It is official. That grand old dame, Madame State Fair, will soon make her annual appearance in Indy. BW and I will make our yearly pilgrimage to 38th Street and genuflect at the feet of that grand old lady who is 150 years old. With all due respect to Iowa and Texas, “Our state fair is the best state fair, the best state fair in our state.” It was an article in the Indy Star this morning that heralded the winner of the annual State Fair food contest that made me drool like Pavlov’s dogs. I knew one thing about the winner before I read the article. The winning entry must utilize copious quantities of melted animal fat, “lard”, or vegetable oil. Does the phrase “deep fat fried” mean anything to you? I love the smell of deep fat fried food in the morning.
There are two main reasons we go to the fair: to see the exhibits and to eat. Much of the food ingested at the fair is not recommended by Duncan Hines or Rachel Ray and that may be the reason I like it. And that is the only time we eat most of it. We mosey across the grounds grazing as we go and then slowly turn and with great resolve, gobble our way back groaning like a 1955 Chevy pickup truck hauling ten Clydesdale draft horses through the Rocky Mountains. We chow down on foot long hotdogs, pork chop sandwiches, turkey legs, sweet corn from the Nora Lions Club by the coliseum, lemon shake ups, Polish sausages, and frozen yogurt. And then in the afternoon we stop by the dairy bar for a milkshake, then curly-Q potatoes, chocolates from the South Bend Chocolate Factory, funnel cakes, salt water taffy, breaded tenderloins, corn dogs, ice cream bars, pineapple whips and elephant ears. It is not coincidence that there are EMT teams throughout the grounds standing by with stomach pumps.
On a delightful summer evening when the stars looked like they were just a little above the trees, I strolled through the reveling crowd on North Washington Street in Worthington. It was the Lions Club Fish Fry. A rustic from the country, I was enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the evening. Dad asked, “Want a fish sandwich?” “I sure would,” said I enthusiastically. It was at that moment that I walked over and shook hands with deep fat frying. A square of fish was dropped into a large cauldron of bubbling lard, yes lard. The fish sank into the seething grease, writhing and squirming then slowly rose to the surface. It was slapped into a bun and I took my first bite only to burn my tongue, lips, gums, teeth and navel. When I spewed the lava-like fish out some of it landed on my navel. After a suitable period of cooling, the rest of the fish galloped down my gullet. Glory.
Following that introduction, deep fat frying products and I have spent a great deal of quality time together. My visits to the culinary caldrons of cholesterol-laden concoctions have been frequent and prolonged. Members of that family whom I have received as guests include the world famous French Fry. The Colonel introduced me to – Fried Chicken. Ole Olson introduced me to Fried Cheese Chunks and some ingenious entrepreneur ruined vegetables but created a craving in many palates for Fried Veggies. I can’t forget elephant ears. It is easy to ruin an ear but when properly prepared it can send one to Nirvana.
Over the past few years the culinary mavens at the state fair have launched many gondolas paddled by gondoliers shipping their cholesterol and fat laden cargo through our arteries and veins with a mission to clog them at every opportunity. Deep fried banana flavored cheese cake on a stick, Snicker bars roiling in oil and stuck on a stick, Oreo cookies, Reese cups and moon pies have also been served. Then a perversion of monstrous magnitude was foisted upon an unsuspecting public - Fried Twinkies. What a tremendous waste of a wonderful ambrosia like golden yellow sponge cake with a scintillating filling worthy of the gods on Mt. Olympus that causes my tongue to make moves that Fred Astaire only dreamed about. This year the winner is a deep fried pizza. Pizza! Actually, as Audrey says, the dough is fried and then the toppings are added and served.
I am already dreaming about my entry to the contest next year: deep fat fried hand battered chunks of lard with a side of sliced pork jowl slathered in a delightful sauce of bacon drippings and meat loaf juice wrapped in a deep fat fried slice of cheap bologna. I’ll call it the Jewel of the Jowl. Yum.