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It's the time of the year for state fairs, and the Arkansas State Fair, opening this week in Little Rock, is no exception. Food writer Kat Robinson always does a detailed run-down of the assorted culinary treats available at the state fair: Here's this year's.

 

I have fond memories of going to the old Mid-South Fair, a four- or five-state affair held annually in Memphis each fall, and eating my way across the fairgrounds. That was back in the day the fair was about the only place you could get a gyro, and I looked forward to them anxiously every year, along with roasted corn, funnel cakes, and multitudes of other wonderful stuff.

 

Reading Kat's piece made me want to go to Little Rock and try eating my way across the state fairgrounds. Deep-fried bacon-wrapped Oreos? Yes, please!

 

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Me too! the gyros were my most eagerly awaited item. My second favorite was a corn dog. The mustard was in a bucket with a paint brush and you could slather it all over and it would absorb into that hot crispy crust! (And Liberty Land was there all season,  not just at fair time.)  None of us had ever conceived of all the deep fried sweets available today.

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@kayb,

 

Thanks for that link to Kat's great review of the Arkansas State Fair. She's a really good food writer, and I wish we had at least one of her caliber around here.

 

I have good memories of the Mid South Fair in Memphis as well. Great food and an unforgettable diving mule jump into an above ground pool I saw there. That is most likely illegal now, but the mules (two of them, but separately) trotted up a ramp and dived of their own volition, and didn't seem abused or distressed that I could see, and I would have noticed, believe me. Incredible, unless you saw it, like I did.

 

Our NC State Fair is going on now too, and the local TV station from Raleigh has a tent out there and tries to cover the food. The operative word is tries, because none of their reporters are good food writers. Somebody like Kat could move in here and make money covering our food scene well. There's just no competition currently.

 

I put smoked turkey legs on my shopping list, but mine won't cost $12 a piece. :)

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I well remember the diving horse from Atlantic City Steel Pier but as I recall none of the concessions were serving horse meat.

 

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First thing I am reading Friday morning and my mouth is open and twisted in a sort of an "eww" position, as I go through the list from A to T.   Chocolate coated French Fries?  With marshmallows too?  Deep fried pickles?  Why?  Or OTOH, why not?

 

Is this solely an American phenomenon?  Are these unusual food items available in Canada at fairs also and I just haven't seen them?

 

I do remember with great fondness having a pumpkin funnel cake two years ago in Ohio at a gourd fair.  It was delicious.  Oh, without the added confectioner's sugar, thank you.  But then I am a Canadian.  :S

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51 minutes ago, Darienne said:

First thing I am reading Friday morning and my mouth is open and twisted in a sort of an "eww" position, as I go through the list from A to T.   Chocolate coated French Fries?  With marshmallows too?  Deep fried pickles?  Why?  Or OTOH, why not?

 

Is this solely an American phenomenon?  Are these unusual food items available in Canada at fairs also and I just haven't seen them?

 

I do remember with great fondness having a pumpkin funnel cake two years ago in Ohio at a gourd fair.  It was delicious.  Oh, without the added confectioner's sugar, thank you.  But then I am a Canadian.  :S

 

@Darienne  OTOH, all our fairs ever seem to offer up in the way of food are French fries, with or without gravy and hot dogs. O.o

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52 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

 

@Darienne  OTOH, all our fairs ever seem to offer up in the way of food are French fries, with or without gravy and hot dogs. O.o

That's what I thought, Elsie, but then my fair going days in Canada are long over and so I didn't think I dared say anything.  We have an outdoor food trailer on the way to our local library and it sells the usual, as you noted, but also a funnel cake.  $8 and it's very small.  No way I said and went home and had such fun making them.  

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The real trick to eating at the Fair and not worrying about calories is to go with a small group of friends. When it's time to eat, everyone goes off and gets their favorite food and all meet back at one location to share their bounty. For example, one vendor at the San Diego County Fair had a Double Patty Hamburger with pastrami, cheese and bacon. It sounds like a heart attack on a bun. But when you're with a group of people, by the time you cut it all up into bite size pieces, you only get a small portion which is enough to taste and enjoy but without giving you a guilt complex of eating the entire thing yourself.

There's a local diner that has a yearly booth at the Fair serving falafel burgers. which are very good. They also sell a skewer of delicious garlic-battered artichoke hearts. I can't imagine eating all of that myself but when we share it, it turns out to be just enough to satisfy my cravings..

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I have yet to be a state fair - any state fair.  The writeup in @kayb's link makes me think I could eat myself silly, day after day there.  Some of it I could pass by: call me unadventuresome, but the cricket pizza isn't something I'd jump at.  Bacon-wrapped deep-fried oreos seems a bit much, too.  OTOH I have had deep-fried Snickers bars and been surprised at their over-the-top deliciousness, and the offerings listed from Fried What? make me think I'd spend far too much time and money there.

 

The Minnesota State Fair has come and gone, but it seems from radio reports that their food schtick is food-on-a-stick.  (The logging and forest products industry must love this trend. ;)) Deep fried candy bars or chicken or pickles on a stick, anyone? This article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10 foods on a stick you have to try at the Minnesota State Fair, lists some intriguing options like fried olives on a stick.  There's hand food and plate food too, according to this listing of the 2017 new food offerings. (Warning to future readers: it looks like this updates yearly.) Perhaps I'll get there some year.

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