• Adventures in Indiana State Fair Food 2013

    Are you ready? Can you feel the excitement? I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I look forward to this post all year. It’s pretty much my favorite to write. Strap in, people, because it’s time for Indiana State Fair food.

    As always, I gathered my crew of experts. They’ve been coming to the state fair since they were infants. No one knows more about insane food they they do:

    State Fair 2013-1That’s Jacob (11 1/2), Noah (9 1/2), and Sydney (7). Aimee (age undisclosed) asked not to be pictured, as always, so that she can later try and deny this occurred.

    The fun began this year while we were still waiting to get in. This guy was right in front of me:

    State Fair 2013-2I don’t know what pigjam is, but this guy was really, really into it. Unfortunately, Aimee forbid me from “asking him”. Knowing the embarrassment to follow, I decided to let her have her way.

    Some think the state fair is about animals, rides, or games. Fools, those people are. You can tell because before there’s a chance to see one animal, ride one ride, or play one game, you are inundated with food. One of my perennial favorites was there waiting for me:

    State Fair 2013-4“Dr. Vegetable”. Let that sink in for a second. Noah made the mistake of calling this “Mr. Vegetable”, which let me go into my whole Dr. Evil routine about how Vegetable didn’t go to four years of medical school, just to be called “Mister”, thank you very much. This is, by the way, the most healthy thing you’re going to see the whole day. Vegetables deep fried and covered in ranch dressing. I really love how all the vegetables have their hands up, as if to deny any responsibility for what’s going on.

    For the past few years, next to Dr. Vegetable was a fried fruit cart. That was gone. Maybe it was too healthy. This replaced it:

    State Fair 2013-5I grew up in Pennsylvania. I can tell you, if there’s anything the Amish are known for, it’s their insanely giant donuts. And they are giant:

    State Fair 2013-6They’re also hot and dense. Aimee couldn’t believe we were eating that before lunch. To placate her, we promised her that the next thing¬†would be more substantial. We weren’t totally lying.

    State Fair 2013-31 State Fair 2013-32 State Fair 2013-33

    Let me orient you to “Twisted Burgers”. They consider that thing on the left the “American Classic Burger”. When I was in college, there was this Simpsons bit about “The Good Morning Burger“. That’s what I think of when I see this stand. Next to the “Classic” is the ice cream burger. Or, perhaps you’d like your burger with French Toast instead of a bun.

    State Fair 2013-34 State Fair 2013-35

    Or, perhaps you’d prefer a chicken sandwich served between Eggo Waffles. They also offer the “Garbage Burger” for those who think these don’t have enough. And this year, there was a new addition:

    State Fair 2013-8

    The “Redneck Burger” had a large beef patty, cheese, onions, beans, fried onions, bacon, and – of course – fried bologna. The woman there wants you to know it also includes “all the fixins”. Not Fixings. Fixins. Noah was undeterred, however. He wanted his favorite. The donut burger. Here it is before we ate it:

    State Fair 2013-10Here is Sydney crushing it:

    State Fair 2013-11We decided to take a break from eating at this point, and ride the tractor to our usual pretend-to-be-a-farmer exhibit. On the way, we passed a popcorn stand. You might think that popcorn isn’t that inventive. You haven’t been to the state fair:

    State Fair 2013-12

     

    That might seem like a lot of flavors. Some of them are even strange. But what’s crazy is that they couldn’t fit all the options in this “limited” area, so there were more underneath:

    State Fair 2013-13

    I imagine them making the sign. One cook suggested chocolate. Another added caramel. Finally, a third said screw it – just cover the stuff in Reese’s.

    As we boarded the tractor to drive us around the fair, I saw this offensive sight.

    State Fair 2013-15Pizza. Just… pizza. Do you think we’re impressed by your pepperoni? By your sausage? Are you kidding us? Dessert is “cookies and milk”? DON’T WASTE OUR TIME. I can get this crap in the real world. Those people on the right are only asking for directions, by the way. No self-respecting Hoosier would frequent this sad excuse for a fair food distributor. They should take a lesson from this:

    State Fair 2013-16

    Hot bacon glazed donuts. Enough said.

    This is a picture of my kids with Miss Vermillion County 2013, and the 2nd runner up. I was afraid to ask what happened to the 1st runner up.

    State Fair 2013-17

    And this is a picture of Miss Gibson County 2013. Wearing a “Dewig Meats” shirt. Ordering a Donut Burger.

    State Fair 2013-30

    Only in Indiana.

    After that was a personal favorite, the giant tater:

    State Fair 2013-18

     

    This year, the guys were kind enough to let me document the whole process. First they shave the potato into one long loop:

    State Fair 2013-19 Then they drop it into a deep fryer:

    State Fair 2013-21Then they drain it. You can’t imagine how much fat is involved:

    State Fair 2013-20Top it with nacho cheese, ranch dressing, and ketchup, and you’re ready to go. Oh – don’t forget to take Omeprazole at home beforehand.

    Aimee was pleased to see more ethnic foods this year. Like the “Nacholupa”:

    State Fair 2013-22Also, there were some INSANELY large corn dogs:

    State Fair 2013-23We also walked past state-fair-staple Spaghetti Eddie’s. You may remember in years past his “pizza balls” and “dirt”. He didn’t disappoint this year either:

    State Fair 2013-24He took meatballs and cheese parmagan (what is that?), and put them on a stick. They he dipped them in a garlic batter mix, deep fried it, and served it with not one, but two dipping sauces. If that doesn’t strike your fancy, then maybe you’d rather have it with pepperoni:

    State Fair 2013-25Quick – what’s this?

    State Fair 2013-42Give up? That’s a chicken parfait. Seriously. It also comes in lamb:

    State Fair 2013-14You can get your lamb about a dozen other ways, too.

    Here’s a crazy amount of Renaissance-style turkey legs:

    State Fair 2013-38I’m sure you’re now as ready for dessert as were were. To the deep fried candy cart! THIS is how you do a candy cart:

    State Fair 2013-28Next to it was a sorry excuse for competition:

    State Fair 2013-29Sure, deep fried brownies sound good. But when you’re competing with the “Candy Combo” of a deep fried snickers, a deep fried Reese’s, two deep fried oreos, and an add-on deep fried cookie dough, you’ve got to bring your A-game. Here it is:

    State Fair 2013-36This is Jacob’s favorite, by the way. He pretty much ate an Oreo on his own.

    Can I pause here for a second? I fear how jaded we’ve become. A candy bar coated in batter and deep fried is no longer “exciting”. It’s “expected”. It’s “mundane”. It’s seriously disturbing me. Time to go. After a funnel cake, or course:

    State Fair 2013-43It makes me cry a little inside to know how quickly we devoured this.

    A few things of note on the way out:

    State Fair 2013-44Is anyone seriously worried that the pork rinds were NOT freshly cooked? I don’t even know how you’d determine if a pork rind was fresh.

    I love how the state fair can take something that borders on healthy, like a sweet potato, and basically turn it into diabetes-on-a-plate:

    State Fair 2013-41

    And you’ve got to respect this shockingly truthful advertising:

    State Fair 2013-45We eat this so you don’t have to. That’s how much we love you.

    See you in 2014!

    @aaronecarroll

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    • “Aimee”, if that’s her real name, seems like a real wet blanket. You totally should have asked that guy about PIGJAM.

      Perhaps “Aimee” would be more comfortable perusing some of the healthy food options at the Fair. http://www.in.gov/statefair/fair/gen_info/2449.html

      • Oh, it’s all an act. She eats everything!

      • seems like a real wet blanket.

        Goodness, have you no experience with young teen-age girls, destined to be embarrassed by their mother, mortified by their father, and harassed by their brothers?

        (Of course, I have no idea if Aimee is like that, but I’ve seen a fair bit of the age where children are bouncing between 7 and 17, often switching personalities in minutes. Nothing like trying not to smile when one’s friend’s 12 year old is working very hard to be jaded and world-weary, yet prone to forgetting the facade when the “children” are having way too much fun not to join in…)

    • Absolutely love your State Fair posts. To what extent do you just have to suspend your physician instincts that day? As an aside, Dewig Meats is a popular south-western IN public meat distributor/wholesaler. Their stuff is amazing.

      • Aimee runs a community pediatric weight management program. I’m doing research on diabetes prevention. This is not an easy day for us. We do it for you. :)

    • Aaron – PIGJAM is a clever play on Phil Mickelson’s famous line that earned him the nickname FIGJAM, “F—, I’m great, just ask me.”

      • Yep, Jon’s got it. If you squint real hard at his shirt, you can see the white letters underneath PIGJAM: Pig is good, just ask me.

    • Chicken parfait!

      Not anything more substantive. Really, just…a parfait, with chicken in it!

    • Not quite sure what meatballs & cheese parmagan is (is parmagan like a ptarmigan?). But meatballs & cheese battered & deep-fried does sound ummm – interesting.

      You’d think with all those farmers someone would have brought a few heads of lettuce & sold salad – but no, on the Healthy Options page, no mention of salad anywhere. Guess all the veggies ended up at the deep-fried veggie booth.

    • I love the pictures in this year’s edition! Makes me feel like I was there.

    • I guess deep fried artichoke hearts are a regional treasure here on the left coast. No chocolate covered bacon?

    • Where was the booth to sign up for Obamacare?

    • I think I gained 10 pounds just reading about it! Who doesn’t love midwestern state fair food??
      I’m not sure I could have eaten the donut burger, but I’m definitely on board with giant taters and deep fried snickers!

    • Thanks for another great State Fair food post! It amazes me every year the level of improvement since my days serving food at the fair (1988-1991). Back in the day, our curly fries were pretty impressive. Now, sadly, they would be as overlooked as the poor pizza stand.

      The giant tator is nearly the same as the curly fries I used to make – your photos captured the process perfectly. Did they hand crank the machine or was it powered? I know it sounds insane, but I’m pretty sure my uncle invented the power-drive potato crank in the late 80’s.

    • Looks like they had lots of fun! I sure enjoyed the kids company at Little Hands on the Farm! :)

    • The last Indiana State fair I attended was in the 60s, but back then it was about farming the food, like growing veggies and pigs, cows, chicken, and a few others, and milking them for making cheese.

      But then Earl Butz turned farmers into like miners who product the raw material to feed the food factories which then manufacture stuff that these food vendors turn into food. When Indiana farmers are basically producing liquid fat – corn oil – then that needs to be a major ingredient in every food featured at the Indiana State fair.

    • Very much like US health care, really.

    • i do miss my favorite; deep fried butter. what screams state fair more that refined animal fat dipped in more fat and fried to a golden brown in yet a third fat? Its this type of forward thinking and inventiveness that made America the great country that it is!

      • Deep fried butter is definitely available: look for the deep fried cookie dough, and check the sign on the right….

    • The All American Diet results in the The All American Death of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and lousy quality of life!
      Is it child abuse to permit your children to eat this crap?

    • I felt myself getting fatter just reading that.

      Thanks!

    • Walk anywhere in Indiana. Then play the “100 pound game”. What is that? Well, ask yourself for each person you see “Could that person lose 100 pounds and still be healthy, a viable weight, and not suffer in the least for losing it?” Invariably your answer will be yes. I think 90% of Indiana is 100 pounds overweight.

    • How did you “walk past” Spaghetti Eddies? Were you full or something?

    • What an interesting way to relay your state fair experience! I was excited just reading everything. Thank you, will look forward to it next year as well.

    • Aaron,

      Great pictures! We are featuring a “virtual tour” of Midwest State Fairs on our company’s Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/MyGrowersEdge). Would you mind if we used a couple food pictures from your visit to the Indiana State Fair? Thanks!

      Thomas

    • A friend sent me your link and I love reading about the fair from an outsider point of view. I am a true Hoosier and nothing makes me happier than the fair. My all time favorite has been deep fried strawberries with chocolate and whip cream….

      My motto: fry it and put it on a stick! I’m in!!!