• Adventures in Indiana State Fair Food 2012

    I just can’t believe it’s already August. That means it’s time for my family’s annual jaunt to the Indiana State Fair. More specifically, it’s time for our yearly descent into food madness. I’ve been here for almost a decade now, and the fair still continues to surprise and shock me. The food is so over-the-top, many refuse to believe it’s real. Most of you will never get to see it for yourself, so I endeavor to bring it to you. More than anything else I could show you, this picture says it all:

    Those are the “regular” fries. The REGULAR ones. Can you imagine what the deluxe fries must be like? I swear, it’s going to get much, much worse. Full post, and many pictures (click to enlarge) after the break…

    My family has begun to take this obligation seriously. My wife wants me to wear a “press” badge when I’m at the fair, taking pictures. As always, let’s start with introductions:

    We’ve got Sydney (6), Jacob (10 1/2), and Noah (8 1/2). I couldn’t even get Noah to look at the camera, he was so distracted by what was going on around him. They take their responsibility here seriously. My wife, Aimee, as she does every year, refused to be photographed. She believes that this will allow her to deny participation later. She’s wrong.

    One of the most exciting parts of this day is anticipation of what we’ll see first. I have this theory that they try to fake you into thinking “healthy” options might be available. This year did not disappoint:

    I don’t know what I love more. Is it the fact that they think they’re fooling us with the allure of vegetables? Is is the fact that they’re going with non-traditional fried vegetables, like cauliflower and broccoli? Is is that this is being offered by “Dr. Vegetable”? Pure genius.

    This also caught my eye:

    Tomato balls sounded healthy. I asked the purveyor how they were made. He described about fifty ingredients, including bread crumbs, cheese, spices, other types of bread crumbs, and finally tomato. Aimee thought he said tomato “sauce”. Looking at the result, I think she may have been right. We passed.

    Three more other things to note before we hit the main drag:

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. Readers of the blog know I take my cheese steaks seriously. What does “Philly” mean? It means CRAP. Note also, the “Steak & Cheese” bait and switch. Don’t be fooled. Avoid this.
    2. Is there anything appetizing about that “Sausage” pic? I know you’re all thinking what I was thinking. Pass.
    3. Last year, the turkey leg was one of the healthiest things we ate. I think the owners of this stand read the blog, because they hid the turkey leg text with a much more appropriate pic of “Gobble Gobble” mac and cheese.

    We decided to hop on the soy diesel tractor train immediately to go the back of the fair grounds. We knocked out our visit to the “pretend to be a farmer” exhibit that makes us feel like there was another reason we went other than to embarass ourselves with food. But then… it was time to eat!

    The kids wanted to start out with an elephant ear. Aimee objected. She was concerned that they would “spoil their appetites” by starting with dessert. When they appealed to me, I was conflicted. I wanted to back up my wife. But really… was she worried they wouldn’t have room for deep fried butter later?

    I decided to play the long game here, though, and support her. So we started with this:

    The sign said it was homemade and “Amish”. I have no idea what that means, in terms of pretzels, but evidently the Amish know their stuff. This was AWESOME. Coated in butter, dipped in cheddar cheese, just salty enough. A fine start to 2012.

    Not two minutes later, though, Aimee evidently completely forgot her previous objections, and demanded that we get a cream puff. Long-time readers will remember that this was Aimee’s childhood favorite from the lesser-known, and much more amateurish Wisconsin State Fair. The kids started to complain about the unbelievably hypoctirical stance my wife was taking, but I shushed them. They still don’t understand proper management of their mother. I present for you two pictures. The first is the cream puff, for which we paid an additional dollar to get it made with “chocolate”. The second is that same cream puff twenty seconds later:

                 

     

     

     

     

     

    You do not want to get between my family and a cream puff.

    One minute later, we were at one of my perennial favorites, the “magic tater” or whatever they’re calling it now. They take a potato and put it in this gizmo that lets them make one continuous potato loop, which can then be deep fried. But this year, for the first time I can remember, they had the secret machine out front. So now you can see how they go from this:

    To this:

    It is, of course, eaten with a tub of cheese for dipping and a pound of ketchup. You can see Sydney eating what you might mistake for a shockingly healthy-looking ear of corn, but don’t worry. It’s been dipped (I kid you not) in a vat of molten butter. Don’t judge us. These people were sitting right next to us:

    They had one magic tater EACH. The father (not pictured) was eating one of these:

    What kind of deviant mind dreamed this up? The “taco in a bag”. They take a bag of Fritos, split it down the side, and fill it with meat, cheese, sour cream, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes. It’s unnatural. And this is ME saying that.

    Plus, this?

    When I glanced at it quickly, I thought – ah, a baked potato. Almost healthy. Even if it was a sweet potato. But when I got up close I saw that it was covered in cinnamon, butter, sugar, and marshmallow, to the point that it served as a solid coating for the whole potato. Amazing.

    We high tailed it back onto the tractor train and headed to the front. The kids wanted a break to see some animals, and we entered what turned out the be the llama barn. Take a minute and appreciate my situation. After having grown up on the East coast for all of my childhood, I now live in a state where (1) llamas exist, (2) people actually own and raise them, and (3) so many people do that they can gather and hold competitions. For LLAMAS.

    We watched a dressage-like-affair where they paraded the animals around. Aimee wondered where one learned how to “judge” a llama:

    After 5 minutes, Noah uttered the line of the day: “I want to see something poop.” Classic.

    We left, and ran into another favorite of mine. There’s this popcorn stand which makes a ton of flavors. I’ve always thought the best was “dill pickle”. But they had some new ones this year:

    I thought popcorn was good already. Evidently, it’s not, unless it’s somehow covered in candy. I don’t even know what the green stuff pictured above is. We had to move on, though, because Jacob had taken to muttering, “where’s my preciousssss…” I’m not making that up. He was referring to this:

    Deep fried candy! Many of you have asked how this is done. They put a stick in the candy or cookie, dip it in liquid cake batter, and drop it into a deep fryer, and then dust it with powdered sugar. You know, cause candy needs both cake and oil to achieve it’s maximum potential. Our traditional order consists of two deep fried oreos, a deep fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, and a deep fried Snickers. We kicked in an extra buck for the deep fried cookie dough, since we got the deep fried butter last year. Lest you think we’re faking this stuff, here’s Sydney eating the Snickers:

    As always, it was the most well behaved my kids are all year. The second they were done, though, Noah was on me for a dougnut burger. Aimee started to object, but we all reminded her of the earlier “cream puff” debacle, and she stopped. Off we went. Here they are on the grill:

    For those of you new to this, the doughnut burger starts with a grilled Krispy Kreme doughnut, adds a bacon cheese burger, and then another Krispy Kreme on top. Here’s what it looks like in the Krispy Kreme hat they serve it in:

    Here’s what it looks like when Noah is helping Jacob stuff it in his mouth:

    You have to give the doughnut burger people their props though. They weren’t content to rest on the ice cream burger of last year, nor the chicken eggo sandwich of the year before. They were offering this:

    OK. First of all, a raspberry doughnut chicken sandwich? So specific! Not any doughnut; only a raspberry doughnut would do. I like to imagine a bunch of gourmets around, sampling different doughnuts for the sandwich. I’m sure the raspberry added some missing ingredient that perfected the piece. And the second offering? A bacon-peanut butter-banana burger? Wha-huh?

    But at least people seemed to order these, if rarely. Next door, though, a cart had gone where no state fair had gone before. It actually created some foods that neither my kids, nor I, would even consider eating. Sad, but true:

    Deep fried… bubble gum? That’s insane! The gum would have lots of food in it, making it disgusting. I also couldn’t believe that molten gum wouldn’t burn your mouth terribly. Plus, they wanted $5 for that alone! Deep fried M&M’s and Hershey Drops were similarly uninspired. It’s like this deep fried candy stand wasn’t even trying.

    And what’s this?

    Not only did my kids refuse this, I couldn’t find one person who had actually bought it in order to photograph it. Pity. I wanted to understand it better. I think this guy used the same advertising company as “Eddie” of last year, as neither the protestations of “Delicious!” nor “Awesome!” were winning anyone over.

    And we were done. We had some minor grumbling about the elephant ear that never happened, but a trip through the cattle barn fixed that. Noah got his wish. Enough said.

    See you in 2013!

    @aaronecarroll

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    • Awesome. I took the same picture of the “Raspberry Doughnut Chicken Sandwich”, as I was right across the street working at the American Diabetes Association booth.

    • Dr. Carroll- Would you kindly provide an estimate of your caloric intake yesterday. Please include fat grams.

    • Great piece, AC. For the record, I asked for the corn not to be dipped in butter. That makes it all better, right? :)

      • I will not be satisfied until I see corn on the cob, wrapped in bacon, dipped in chocolate, studded with M&Ms, buttered, battered, and fried. Is that too much to ask?

    • I went to the Indy State Fair, once, about 1970. TV commercials during the fair had the jingle, “You’ll have tons of fun at the Indiana State Fair”. Cartoon elephants danced across the screen. My aunt wouldn’t let us eat a corn dog. No tons of fun for us.

    • Wow, that brings back memories of my Indiana days.

    • I’ve had spaghetti ice cream at a German Restaurant. It is a traditional German culinary whimsy. You press vanilla icecream through a spaghetti maker, top it with a red fruit syrup (I’ve had it with strawberry), and sprinkle either shredded coconut or grated white chocolate.

    • Dude, I want to go to the fair with you!

    • How to make spaghetti ice cream:

      Created in Mannheim, Germany, by an Italian, spaghetti ice cream has been a German specialty since the 1960s. Pressing vanilla ice cream through a potato ricer creates “noodles”, strawberry sauce looks like tomato sauce and coconut or white chocolate shavings plays the Parmesan cheese roll.

      http://germanfood.about.com/od/desserts/r/spaghettieis.htm

    • Here’s a website for the “Spaghetti Ice Cream Maker”:http://www.spaghettiicecream.com/welcome.htm. You, too, can have your very own spaghetti ice cream for as little as $12.99 +s/h!

      (I’m not the owner of the website, nor have I used the device or even eaten spaghetti ice cream. I just remembered having seen it on the web.)

    • You’ve never seen tacos in a bag before? They used to serve them occasionally in our cafeteria lunches. (I grew up in Northwest Indiana, though, which may have something to do with it.)

      I don’t usually go to the state fair, but this post almost has me convinced it would be worthwhile to wander around and check things out, if only to take more pictures of the ridiculous food. Personally I usually only have the tamer options– elephant ears and corn on the cob and such. (It’s definitely not a state fair without corn on the cob.)

    • And I missed it :(

    • As you know, eating at the State Fair can be costly. If you are trying to save money, then where would you go within the Fair to get a good meal at a low price? Thanks!

      • Buy your tickets before you go (Indiana CVS carries them) to save $3/ticket. And go on Tuesday (also known as “two-buck Tuesday”). All of the stands are supposed to have smaller portions for $2. I went on a Tuesday a few years ago and tried loads more than I usually do, and didn’t have a problem with tossing extra on things that were nasty (some were just too greasy for me).

    • The spaghetti is made of gelato, extruded to look like pasta, strawberry tomato sauce, white chocolate “cheese” and chocolate “meatballs.” The presentation is wild and it’s delcious. It is awesome and fun!!

    • I’m at the fair now eating deep fried girl scout cookies. They are glorious.

    • The name deep fried bubble gum isn’t accurate. They spray a marshmallow with buble gum flavoring and dip that and deep fry it. My husband bought it and it wasn’t bad if you like bubble gum flavoring. Deep fried butter is great.

    • We went this year on Sunday, August 12. It was IU Health day and they had an insert about some of the healthier items at the fair and a map of where they were located. There was also a chart showing how long you had to walk to burn off calories for different foods. I didn’t know if this was included in each day but it was really nice to see for that day. My family and I grabbed a few annual items (rib eye, corn, corn dog, elephant ear) and shared each one. Enjoyed reading the article!

    • What? No pork chop sandwich or a lemon shakeup? I don’t recall you saying what you washed all the glorious food down with!

    • Very good selection. We (my wife and I) hit up the Dr. Vegetable stand every year. Last year was the best as my wife was pregnant and the deep fried dill pickle spears hit the spot. They do include fried green tomatoes as well as broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and onions.
      The spagetti ice cream was pretty good but not as good as a funnel cake.