Extreme eating has hit the nation's state fairs, where vendors are one-upping the junk food competition with offerings like deep fried meatloaf and English Toffee Fudge Puppies.
America may be in an obesity crisis, but the demand for outrageous foods — cronuts, ramen burgers, Paula Deen-approved donut-hamburger sandwiches — shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the public's fascination with bigger, greasier and more gargantuan foodstuffs has hit the nation's already-calorie-rich state fairs, those annual expos of Ferris Wheels, flume rides and deep-fried foods. In fact, according to today's Wall Street Journal, the demands of extreme eaters means that state fair vendors are feeling pressure to up their competitive junk food game—turning grassy fairgrounds into the gastronomic equivalents of the Island of Dr. Moreau.
"It's too bad because we lose a bit of heritage and a bit of who we are," Minnesota State Fair Vendor Dennis Larson tells the Journal's Caroline Porter, explaining that he and his colleagues are under constant pressure to create bigger, tastier, and more outrageous foods. "It used to just be cotton candy and caramel apples," vendor Mary Balducci added, echoing what David Foster Wallace, in his 1994 essay "Ticket to the Fair," described as a Bacchanalian food orgy with the sound of deep fryers forming "a grisly sound-carpet all up and down the paths."
But that was then and this is now, and if you think that what Foster Wallace described as "All-Butter Fudge" or "Dentist's Delight" sounds over the top, get a load of what's on offer in the country's (mostly Midwestern) precincts some two decades later.
The Minnesota State Fair
Minnesota seems to be king of the new food fairs. Yes, these are fighting words. Rest assured, this victory is only due to the photographic proof that the Minnesota State Fair has of all of its strange food mutants. Wisconsin has an equal and bizarre set of contenders (which we'll get to in a minute) but they don't have as many pictures or any proof that these strange beasts exist.
Wine-Glazed Deep-Fried Meatloaf on a Stick
The Bread Cone (Bread baked into a shape of a cone, stuffed with veggies, or meatballs or shrimp—a triumph of engineering)
Grilled Glazed Donut
Cocoa Cheese Bites (Wisconsin cheddar cheese nuggets, breaded in cocoa puffs, then deep-fried)
The English Toffee Fudge Puppy (chocolate covered English toffee on top of a Belgian waffle on a stick which is dipped in chocolate then covered in whipped cream and toffee sauce):
The Wisconsin State Fair
On paper, Wisconsin has the best shock value of all the fairs—just hearing about some of its offerings, like a deep-fried taco cheesecake, is enough to give a person a stomach-ache. (If someone has a picture of the deep-fried taco cheesecake, please send it our way.)
Deep-Fried Peanut Butter & Bacon Nuggets With Jelly Sauce:
Deep Fried Hot Dog Wrapped in French Fries
Bacon Cheddar Corn Dogs on a Stick:
New at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair this year: Bacon Cheddar Corn Dogs... pic.twitter.com/vBcUB3kANd— Jerry Gallagher (@JerryGallagher) July 9, 2013
Bacon Jalapeno Cheddar Reuben Brat:
The Ohio State Fair/The North Carolina State Fair (and the myth of the deep-fried giant gummy bear)
The Journal mentions "giant deep fried gummy bears" as one of the new additions at the Ohio State Fair this season, but a quick search on the fair's official site doesn't turn up any images of the little buggers. That's where North Carolina comes in. The Tar Heel State's fair doesn't start until October, but it did play host to the fried furry carnivores last year, and there are photos to prove it.
Yep...deep fried giant gummy bear. # IWillEatAnything pic.twitter.com/vnHh2nzI— Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom) October 7, 2012
The Iowa State Fair
This fair has it all: artery-clogging foods we'd actually eat, plus photo-ops with politicians and potential U.S. presidents stuffing corn dogs into their faces.
Strawberry Smoothie on a Stick:
Ribshack Cowboy (cowboy beans, brisket, cole slaw, a potato chip, and barbecue sauce served in a waffle cone):
So, who's hungry?