Despite the fact that it signals the end of the best time of the year – baseball season – and the start of the worst time of the year – baseball offseason – fall is pretty fun in the south because every weekend there’s another fair.
Now, I love ferris wheels and carousels and that swinging seat chair that flings you around above the fair as much as the next guy. Rigged ski ball games and oval basketball hoops have a special place in my heart.
But the real star of any fair is the food. The unbelievably irresponsible, purely decadent, arguable suicidal litany of foods that make up the menu of any good, self-respecting state fair.
I would consider myself on expert on the subject of state fair foods, considering I have in my kitchen at this very moment the following items: a slushie machine, a doughnut maker, a sno cone maker, a soft-serve ice-cream maker (with mix-ins!), and a cotton candy maker. I also have one of those toasters that cooks hotdogs and hotdog buns side-by-side and then they pop up at the same time, but that’s neither here nor there.
The point is, I know what I’m talking about.
THE TOP 10 BEST* STATE FAIR FOODS
*This is a perfect, inarguable, undeniable ranking. Please consider this as the definitive list on this subject matter.
1. Fried butter. How do you make fried butter, you ask? Great question. You put a stick of butter on a popsicle sick, roll that baby around in cinnamon sugar dough, then drop it in the deep fryer. That fries up the batter on the outside and melts the butter on the inside, so all that butter melts into the fried dough from the inside out. So when you bite into it, it’s a hollow shell of unbelievably butter-saturated fried goodness. Best food creation, ever.
2. Unusually flavored funnel cakes.
Sure, you’ve had normal funnel cake, (which, to be clear, is a work of art on its own,) but have you ever had chocolate funnel cake? Oh, you have? Huh… Okay, how about red velvet funnel cake?!? Doesn’t that sound delicious? Decadent red velvet in funnel cake form topped with icing and powdered sugar? Oh, that’s… That’s something you had at the last state fair, huh. Well then, I bet you’ve never had CHEERWINE* FUNNEL CAKE!! (*Note for my readers who don’t live in the south: Cheerwine is a delicious cherry soda manufactured in North Carolina. It has spread to more and more states and I believe is now being sold in every continental state? Don’t quote me on that. Either way, it tastes like a cherry Coke with a little more cherry and oomph. Really don’t know how else to describe it. It’s heaven in a bottle.)
3. Anything fried that usually is in liquid form, like Kool-Aid. How do you fry a liquid? Something that easily melts, like butter or ice cream, is challenging enough, but a straight-up liquid? I’m not sure exactly how this works and I’m going to be honest, I have no interest in Googling for the recipe, because I don’t want it to lose the magic. It basically looks like they make little donut holes and flavor it with whatever liquid is advertised. But I like to pretend it’s literally just a fried ball of pure Kool-Aid.
4. Those loaded twisty fries or potatoes on a stick. (I believe the ones in this picture are actually wrapped around hot dogs.) Literally any form of loaded baked potato, fried potato, or, even better, loaded fried baked potato, is perfection. The forms that potatoes takes at state fairs are magical and delicious. The spiral potatoes on sticks are especially good, because it’s a scientific fact (I’m going to get my friend with a doctorate in food science to back me up on this) that food tastes better when cooked on a stick. Speaking of…
5. Anything on a stick. Bonus points if adding the food to the stick makes it harder to eat, like pizza. (WHY would you put pizza on a stick, it already has the perfect delivery system from hand to mouth.)
6. The classics: elephant ears, churros, deep fried Oreos / candy bars, fried ice cream. All of these foods are delectable on their own and obviously rule supreme at any fair, but some of them have lost their cool factor a bit in the last few years because they’ve become very trendy at hipster bars and there’s Pinterest recipes everywhere.
7. Any sort of burger that uses doughnuts for buns… Enough said.
8. LITERALLY EVERYTHING AT THE TEXAS STATE FAIR, OH MY GOSH, Y’ALL.
INTENTIONALLY NOT MENTIONED
1. Anything Thanksgiving themed. Ew. I’ll eat my stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey, and macaroni and cheese separately, on a plate, thank you very much. I’m not a monster.
2. BBQ. This is understood to always be a delicious option, but some grills are a bit more suspect than others at fairs. Choose wisely.
3. Those giant turkey legs. I know those are classics, but that just really grosses me out. Most of the meat at fairs I’m a little wary of. And this is coming from a girl who once watched a teenager cough into his hand, use that bare hand to dip an Oreo into a giant vat of dough, drop that covered Oreo into the oil to cook, then lick his fingers clean of the dough… And still ordered one.