Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fat City

When I was a fresh-faced editor at a downtown metropolitan newspaper some years ago, I decided one day that the readers might like a break from a steady diet of political posturing, senseless homicides and bumbling civic shot-callers.

So I called a grizzled veteran reporter into my office and asked him to do a story on the Los Angeles County Fair. Focus on the happy people, I suggested, those who work there and those who attend.

“That’s not what you want,” he replied. He went on to explain to me --- in a tone usually reserved for a teacher admonishing a misbehaving schoolboy --- that people go the fair to eat.  It’s all about the food.

I suspected he was angling for a free lunch on his expense account but I agreed, leaving my authority in the matter crushed on the newsroom floor.

Of course, Grizzled Reporter was right. Whatever else the fair may offer, the food is the story. And reporters, grizzled and otherwise, cover it like mustard on a corn dog.

Indeed, it seems there must be some unofficial competition among fairs throughout the land to see who can come up with the most cholesterol packed, stroke inducing, heart damaging, stomach stretching delights. It’s enough to horrify Paula Deen.

In an era when even the cereal box is made of whole grains and three
ounces of yogurt in considered lunch, the fair has become a place to
get in touch with your inner Neanderthal.

And the L.A. fair takes a back seat to no one when it comes to feeding hungry hunter/gatherers.

This year, Deep-Fried Guacamole tops the menu. There's also the Cinnamon Fireball Texas Donut, which is a donut covered in caramel, sliced bananas, whipped cream, cinnamon, and Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. Try it with the Deep-Fried Peanut Butter Pickle, which is also battered and glazed with chocolate.

For those watching their waistline, there’s Deep Fried Watermelon. For those who are really calorie conscious, there are Deep Fried Slim Fast bars.

Wait, there’s more:  Mexican Curly Fries are smothered in beans, jalapenos and cheese. Or try the Krispy Kreme Triple Decker Cheeseburger. That’s right, three patties and toppings squeezed between two doughnuts. Maybe the Bacon-Wrapped Pork Belly on a Stick is more to your liking. Or a Spicy Peanut Butter and Jelly Burger.

Of course, there are vegetarian selections and lots of fish dishes to be had. But even they tend to trend to the exotic (Veggie Dog on a Stick, Cajun Jalapeno Shrimp).

Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, the culinary insanity is reaching new heights.

In Minnesota, they're serving up Fried Pig Ears, cut to look like curly fries, with a chipotle glaze. 

Florida fairgoers can sample the Fried Ice Cream Cheeseburger. It’s your standard burger but nestled under the toasted bun and perched atop the pickle, lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheese toppings is a scoop of ice cream coated in cinnamon and cornflakes that has been dipped in the deep fryer for 10 to 15 seconds. Take plenty of napkins.

The know how to fry it up in Texas. Not to be outdone by our Fried Guacamole, they have come up with Fried Salsa and the piece de resistance, Fried Bubblegum which involves bubblegum-flavored marshmallows dipped in batter, fried and decorated with icing and powdered sugar. Dentists will be standing by.

Massachusetts has Fried Jelly Beans while in Wisconsin, they offer up Fat Elvis on a Stick, peanut butter, chocolate and bacon dipped in banana batter and deep fried. Eat one and you’ll be itchin’ like a man on a fuzzy tree.

Illinois has Fried Alligator on a Stick. Exotic, yes, but nothing tops Oregon’s  Roadkill, which, according to one reporter, is “an adorable fried dough man that has been smashed, fried, stitched back together, and covered in a variety of sauces to emulate bodily fluids and fatal injuries.”  Yum.

The last word in deep fried decadence has got to be Deep Fried Butter, invented by Abel Gonzalez Jr. and debuted at the Texas State Fair in 2009 to thunderous applause.
In Texas, they serve it on a stick. In 2011 at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, it was paired with chocolate-covered bacon and dubbed the "coronary combo."

Wash it down with Deep Fried Beer, another Texas concoction.  And, yes, you have to be 21 to order it.

Now, pass me that deep fried Pepto-Bismol on a stick.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector 1.

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