State Fair Food Finder. Fittingly, on-a-stick is a search term.