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Your Mouth-Watering Roundup of the Best State Fair Foods

The top five foods from this year's state fair season are so bad they're good

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Sno-cones call to visitors at the Nebraska State Fair in 2007. Photo by Flickr user Bentonini

The dog days of summer are here and with them, delicious, fattening and sometimes-frightening state fair food. As close as Americans get to marking a seasonal equinox, summer fairs act as the great national equalizer. At the altar of fried food and sweet treats, we are all one. With reports of mass fryings rolling in from around the country, we’ve selected a few foods we wish we had from this year’s fair season.

From the Iowa State Fair: The Midwest’s agricultural sector gives a particular flavor to local fairs. Some might say it even gives them an edge over other regions, as evidenced by the lineup at the Iowa State Fair. After all it was right here in Iowa where an entrepreneur first decided to put fried butter on a stick. The now-classic was again a favorite at the 2012 fair, which ended August 19.  Iowa’s blockbuster event declares that “nothing compares.” Visitors also got a taste of a new treat with the deep-fried pickle dawg, “which involves a pickle slice, pastrami or ham and cream cheese,” according to the New York Times. “Attempts by its creators to put it on a stick and keep it there were disappointing, so it is served in a cardboard boat.”

One of the “healthy” options at the Minnesota State Fair — eggplant fries with a chimmichurri sauce. Image courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair

From the Minnesota State Fair: The Minnesota State Fair was one of the biggest in the country. With more than 1 million visitors in 2011, the great state get-together always relies on throngs of hungry people once again. In addition to its cow milking and butter carving contests, the event had a slew of new foods to sample, including Duke’s Poutine. Sure, they’ve got the trendy-sounding bacon ice cream, but who can pass up a plate of poutine? The Quebec dish is perfectly suited to the Midwest with a hefty helping of cheese curds between the layers of fries and gravy. As any curd connoisseur will know, the squeakier the cheese, the better the quality.

Fried twinkies and other desserts, courtesy of Flickr user Another Pint Please

From the New York State Fair: So many delicious options await you at the Great New York State Fair, which opened yesterday, August 23, starting with the signature Fair Sausage Sandwich served with onions and peppers. The Democrat and Chronicle is also pretty amped about the fried jellybeans, maple cotton candy and the Big Kahuna Donut Dog. The delicacy includes, “a Hofmann’s hot dog wrapped in bacon, deep fried in a long john doughnut and dipped in New York’s own maple syrup.” We particularly like the local connection. This is what Michael Pollan had in mind, right?

From the Puyallup State Fair: Washington’s Puyallup Fair runs September 7 through 23 and has treated visitors to such delicacies as fried Twinkies, frog legs on a stick and fried chicken patties sandwiched between Krispy Kreme donuts. Since we know you’ve probably already hit California’s State Fair (which ended July 29) and the Ohio State Fair (which wrapped up August 5), Puyallup, with more than one million visitors, is the perfect next stop. Pies, fried foods, even Russian cuisine is plentiful but if you’re ready to do more than eat, enter one of the fair’s many contests, including the September 12 Great American Spam Championship. See the many creative and bizarre things people are still doing with Spam.

Fried Mashed Sweet Potato Balls, courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair

From the State Fair of Texas: Though the fair doesn’t open until September 28, it will run through October 21, giving you plenty of time to hit the Dallas fairgrounds. All you need to do is take a look at the past winners of the annual Big Tex Choice Awards contest to know you’re in goods hands: buffalo chicken in a flapjack was last year’s winner, fried bubblegum took the the most creative honor that same year and something called a Texas Fried Fritos Pie won in 2010. Thirsty? No worries, also on the list are several refreshing options, including fried Coke, fried beer and a deep-fried latte. Our must-try for 2012 is being billed as a “new twist on a Mexican food favorite,” but it might also be described as a sort of “welcome to America, land of the fried.” Ruth’s Tamales will be offering tamales dipped in an egg wash and masa harina para tamales and deep-fried–a perfect reminder that our melting pot country is more of a deep fryer.

Not going to make it to any of these state fairs? Enjoy this photo gallery of delicious foods from the Wisconsin State Fair taken in 2009 by our web producer Cheryl Carlin with captions by her sister Jessica.

About Leah Binkovitz
Leah Binkovitz

Leah Binkovitz is a Stone & Holt Weeks Fellow at Washington Post and NPR. Previously, she was a contributing writer and editorial intern for the At the Smithsonian section of Smithsonian magazine.

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