The Joys of Country Fair Food | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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Fried chicken coated in a tangy sauce are served on what else but a stick. (Jessica Carlin)
A delicious twist on frozen ice pops these bananas are dipped in chocolate and come with a choice of plain, peanuts or rainbow sprinkles. (Jessica Carlin)
Water chestnuts were wrapped in bacon, deep-fried and covered in a sticky sauce. (Jessica Carlin)
Spicy and tangy sausage on a stick with dipping sauce. (Jessica Carlin)
Another carnival mainstay, candy apples come in many varieties. Try these apples covered in caramel and peanuts. (Jessica Carlin)
Who needs a bun when you can have your hot dog dipped in batter and deep fried. (Jessica Carlin)
Pie rarely comes on a stick, until now. This pie is rolled up and ready for on-the-go consumption. (Jessica Carlin)
A new way to enjoy cheesecake. Frozen on a stick and dipped in chocolate, you can also cover this delicious treat with peanuts or sprinkles. (Jessica Carlin)
A new food to try this year was chocolate covered bacon. A mixture of sweet and salty, it will change the way people eat this typical breakfast food. (Jessica Carlin)
Fried in a tangy coconut sauce, these shrimp were skewered on a stick for easy eating. (Jessica Carlin)
This cookie dough is frozen on a stick and dipped in chocolate. It's available with peanuts or sprinkles as well. (Jessica Carlin)
These extra long corn dogs are a popular fair item. (Jessica Carlin)
Wisconsin is known for their dairy. What better way to celebrate these amazing animals than with dark chocolate cow pops? (Jessica Carlin)
The classic cotton candy can be found at most fairs or carnivals in a variety of colors. (Jessica Carlin)
This is something I could see myself ordering in a restaurant. Juicy crabmeat deep-fried and served with a tangy dipping sauce. (Jessica Carlin)
A Wisconsin State Fair tradition for more than 80 years. More than 200 employees work as a team all day, seven days a week, for the two weeks the fair is held to make the over 50,000 cream puffs sold each day to hungry fairgoers! (Jessica Carlin)
Wisconsin is known for their cheese. Don’t play it safe! Try deep fried cheese on a stick. (Jessica Carlin)
Multi-colored lollipops came in dozens of flavors and shapes. (Jessica Carlin)
Dipped in a special batter and deep-fried until golden brown, fried mac and cheese looks delicious. (Jessica Carlin)
These marshmallows are dipped in chocolate and coated with sprinkles. (Jessica Carlin)
One of your favorite snacks as a kid just got a makeover. This crunchy sandwich holds a smooth and creamy center. One of my favorite dishes at the fair! (Jessica Carlin)
Not every Oreo needs a glass of milk, These Oreos are dipped in batter and deep fried. (Jessica Carlin)
Who said fairs were only for junk food? Pork chops grilled to perfection and coated with a savory sauce. (Jessica Carlin)
Everything is better dipped in chocolate! These pretzel rods are also drizzled with dark and white chocolate to add extra flavor.
A new twist on this classic sandwich. Corn beef dipped in dough and deep-fried. It comes with a side of sauerkraut and Russian dressing. (Jessica Carlin)
A delicious candy made from large sugar crystals that come in various colors and flavors. (Jessica Carlin)
Kids loved these familiar face cookies made with chocolate chip cookies and a creamy filling. (Jessica Carlin)
Shish-ka-bobs come in many different varieties. Choose from beef, chicken or (healthy?!) vegetables. (Jessica Carlin)
Chocolate and marshmallows covered in a graham cracker coating, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. S'mores aren’t just for campfires anymore. (Jessica Carlin)
Covered in funnel cake batter and deep-fried, it makes you wish you could find these as easily as the regular candy bar. (Jessica Carlin)
It’s just like Thanksgiving. Juicy turkey meat covered in a crispy skin. (Jessica Carlin)

The Joys of Country Fair Food

What are your favorite fair foods? We'll share our memories if you'll share yours

smithsonian.com
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich....on a stick.


What are your favorite fair foods? We'll share our memories if you'll share yours...

Amanda: In years past, Vermont's Champlain Valley Fair was one of the highlights of my summer vacation. For just over a week, the fairgrounds filled with midway rides and goofy games, prize-winning heifers and preposterously large pumpkins. There were always booths hawking various crafts, causes and products...and best of all, food!

I was especially attracted to foods on a stick, both for the novelty factor (mom always served dinner on plates, how boring) and for practical reasons: There was no time to waste sitting down for a meal, with so much to see and do, after all! There were ponies to pet, balloons to win and "talking cars" to visit. (That was a simple trick; a two-way radio and a guy hiding somewhere in a booth, but it sure did intrigue me.)

Corn dogs, caramel apples, chocolate-covered ice cream bars and cotton candy were some of the portable snacks I loved best. There was also a "maple sugar shack" which was pretty much heaven on earth: sugar on snow in paper trays, maple milkshakes and maple candies, maple coffee and donuts. The best of the best was the cotton candy spun from real maple sugar.

This week, a friend told me about a new kind of food-on-a-stick, spotted at country fairs in Indiana: Deep-fried Pepsi (there's at least one YouTube  video about it). Even as a kid, I think I could have resisted that one!

Lisa: My childhood was pretty much the opposite of Amanda's. Okay, my mom also served dinner on plates, and we sometimes went to the county fair—but it was the Los Angeles County Fair. Not exactly a center of agriculture, at least by the time I was growing up.

It wasn't until I moved to rural upstate New York that I experienced a true country fair. I was a new reporter at a small-town newspaper, and I was asked to write a city slicker's perspective on what was one of the biggest local events of the year. It was a revelation. The baby pigs on display were born at a farm just down the road, not trucked in from who-knows-where. The drive to the fair went through beautiful rolling farmland, not along a congested freeway. Food was provided by the 4-H Club, the volunteer fire department and local farmers, not just traveling carney trailers.

So, although I understand the appeal of fried things on sticks, the fair foods I get really excited about are the down-home treats: home-baked berry pies, apple cider slushies from the local orchard, and fried green tomatoes with a batter of fresh-picked corn.

In fact, as I approach the fourth anniversary of my inaugural visit to a country fair, I have to wonder if it was that first delicious taste that sealed my future. Instead of just passing through on the way to bigger and (I thought) better things as I had planned, I moved somewhere even more rural. As we speak, I am in the process of buying my first house. It's an old farmhouse with a few rolling green acres that will be perfect for planting my first garden—as soon as I figure out how to do it.

Ed. Note: As an added bonus, we have a photo gallery of delicious foods from the Wisconsin State Fair taken by our web producer Cheryl Carlin with captions by her sister Jessica.
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About Amanda Bensen

Amanda Bensen is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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