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August 10, 2014 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Food of the Wisconsin State Fair
posted by The Whelk (118 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dude's relative put marinara on cheese curds. Unforgivable.
posted by dave*p at 5:10 PM on August 10 [6 favorites]


I tried to look at this collection of images with an open eye:"Sure, jeremias, you know these are all deeply unhealthy, but remove that element and focus on the visual appeal."

So I did that, and fuck no, very little here looks like food.

Alright, if I had to go with something I'd go with the "Brew Tons", ok?
posted by jeremias at 5:10 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Some of these simply seem to be an intentionally ludicrous way to pack as many calories as possible into a meal or snack as some form of...rebellion? An "I'll show you" thing? "You can't tell ME what to do?"

I'll never understand the whole "It's unhealthy? Fuck YOU I'm going to eat three now" or "Screw YOU I'm going to smoke all the cigs." Are they looking to make sure they get their money's worth out of the health care system?
posted by nevercalm at 5:10 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Native Wisconsinite here. The state fair is awesome. The cream puffs have a whole pavilion to themselves. That is where they keep the butter sculpture.
posted by blahblahblah at 5:16 PM on August 10 [23 favorites]


I dunno, a lot of this wouldn't be out of place serve from a LA hipster gourmet fusion food truck - the bratwurst shots, the brew tons, the pork belly wrapped in bacon etc... Just need organic gluten-free locavore ingredients sourcing and fancier names, plus triple the menu price, that's all.
posted by Bwithh at 5:17 PM on August 10 [26 favorites]


That's a terrible photo of the Wisconsin State Fair cream puff and is and injustice to the finest dairy treat known to mankind. It does not deserve to be pictured with the rest of those new-fangled deep fried monstrosities.
posted by klarck at 5:18 PM on August 10 [5 favorites]


That poor lonely cream puff: as one of the imgur commenters notes, "looks like it's cowering in the corner for fear of it's very life."

Scotch eggs don't belong on sticks; they're already a hand food.

Peanut Butter Bacon Bison Burger: WOULD TOTALLY EAT THAT.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:18 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


as a Brit transplant, I was pleased to see the MidWest innovation in Scotch Eggs btw
posted by Bwithh at 5:18 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


HELP I'M GAINING WEIGHT LOOKING AT THEM SEND A CRANE
posted by JHarris at 5:19 PM on August 10 [6 favorites]


I have been to the Wisconsin State Fair, and I have eaten one of those cream puffs. They are creamy delightful puff pastry bits of heaven almost as big as your two fists.

That said, I could see myself eating almost any of these things--but only one. I can't imagine trying a State Fair Sampler.
posted by Liesl at 5:20 PM on August 10


HELP I'M NOT GAINING WEIGHT SEND ME SCOTCH EGGS
posted by Wolfdog at 5:21 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


The spiral-cut fried potato on a stick, I think, is a Korean invention, but wrapping it around a hot dog seems new... Beer tons not the only Asian fusion delicacy on the menu here
posted by Bwithh at 5:23 PM on August 10


I really want cheese curds now :( I bought some in not-Wisconsin last month and they didn't squeak when bit into. Unacceptable.
posted by dorque at 5:23 PM on August 10 [8 favorites]


I never get tired of seeing this stuff!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:25 PM on August 10


I want to go there with like a dozen friends to share things with and try a bite of everything! Kind of like Midwestern dim sum?
posted by rivenwanderer at 5:28 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


It's like the Minnesota State Fair except not as awesome.

(Minnesotan)
posted by maxsparber at 5:34 PM on August 10 [16 favorites]


Seconding Bwithh's comment. I live in DC and it requires no stretch of the imagination whatsoever to see a successful food truck or bar selling these. There's a place on Capitol Hill which sells a grilled cheese sandwich filled with mac-and-cheese – all of the dairy-centric items could show up on their menu (with a hefty price increase, of course) and nobody would blink an eye.
posted by adamsc at 5:38 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Spending my whole life within walking distance of the MN State Fair must have given me some sort of inoculation for this, because I look at this photo set and not a single thing strikes me as that radical. Although - if you don't know what a Rocky Mountain Oyster is, you may want to consider how far the upper midwest is from any body of salt water.
posted by Think_Long at 5:41 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


It really takes some balls to imply Rocky Mountain Oysters are unappealing, Think Long.
posted by mr. digits at 5:44 PM on August 10 [9 favorites]


Forget the haters. I would advise strongly against eating this stuff every day, or even every week—but a state fair isn't a state fair without buying some culinary blunt instrument comprised entirely of fat, sugar, salt, and starch, and eating it from a greasy cardboard tray.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:46 PM on August 10 [11 favorites]


Omfg, we only got one comment in before the food shaming started, and wow-wee!! it only took one more to shovel on the classism. How swell.
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:47 PM on August 10 [22 favorites]


TBH steer testicles are spongey and bland, none of the flavor even a fried clam has, so you kinda have to do something to them to make them taste of anything.
posted by The Whelk at 5:47 PM on August 10


This stuff makes KFC look like a health food restaurant. That said, where's the deep-fat fried butter on a stick?
posted by jim in austin at 5:54 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


I don't know if criticizing fair food is necessarily 'food shaming'. This is kind of the haute couture of the high fat high sugar genre of American cooking, it's not really supposed to represent any reasonable portion of one's diet. Calling it 'unhealthy' is like calling a runway model's dress made out of repurposed paperclips 'dysfunctional' - they're not even going for that ballpark.
posted by Think_Long at 5:55 PM on August 10 [7 favorites]


A bunch of these do remind me of the Paula Deen Suicide Note Recipe bit by Maria Bamford.

But then again, so does this recipe from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, a chef for Serious Eats, so vOv.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:58 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Upon witnessing the glory that is the 'twister dog'.
"I don't even eat meat but that looks like a good idea." ~ co-worker who does not eat meat.
Also, 'Merica!
posted by Fizz at 5:58 PM on August 10 [7 favorites]


I prefer the Minnesota State Fair. My friend -- who loves the Wisconsin State Fair unconditionally -- says she prefers Wisconsin because you're never sure if you're going to get jumped in the side streets.

If your tastes lean towards mine, perhaps you would enjoy this album of Stuff on a Stick.
posted by Madamina at 5:59 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Of course, a lot of fair food is meant to be so odd or unhealthy it gets attention (drawing in fair goers and making the news), so I guess we can file this under performance art.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:59 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]


My memories of the Wisconsin State Fair are of my brother begging me to go on the zip ride, and promising he wouldn't turn the car upside down.

My parents heard my screams from far across the fairgrounds.

Seriously, I like a corn dog now and then, but this stuff is just cray-cray. We have our Poutine here in Maine and Wisconsin has their loaded cheese fries and cheese curds. Everything else is just deep fried wannabees.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:02 PM on August 10


Wash it down: Three drink minimum.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:04 PM on August 10


I don't get the comments about how the food doesn't look like food, or is some kind of reactionary, unhealthy for the sake of it monstrosity.

1. Peanut butter bacon bison burger - I'll give you that one.

2. Famouse cream puff - It's a cream puff, which is a classic pastry, omg.

3. Turkey legs - This "isn't food"?

4. Rocky mountain oysters - Umm.

5. Udder delight - It's an ice cream cone with fancy ice cream.

6. Brat shot - It's a piece of a brat with saurkraut, which is about the most normal thing this Midwestern can think of... the only problem is the small portion...

7. Hot wings - Not the healthiest, but not some chimerical monster either.

8. Twister dog - You get this one too.

9. Brew tons - A fried wonton that actually sounds pretty good. Nice flavor combinations.

So, out of nine items, only two (maybe three, if you count the "oysters" or the scotch eggs on a stick) are crazy. I mean, it's not healthy, but it's fair food. Unless you live a particularly charmed life, you're not eating fair food every day.

(I want to eat at least half of these.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:06 PM on August 10 [15 favorites]


Some of this food, like that distraught cream puff, has been victimized by lousy photography. As Sometime Food...why not? (The local arts festival this weeked was serving deep-fried ravioli at one of its carts, which struck me as a nasty thing to do to innocent ravioli, but whatever.) The oversized portions are more striking than the food itself--which, as Kutsuwamushi points out, is really not that odd.

Whole turkey legs are also a Disneyland thing, apparently. Does that qualify them as an all-American food of some sort?

The pork wrapped in bacon reminded me of the deli near my parents, which, since it acquired a "chef," has occasionally done things like serve pulled pork and bacon sandwiches. It's a Jewish deli. We have some concerns.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:09 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


Wisconsin State Fair cream puffs are the food of the gods.

I ate fried butter there a couple of years ago and deeply regretted it. Don't repeat my mistake, and if you do, eat it over something that is not your feet, as the (fiery hot) butter will follow the laws of physics and drip onto your bare toes and then you will have to walk around with burned butter toes the rest of the day.
posted by altopower at 6:11 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


If you like that then you'll enjoy Food of the Calgary Stampede. Includes scorpion pizza.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:25 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


Apparently there was Deep Fried Cream Cheese On-a-Stick With Bacon, too.

I don't know if I'm disappointed or relieved that there's no picture of that.
posted by argonauta at 6:30 PM on August 10


It is winter where I am and I can actually smell the fairgrounds when I look at these photos. COME BACK PERSEPHONE I MISS YOU HADES IS A JERK I KEPT YOUR ROOM EXACTLY THE SAME XOX MOM
posted by gingerest at 6:33 PM on August 10 [18 favorites]


I live a couple of miles from the Wisconsin state fairgrounds, although I didn't make it to the fair this year. I want to find that person who puts marinara on cheese curds and give them a good talking to. I bet they're from Illinois.
posted by desjardins at 6:33 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


Six ways to eat a cream puff (video, 1:23)
posted by desjardins at 6:36 PM on August 10


I put marinara on my cheddar nuggets (prefer them to cheese curds). I could walk to the Wisconsin State Fair from the house I grew up in. I also don't like cream puffs. I am a bad member of Sconny Nation.
posted by drezdn at 6:37 PM on August 10


I actually volunteered/camped out at WI State Fair one year. A few days in all of the campers had worked out a circuit of freebies and good deals on food to get through the run of the fair. Stops included the free Coke sample booth, Herb Kohl's milk stand and that one "lemonade" guy near the rides.
posted by drezdn at 6:40 PM on August 10


Those look like some weak wings but I'd kill for that ice cream cone right now.
posted by neuromodulator at 6:41 PM on August 10


I put marinara on my cheddar nuggets (prefer them to cheese curds).

I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE
posted by desjardins at 6:42 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


So, out of nine items, only two (maybe three, if you count the "oysters" or the scotch eggs on a stick) are crazy

Less. I hate to break it to you, but peanut butter on burgers is totally A Thing. There are a dozen restaurants in Seattle that do this.

I'm curious about trying a lot of these. I don't do well at these kind of things, as I don't know when to stop and always feel bad afterward.

The food shaming and classism apoplexy is hilarious. These are menu items that are *designed specifically* to both shock and pique curiosity. It's the culinary equivalent of a freak show and this is the reaction these people are looking for.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:43 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


Not enough peanut butter and "jelly" things to be convincing. I refuse to believe this is a legitimate event in any American state or territory.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:43 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


I live in Wisconsin and I've never been to the fair and I love cream puffs. And never knew until right this second that there were famous cream puffs there.

My husband should have told me this YEARS ago.
posted by gerstle at 6:51 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'd say we have you guys beat over here in MN. A sampling of new foods to come out just this year alone. Dipping your cheese curds in marinara? How about we just cover them in a pretzel batter and you can dip them in MORE CHEESE?
posted by Demogorgon at 6:59 PM on August 10


Clearly we should have had a meetup.
posted by desjardins at 7:00 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]


The hot wings look like they were sourced from a pterodactyl.

And the only reason I clicked the link is because there's a 7-11 just down the road. While the food isn't deep-fried, the grease quotient is roughly equivalent.
posted by datawrangler at 7:01 PM on August 10


Demogorgon, I just looked at that link. #1 looks like (ahem) #2, sliced.

That being said, the PB&J French toast is now my object of culinary desire. Yowza!

I now return you to Wisconsin State Fair cuisine.
posted by datawrangler at 7:06 PM on August 10


I'm a big fan of state fairs, and have been to all the big uns (other than Texas, which I gather is a real show). I checked WI off my list this last week, and I have to say it left me wanting. Lots of great food options, and a nice setup all around, but totally lackluster in the livestock department.

I had a creampuff, and was pleased, but could only eat a little bit. For fair food, that's a pretty glowing endorsement. Plus, the puff pavilion with tons of people cranking the things out behind glass using pastry bags connected to hoses connected--presumably--to a never ending supply vat of cream filling was very impressive.

My pick for the best state fair: KY. I'm biased, but it's still the best.
posted by still bill at 7:20 PM on August 10


I wonder what would happen if one year, people showed up at usual at the Wisconsin State Fair, and it was just full of gourmet hipster food trucks from LA, DC, SF, NYC and Seattle , and that was it
posted by Bwithh at 7:35 PM on August 10


The whole point of the fair is that you go to the fair and do fair things. What, next you're going to complain that the butter sculpture is a waste of time because it's not a Donatello bronze? That you could be doing pilates instead of riding the ferris wheel? That you'd be better off settling down with some Lacan instead of visiting the university extension pavilion to look at the fruit varietals?

One goes to the fair and rides on the octopus-like ride that goes round and round and up and down and backwards; one looks at the butter sculpture and the seed art; one decides which of the local-artist paintings would be most desirable/least objectionable as a personal possession; one reflects that local children and grandmothers are much better at crafts than oneself. One visits the university extension pavilion and reflects that "Zestar" is a truly terrible name for an apple. One visits the animal pavilions and reflects that even a cute lil' bunny or quacky duck looks kind of spooky if it's totally black. And, of course, one chooses a couple of fatty snacks, because it is only once a goddamn year, people, and I'm not out here buying artisanal pork belly sliders or whatever every weekend like some kind of fucking New Yorker.

The trick is to choose wisely, because if you end up getting something that isn't tasty, you'll be too overwhelmed by fat and salt to try again. Last year, I had some corn fritters (blah, did not finish) and some fried green tomatoes (would eat again). Mediocre funnel cake the year before that - I normally don't even bother with funnel cake, since I had the pinnacle of funnel cake deliciousness at Jesse James Days in Northfield, Minnesota in 1995 after riding an exceptionally creaky and dangerous portable octopus ride under the twinkling stars with my college best friend. Best actual state fair food was a banana flip made with proper whipped cream and real sponge cake, but that vendor was too good for this world and no longer appears at the fair. I am indifferent to cheese curds.
posted by Frowner at 7:39 PM on August 10 [55 favorites]


does Canada have Province Fairs?
posted by Bwithh at 7:42 PM on August 10


At Minnesota State Fair I always took advantage of the fact that the all-you-can-drink milk booth was right across from Sweet Martha's Coookie Jar after buying my bucket o' cookies.
posted by wintermind at 7:43 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


It's like the Minnesota State Fair except not as awesome.

(Minnesotan)


QFT

Fun fact, the only reason why the Texas state fair is "bigger" than the MN state fair is because it runs an extra week so they get larger attendance numbers. Measured in average daily attendance, the MN state fair is the largest.

It's coming is just a few weeks and I've gone at least once every year that I've been alive (and once when I was an 8-month-old fetus).
posted by VTX at 7:46 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]


Not state fair food (though I wouldn't be surprised to see it turn up in deep-fried form at the Texas State Fair), but I'm lucky enough to live in a part of the U.S. where you can get what I had for dinner tonight: two bucks for a huge styrofoam cup of elotes made with love from corn cut fresh off the cob and just the right amount of every other ingredient.
posted by item at 7:47 PM on August 10


nevercalm: "Some of these simply seem to be an intentionally ludicrous way to pack as many calories as possible into a meal or snack as some form of...rebellion? An "I'll show you" thing? "You can't tell ME what to do?"

I'll never understand the whole "It's unhealthy? Fuck YOU I'm going to eat three now"
"

How about : GODDAMNED IT LOOKS TASTY AND MY MOUTH WANTS IT NOW!
posted by symbioid at 8:02 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


still bill: My pick for the best state fair: KY. I'm biased, but it's still the best.

Really? Now I'm curious and I need to know why. I went to the KY state fair the first year I moved there, and as a native Syracusean (NY, not Italy) I take my state fairs seriously. There wasn't even a butter sculpture! Or a bunny barn! Although I did see some adorable 4H Club children coaching their rabbits through an obstacle course. The weirdest the food got was the Kool-Aid-on-a-stick, which didn't hold a candle to my beloved NYSF's wine slushies.

Also missing from this photo set: wine slushies.

Now that I'm back in upstate NY, I've made my SO promise I can drag her to the Fair (180 miles away, god bless her). She's acquiesced mostly because I swore there will be rainbow chicks and angora bunnies all for her to pet.
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 8:03 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Demogorgon: "Yeah, I'd say we have you guys beat over here in MN. A sampling of new foods to come out just this year alone. Dipping your cheese curds in marinara? How about we just cover them in a pretzel batter and you can dip them in MORE CHEESE?"

Why don't you just go deep-fry a hot-dish, eh?
posted by symbioid at 8:18 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I'm not out here buying artisanal pork belly sliders or whatever every weekend like some kind of fucking New Yorker.
posted by symbioid at 8:23 PM on August 10 [12 favorites]


I love fair food and I ate pulled pork sliders yesterday sooo
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 PM on August 10


"I'll never understand the whole "It's unhealthy? Fuck YOU I'm going to eat three now""

I feel like you've never had cheese curds.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:33 PM on August 10 [7 favorites]


Man oh man, do I want one (maybe half of one) of those cream puffs.
posted by codacorolla at 8:34 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


I feel like you've never had cheese curds.

Yeah, one of my high school teachers, when new to the area, described it as "your yearly allowance of saturated fat in one serving... and it's glorious."
posted by dorque at 8:39 PM on August 10


Eating ridiculous (but oh so tasty) food like this every now and then (like, say, once a year at the state fair) is not going to have an effect on your health. If you see food like this and think "that was Monday's lunch" or "looks good for dinner tonight" or other such routine thoughts, then it could be problematic.
posted by zardoz at 8:43 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


I try to eat a new weird fair food every year. I was quite pleased this year to discover that bacon wrapped chicken and spaghetti ice cream are DELICIOUS. But fried chocolate stuff is pretty much like eating melted chocolate surrounded by corn dog.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:52 PM on August 10


Why don't you just go deep-fry a hot-dish, eh?

No lie, I'm pretty sure they have that on a stick.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:53 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


Yup
posted by eruonna at 8:54 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]


Not state fair food (though I wouldn't be surprised to see it turn up in deep-fried form at the Texas State Fair), but I'm lucky enough to live in a part of the U.S. where you can get what I had for dinner tonight: two bucks for a huge styrofoam cup of elotes made with love from corn cut fresh off the cob and just the right amount of every other ingredient.

One day, soon after we moved to the U.S./Mexico border, my kids heard the familiar tunes of an ice cream truck and ran into the yard, only to discover that our new neighborhood had an elotes truck instead. That might be the most profound disappointment they have experienced in their lives thus far.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:54 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]


I must weigh in here on behalf of the Great New York State Fair, first held here in 1841, officially the oldest, and one of the biggest, fairs in the land.

It is a time-honored tradition that there be some kind of "photo food" at every Fair. Sometimes it's something freaky like "alligator bites" or edible bugs, sometimes it's deep-fried weirdness or ultra-high-fat-and-sugar concoctions. Often it's just something normal presented creatively. One year there were "beef sundaes": mashed-potato "ice cream" in a dish with beef gravy "chocolate sauce" and a grape-tomato "cherry". Everyone knows that half this stuff is purchased and posed with, laughed over and usually tossed out half-eaten. Here's Uncle Brian with his deep-fried Krispy Kreme poutine shark burger with pork rinds and sriracha dipping sauce! Hey Brian, remember trying to eat that thing? Was that before or after you got sick from wine slushies?

Messiness is also key... big roasted ears of corn are dipped in hot flavored oils before being handed over dripping, getting oil stains on everything and everyone nearby. Ice cream cones are constructed to guarantee a good multidimensional meltdown with chunks of stuff that will stick to your clothing. One of the most popular items are two-foot lengths of simple dough deep-fried and rolled in coarse sugar; by midday the fry fat gets a bitter edge and the sugar becomes a gritty paste but folks buy these things by the oil-soaked paper bag, a dozen at a time. It's tradition!

Wisconsin does have us beat on the Rocky Mountain oysters, though.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:55 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


Wisconsin: That is where they keep the butter sculpture.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:01 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


She's acquiesced mostly because I swore there will be rainbow chicks and angora bunnies all for her to pet.

Last year it was legitimately 190 degrees out at the fair and the only thing I wanted to pet was a walk-in freezer.

wait was that 2 years ago? gasp
posted by elizardbits at 9:52 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


State fairs are just so big. What most of y'all have probably missed out on is growing up in a small town in farming country and the county fair.

You get the carnival and the midway rides and the food and of course the livestock and agricultural shows and competitions, except that it's all people you know and it's the weekend before school starts again and you're a little drunk from the bottle that your buddies are passing around and so you give a wide berth to the booth from the bank that your mom runs every year (but you'll end up there later to get some free snacks) and that skeevie carnie talks you into wasting money in an attempt to impress whatshername who is mostly ignoring you anyway, and you're distantly aware that some of your classmates whom you otherwise pay no attention to are thrilled to get colored ribbons over in the Big Pork Building or somesuchthing, there are freaking peanuts everywhere even though we have a whole separate festival just to celebrate that local cash crop, and you're thinking, jesus, this fucking town is so goddam weird am I ever going to get out of this place and, hey, a corn dog sounds good, I should go get one, maybe mom'll give me the money.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:19 PM on August 10 [15 favorites]


MetaFilter: a never ending supply vat of cream filling

(sorry)

does Canada have Province Fairs?

In Toronto, we do have the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), which is nowhere near as good as it was when I was a kid, but I never miss a year with my parents anyway. The two necessary foods for my family are the Tiny Tom doughnuts and hot ice cream waffles. In recent years, the deep fried mac and cheese curds have made a solid showing, mostly due to the cheese curds. The weird thing is that we're so conscious of it being "bad" food that we split everything and we probably consume less calories than we would at, say, tonight's family bbq. My blood sugar always crashes at the CNE from all the running around and overestimating how bad the bad foods are. Let me tell you, low blood sugar at a fair is definitely like being a kid in a candy store. The most important thing in family tradition, however, is the Tilt A Whirl. I'm getting married five days after the Ex ends this year, and it is taking everything I have not to attempt to take wedding dress Tilt A Whirl photos.
posted by ilana at 10:32 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


I like the Windsor Fair in Maine cause you get your fried food and rickety rides and colorful animal breeds but you also get the impression you might find a dead body.
posted by The Whelk at 10:33 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


The whole point of the fair is that you go to the fair and do fair things. What, next you're going to complain that the butter sculpture is a waste of time because it's not a Donatello bronze? That you could be doing pilates instead of riding the ferris wheel? That you'd be better off settling down with some Lacan instead of visiting the university extension pavilion to look at the fruit varietals?

Frowner, you have always been my favorite person on Metafilter, but now I might be certifiably in love with you.

(Signed, I promise that is a compliment and not meant to be creepy.)
posted by Munching Langolier at 10:38 PM on August 10


In Toronto, we do have the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), which is nowhere near as good as it was when I was a kid, but I never miss a year with my parents anyway. The two necessary foods for my family are the Tiny Tom doughnuts and hot ice cream waffles.

do they have Beaver Tails? why is a Canadian fried dough invention so good so hard to find in Canada? I blame Socialism.
posted by Bwithh at 10:57 PM on August 10


Bwithh: yes, for at least the past several years, the Food Building has had a Beaver Tails stand.
posted by ilana at 11:07 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Ah, my people.

Former Wisconsinite here. I don't know why people are surprised; this is the same state where one can get a $50 Bloody Mary, which has a whole friend chicken as a garnish.

Now I want 752692576129125967 cream puffs and a turkey leg.

And that Bloody Mary.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:18 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


After the county fair season culminates in the state fair, the carnies are footloose and fancy free to start doing local fairs. The church a block from my house hires a carnival, which means a beer tent on the parking lot and a midway on the soccer fields with terrifying rides my husband is too tall to ride, and a week of fair folk wandering my neighborhood. Which is legit strange.

This story has no point except that I always have to seriously consider whether I want my small children to have another go at the merry go round or whether I want a $5 lemon shake up for me. Joy of childhood or expensive once - a - year beverage? Surprisingly difficult choice.

Also that having a beer tent with your whole neighborhood is pretty great especially when you can walk home to the bathroom.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:41 AM on August 11


Similar to the Ex, Edmonton's K-days (Klondike Days) are mostly about the midway and the food. I really feel that Canada is missing out on the great competitive traditions of rural agricultural fairs - contests of handicraft, baked goods, food preservation and animal husbandry. There is just nothing as great as scritching goats between their demon eyes and then going to look at an artistically-lit cabinet filled with a hundred slowly staling cakes you're not allowed to eat, followed by a conversation with a grizzled stockman who is really excited to answer your city-slicker question about what the abbreviations on the breeding charts mean. All while sweating profusely and collecting refrigerator magnets shaped like heritage potato varieties. Canada would be good at this, dammit.
posted by gingerest at 12:48 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Oh god the curds. As a native MN'er living in CA, this time time of year (with the fair only a few weeks away) always makes me want to move back. That feeling disappears annually when I visit for Christmas and feel real cold again.

And maybe this point is so obvious no one felt the need to make it - where do you think the hipster food trucks got their recipe ideas from?
posted by MillMan at 12:56 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I'm gathering that the Canadian for "State Fair" is "Provincial Exhibition"?
Here's Manitoba's

The one in winter seems more important than the one in summer?
They do have livestock competitions though, and there's some passing mention of crafts on the site but I'm not sure if this means amateur contests.
posted by Bwithh at 1:53 AM on August 11


Whoever took all these pictures did not get the Chicken and Waffle Cone and I am really disappointed, because that sounds amazing and more foods should be served in edible cones.

you know these are all deeply unhealthy, but remove that element and focus on the visual appeal.

Dude, they're deep fried and covered in various cheeses and sauces and goos. Deep fried food always looks like unidentifiable brownish lumps. There's almost no point in photographing them, but until they make edible monitors this will have to do.

Former Wisconsinite here. I don't know why people are surprised; this is the same state where one can get a $50 Bloody Mary, which has a whole friend chicken as a garnish.

"Friend" for "fried" is my favorite typo, especially since it's so appropriate. Friend chicken. Cheese friends. Yes please.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:46 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Quebec has the Brome fair, too
posted by ServSci at 4:03 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there are tons of regional fairs crossing the great land of Canada. When I lived in QC, I was begged every year to go to the Richmond fair b/c I inevitably had friends who entered the crafts/canning & preserves/baking contests. One year our friends entered their chickens. And before any hipster accusations head their way, young people who live in small towns outside of Montreal or QC City are weirdly wired differently. To them, it has nothing to do w/irony and everything to do w/a love of community. It makes me horribly jaded.

(In terms of food, nothing shocking, I'm afraid. Just poutine, Pogos, cheeseburgers, ice cream, beaver tails.)
posted by Kitteh at 4:57 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


My favorite state fair food image gallery (because I've perused enough that I had a favorite!) is the Serious Eats 2012 Texas State Fair fried foods. 2011 is pretty great too.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:29 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Also that having a beer tent with your whole neighborhood is pretty great especially when you can walk home to the bathroom.

There's a catholic school near me that does a beer tent gymnasium every year as the main fundraiser. There's nothing quite like drinking at school, surrounded by a huge crowd of absolutely trashed middle aged and old people, plus a few younger/hipsterish people there for the ironic experience. And with hundreds of kids running underfoot, playing while mom and dad get hammered and then drive home. (The local police and prosecutor's office must all be alumni because I've never heard of a DUI even though people can barely find their keys much less drive.)

State and county fairs don't do a lot for me, too hot and crowded. The idea of eating any of the pictured food when it is 105 and you are elbow to elbow with thousands of people makes me queasy. As a form of vernacular performance art it's interesting, but I think part of the reaction is that it meant something different a hundred years ago when you lived on a farm and this was your one chance all year to indulge. Now you might stop at KFC on the way home and get hipster cocktails the next day, so that food tradition doesn't have the same place or meaning.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:52 AM on August 11


I'm not seeing anything all that outrageous in those pictures, just looks like typical festival food to me.
posted by octothorpe at 6:07 AM on August 11


The only unappetizing thing is the photography. You could take equally-unappealing shots of high-end hipster food truck food, if you wanted to. Conversely, if you put in a little effort most of the fair food items would look significantly more delicious.

Also, just to prove that the Venn Diagram circles containing "hipster food truck food" and "fair food" are significantly overlapping, there's a fried cheese curd truck in Philadelphia, now.

Fried curds: America's Poutine.

Somewhat unrelated: I am a bit bummed because I was going to actually be in Milwaukee last week, and was planning on going to the fair, but the plan imploded at the last minute... However, I am plotting my return during Oktoberfest, which I can only assume has fried cheese curds and more beer.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:43 AM on August 11


I love my friend chickens.
posted by spinifex23 at 7:16 AM on August 11


Best county fair: Orange County, Calif. Used to be very agricultural, now totally suburban, so great animals *and* great rides.

Best state fair: the Big E, for all the New England states. Each state has a pavilion that serves food from said state, real, unfried food you don't feel bad after eating.* Clam chowder from the Mass pavilion. Cheese and fudge from Vermont. Quahogs from Little Rhody. Maple candy. Yes, please. They also have a butter sculpture. But less impressive barns than the OC Fair.

* Not judging, but I really dislike fried food and don't enjoy stomach aches.
posted by dame at 7:31 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Let me introduce you to my deep friend Cheese Curd. He's very deep. "I curd, therefore I am" he says.
posted by symbioid at 7:56 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


At Minnesota State Fair I always took advantage of the fact that the all-you-can-drink milk booth was right across from Sweet Martha's Coookie Jar after buying my bucket o' cookies.

I remember when the milk booth was on one corner across from one of the big barns and on the corner across the intersection there was the brownie booth. Fresh baked, gigantic, never-cheaped-out-on-the-cocoa, frosted brownies. Buy one of these, do a quick run to the milk booth for an icy cup and then sit in the shade reaching a new level of nirvana. When they moved the brownie booth several blocks over to the food building, something joyful was lost.
posted by Ber at 8:04 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I curd, therefore I am

No whey.
posted by argonauta at 8:17 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


that one "lemonade" guy near the rides

I'd stay away from any lemonade in quotation marks.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:20 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the closest of the two Sweet Martha's buildings is a block away from the all-you-can-drink booth. Why the brownie stand was even allowed to move is a mystery and I was outraged that it happened.

Not only do I think that the brownies were a better match for the milk than cookies (and I say this as a person who loves Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies above all other foods) but you end up holding the cookies in one hand and the milk in the other while your spouse feeds you cookies and people keep pestering you to ask where the cookies are. You can't give them directions around a mouth full of cookie and gesturing with your head just doesn't work as well.

The brownie is all one piece so two hands are fine for dunking/eating and the head nod worked just fine to tell people where to get one of their own. Plus, the cookies are no longer as warm/all-got-eaten-I-should-have-bought-the-whole-bucket on the walk from there to the milk stand.

Logistically, the brownie stand was superior.
posted by VTX at 8:27 AM on August 11


I've heard that Sweet Martha's earnings are in the 7 figures, so maybe they were muscled out? Vendor locations at the fair are very very expensive and political.
posted by Think_Long at 9:08 AM on August 11


I'm a reasonably health-conscious eater, but I don't understand the idea that these are some kind of over-the-top monstrosities. They're undeniably junk food, yes—but they're perfectly ordinary junk food that you can buy anywhere. Cheese fries, ice cream, a hot dog with fries, hot wings, cream puffs, Scotch eggs, a burger with bacon (and bison meat, which is leaner than beef, no?)—what's so unusual here? This is stuff you can buy at any sportsball stadium or carnival or tourist trap.

No, it's not good for you. So reserve it for an occasional treat. (And maybe split that cream puff with someone.)

No, it's not photogenic food. It's not supposed to be. It's slung out en masse from a temporary outdoor stall, in a paper container, for people to scarf down between the Gravitron and the 4H booth. Zero fucks were given about plating and presentation on either side of the transaction.

The race to see who can be most scandalized by the fact that Midwesterners sometimes eat hot dogs! is bizarre.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:38 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I think this goes here....
Ticket to the Fair/DFW (link to PDF)

Wherein our reporter gorges himself on corn dogs, gapes at terrifying rides, acquaints himself with the odor. of pigs, exchanges pleasantries with carnies, and and admires the loveliness of cows.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:11 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Is it just me, or has fair food gotten even more ridiculous since Epic Meal Time?
posted by stubbehtail at 10:21 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


you end up holding the cookies in one hand and the milk in the other while your spouse feeds you cookies and people keep pestering you to ask where the cookies are

You should just mash your face against the cookies until they are all in your mouth and ignore everyone and everything else until it is time for more cookies.
posted by elizardbits at 10:59 AM on August 11


Just wanted to add from the land of Krispy Kreme, that there isn't much better in the world than a fresh bacon cheeseburger on two KK doughnuts. The key, however, is to flatten the doughnuts as you're cooking on the big flat grill, so all the bacon and burger juice infuses with the sugary amazingness. So, they were Doing It Wrong.

I eat one every year at the same concession stand near the location of my Nationwide seats for the 300 the day before the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte. Nothing could be finer, than a Lutherburger in Carolina.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 11:26 AM on August 11


Also, just to prove that the Venn Diagram circles containing "hipster food truck food" and "fair food" are significantly overlapping, there's a fried cheese curd truck in Philadelphia, now.

They were around the NYC area the other weekend. Overpriced and underwhelming.

</foodhipster>
posted by ryoshu at 12:41 PM on August 11


I just came back from the bewitched realm of the Mars Cheese Castle with two bags of curds (colby jack and spicy ranch), so now is a good time as any to share my Beer-Battered Cheese Curd Recipe.

BEER BATTERED CHEESE CURDS
1 part flour
1 part beer
cheese curds

Mix the flour and beer together; one cup flour + one cup beer is good place to start. I like a neutral, not-fancy beer like Schlitz or Pabst, because why are you wasting your fancy beer on this?

Dip cheese curds in the batter, letting excess drip back, and then fry until light brown (if you're using fresh oil). If molten cheese starts leaking out of the fry-globule, you're letting it fry too long.

Don't overcrowd the deep fryer; it'll take a bunch of batches, but each batch goes very quickly. Drain on a cooling rack or clean paper (I like brown paper bags, cut open).

Note: this breading is more light and tempura-esque than the crunchy breadcrumb batter found on some cheese curds. Those cheese curds are merely runty, misshapen cheesesticks and should be tossed back into the salty, flavorless marinara where they belong.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:07 PM on August 11


You should just mash your face against the cookies until they are all in your mouth and ignore everyone and everything else until it is time for more cookies.

Behold the cookie bucket. The bucket is so dangerously overfilled that one handed face mashing is pretty risky, unless you want to lose half your cookies. Once you've consumed the overflow portion of the bucket, it can be strapped on feedbag style and you can mash all you want.
posted by cnelson at 1:54 PM on August 11


Former Wisconsinite here. I don't know why people are surprised; this is the same state where one can get a $50 Bloody Mary, which has a whole friend chicken as a garnish.

For those who don't know, Wisconsin (or at least Milwaukee, which hosts the State Fair) has become a mecca for the Bloody Mary. It may have started with Sobelman's, who's signature non-stunty-State-Fair Bloody has a entire hamburger as a part of its garnish, but these days Milwaukee has endless, top-shelf Bloody Marys. And pretty much every one of them with a six ounce beer back.
posted by rtimmel at 2:15 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


pretty much every one of them with a six ounce beer back

THE WAY IT SHOULD BE. Here is in Chicago you have to pay extra for a beer back, and I was delighted when I was automatically presented with a short glass of Grain Belt whilst breakfasting on a recent trip to Minneapolis.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:28 PM on August 11


Ivan Fyodorovich: there are freaking peanuts everywhere even though we have a whole separate festival just to celebrate that local cash crop.

I spent my high school years in a part of Kentucky that celebrated Tater Day. Supposedly, it is all about celebrating spring, and the local cash crop, potatoes. (I've never seen a potato farm in the area.) It's...quaint.
posted by persephone's rant at 8:04 PM on August 11


You guys convinced me that I need to go to the Illinois State Fair this weekend. Here are the food items I'll be looking for.

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Wings
Deep-Fried Snickers/Twix/Reese's Wrapped in Bacon
Mallow Madness
Cheese-on-a-Stick
Pizza-on-a-Stick
Pie-Tin Shrimp
Cajun Turkey Legs
Deep Fried Tacos
Street Nachos
Gator Kabobs
Cricket Pizza
1/4 Lb. Bacon On-A-Stick
Multi-Colored Potato Nuggets
Deep-Fried Ranch Dressing
Pulled Pork Parfait
Hot Beef Sundae
Pickle Dog
Bacon Ranch Fries
Cozy Dogs
Bacon Flutternutter
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:26 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


I have gone my entire life without Cajun turkey legs and I don't know why
posted by The Whelk at 8:37 AM on August 12


I am confused myself as to why I'm not in a garage punk band called Street Nachos
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:43 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Juliet Banana, one could just kind of merge many of those things together, like Bill Cosby's Bacon Burger Dog. Some of it sounds like it snuck into our universe from the realm of Apple Cabin Foods.
posted by JHarris at 9:06 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


As a frequent visitor to the MN State Fair, I can only note that one year, a food critics convention visted the Fair, and opinions ensued. Not overwhelmingly negative.

Also apparently the Spam building was acquired by the U of M as a secondary display building, among the many other changes this year.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:58 AM on August 12


Back from the exceptionally small Oneida Co fair in northern Wisconsin. The culinary loser was chocolate covered bacon. The chocolate was milk, the bacon was overcooked, the whole business had been refrigerated overnight and was still cold. Cheap, though.

The 4H tent had some great displays: embroidery, LEGO constructions, and the blue winner bakery was three cupcakes closely spaced, decorated to look like one ear of corn on the cob, complete with a fondant pat of butter.
posted by Jesse the K at 8:00 PM on August 12


Juliet Banana, I genuinely cannot tell whether that's a list of real fair foods or not.
posted by gingerest at 10:09 PM on August 12


Juliet Banana, I can attest that the pulled pork parfait is good. A similar item was mentioned somewhere upthread, the 'beef sundae.' If it's the same one I had last year, it's constructed similarly: mashed potatoes, sauce, pork, cherry on top.
posted by Aguywithagirl at 12:26 AM on August 13


Juliet Banana, I genuinely cannot tell whether that's a list of real fair foods or not.

100% real.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:11 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


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