America on a Stick
August 27, 2019 9:34 AM   Subscribe

A taste of Americana in its most portable, edible form - food on a stick, from bacon-wrapped riblets to a Caprese salad to a deep-fried Twinkie — at the Iowa State Fair.

Americans did not invent food on a stick, but they did invent fast food, which they then made even faster by putting it on a stick. Food on a stick doesn’t require a container or wrapper; the handling mechanism is built right in, and it’s immediately ready to eat. The most famous iteration, of course, is the corn dog, which first saw life as a sans-stick curiosity before the 1927 patent application for a “combined dipping, cooking, and article-holding apparatus” allowed it to assume its final form.

posted by poffin boffin (48 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
This event is probably best enjoyed via website, as I'm sure it would make me sick as hell if I ever went there. Chicken-and-waffle on a stick and the deep-fried pecan pie would be my choice for first dinner and first dessert.
posted by skewed at 9:42 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Iowa Twitter has had generally positive things to say about this companion article, which manages to cover the Iowa State Fair as, like, a place filled with human-type people, which seems to be a feat that eludes much of the national media.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:43 AM on August 27, 2019 [6 favorites]


They need to make the sticks edible.

Have them come in different flavors. And textures. And toppings.

Actually, f the food, just serve me the stick!!!

DID I JUST CREATE AN ENTIRE INDUSTRY
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:47 AM on August 27, 2019 [16 favorites]


like it could be a pretzel stick, why has no one done this

why are we the only visionaries
posted by poffin boffin at 9:49 AM on August 27, 2019 [10 favorites]


Americans did not invent fast food - they've excavated a number of Roman era fast food vendors at a number of sites.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:49 AM on August 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


DID I JUST CREATE AN ENTIRE INDUSTRY

No, you just recreated Pocky.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:50 AM on August 27, 2019 [22 favorites]




There was that Extra Sticks restaurant from The Good Place.
posted by rewil at 10:00 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


This event is probably best enjoyed via website, as I'm sure it would make me sick as hell if I ever went there. Chicken-and-waffle on a stick and the deep-fried pecan pie would be my choice for first dinner and first dessert.

I think the thing that people don't get with midwestern state fair food is that the way to actually have a good time is to go with three to five other people, and everyone gets one bite of everything. So it's still a lot of fat and sugar, but not quite as much as onlookers seem to imagine. I can't manage deep fried or super greasy anymore, but there's still plenty of stuff to enjoy (grilled peaches and bhel puri and strawberries 'n cream are all on my list for this year). Pace yourself by looking at the butter sculptures or seed art and you'll be fine.

It's also possible to have a vegan fair experience.

Also, bring a water bottle! Hydration is what's going to get you.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:02 AM on August 27, 2019 [6 favorites]




Y'all wondering about edible savory sticks gotta check out Pretz, which can then be followed up by Pocky for dessert
posted by rather be jorting at 10:08 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


(I still maintain that the best thing to do at the state fair is to watch the amateur stock dog trials - because while the dogs are amateurs, the sheep are not and are having none of this shit)
posted by dinty_moore at 10:10 AM on August 27, 2019 [11 favorites]


wow, that chocolate dipped soft pretzel has me really envious.

Question from a non-fair goer: do people typically get utensils, plates, and napkins to help eat/catch/rest/cleanup food on a stick? Is there any chance food on a stick is a genuine waste reducer?
posted by jermsplan at 10:10 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think the thing that people don't get with midwestern state fair food is that the way to actually have a good time is to go with three to five other people, and everyone gets one bite of everything.

YES, THIS. One of my friends won't got to any state fair, local festival, or anything else where there might be food trucks alone, and ideally organizes groups of four to twenty people to amble along staring things--because that way, everyone gets to try everything they want to, and also we all have fun heckling the pig races.

Question from a non-fair goer: do people typically get utensils, plates, and napkins to help eat/catch/rest/cleanup food on a stick?
In my experience, not really while the stick is in use. Of course you usually do need hella napkins to clean up the mess later, but it's pretty common to just gnaw the thing onna stick or rip off bits with fingers and pass them to your helpful friends for sampling.
posted by sciatrix at 10:14 AM on August 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


Hey! My hand is holding some of that food!

I was covering the fair for another publication, and when I was done for the day, the pair working on this piece asked if I wanted to hold some food on a stick for them and then eat it afterward. I held the porkchop (delicious and tender! I would definitely order it again, and in fact, I did.), caramel apple (gave it away), pecan pie (hot exterior but cold in the middle...not great flavor and a too stiff crust, though that's probably by design), twinkie (gave it away), and corndog (the photographer ate it...I ate at least one more from the same stand, though, and that was delicious).

I did taste that chocolate dipped pretzel, and it was awful. Bad chocolate, almonds doing nothing, not enough salt to get past the sickly sweetness of the bad chocolate, and an old, stale pretzel. I'm a big fan of soft pretzels and a big fan of mixing salty and sweet, but this was the worst of all possible worlds.

That corn dog was also turned into the animation for this piece, by the way.
posted by msbrauer at 10:17 AM on August 27, 2019 [29 favorites]


I was really worried that this was poffin boffin's entry into #PostYourAnimal.
posted by Etrigan at 10:17 AM on August 27, 2019 [7 favorites]


Question from a non-fair goer: do people typically get utensils, plates, and napkins to help eat/catch/rest/cleanup food on a stick? Is there any chance food on a stick is a genuine waste reducer?

You can see pictures of stuff plated as it would be served here - whether or not it's on a stick, it'll often come in a paper dish. If there's a stick, there's usually no utensils, but there will be a few napkins needed later.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:18 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


That's wild about the corn dog patent being from 1927 - somehow that simultaneously seems too old and too recent for such an iconic American food.

I love the excerpt about making fast food even faster - it hadn't occurred to me that sticks could be so efficient!

As for the variety of foods, I remember checking out Manila Luzon's youtube channel a while ago and being amazed at his vlog about the Minnesota State Fair, and how you could even get salad on a stick.
posted by rather be jorting at 10:19 AM on August 27, 2019


Kinda the opposite but I used to see an old-fashioned lemon stick candy drilled into a fat lemon so when you sucked on it, instant lemonade. Had to be the kind of stick candy that had a dissolving white sugar core though.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:19 AM on August 27, 2019


Y'all wondering about edible savory sticks gotta check out Pretz, which can then be followed up by Pocky for dessert

i am fully aware of them and neither of those come with an entire roast chicken or a slice of actual fried pie on the stick, do not attempt stick fraud!
posted by poffin boffin at 10:20 AM on August 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


#PicturesOfFood"
posted by growabrain at 10:23 AM on August 27, 2019


I think the thing that people don't get with midwestern state fair food is that the way to actually have a good time is to go with three to five other people, and everyone gets one bite of everything.

This is also the only way to afford the fair food, because the price of each of these items are pretty high: $5.50 for a single rib and a single piece of bacon (mentioned as one of the cheapest), $9.75 for Cajun chicken on a stick.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:51 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


It was a remarkable choice to take all those photos with bright studio lighting against a yellow background. Like seriously bold. I think it works? msbrauer I request an entire oral history of the yellow background. Or at least a couple of sentences.
posted by Nelson at 10:53 AM on August 27, 2019


> i am fully aware of them and neither of those come with an entire roast chicken or a slice of actual fried pie on the stick, do not attempt stick fraud!

oh no I totally agree there's room in the market for chicken and pie -supporting edible sticks! Just wanted to make sure people didn't think Foci for Analysis created an entire crunchable munchable stick industry
posted by rather be jorting at 10:53 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Just got to the salad portion of the Eater piece:

The caprese salad on a stick was the move — tomatoes and fresh mozzarella take exceptionally well to being impaled and eaten off of a skewer — while the salad on a stick is a mistake on many levels. Fruit salad on a stick, however, is totally acceptable. Naturally, though, there’s nothing like a pickle on a stick as a palate cleanser.

I'd been wondering how the (plain) salad on a stick would look like, and I have to say, I was expecting something... else? Maybe grilled a bit, with dressing.
posted by rather be jorting at 11:17 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


It was a remarkable choice to take all those photos with bright studio lighting against a yellow background. Like seriously bold. I think it works? msbrauer I request an entire oral history of the yellow background. Or at least a couple of sentences.

I don't have pictures of the set up, but it was just a folding display board with a bunch of yellow, letter-sized pieces of paper taped to it. They'd tried other colors earlier in the week, but none worked quite as well as the yellow (you could see the paper texture, or it didn't work with all foods; I think they had a multi-pack of a bunch of bright colors like blue, green, and pink.). There were multiple pieces because inevitably the food dripped on the paper, even though we were mostly working with the paper held vertically.
posted by msbrauer at 11:17 AM on August 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: you just recreated Pocky.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 11:23 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Also, deep fried Twinkies are insanely good, with or without the stick.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 11:24 AM on August 27, 2019


They need to make the sticks edible.

Ummm . . . deep fried turkey legs would like a word.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:38 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


I felt slightly undignified scrolling through large, detailed photos of food on sticks while at work. Especially the banana-y ones.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:56 AM on August 27, 2019


Ummm . . . deep fried turkey legs would like a word.

technically the 'stick' in deep fried turkey legs is not edible either
posted by dinty_moore at 11:56 AM on August 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


deep fried turkey legs would like a word.

Yeah, I was curious why the pork chop required a stick. It's got its own stick built right in!

It was a remarkable choice to take all those photos with bright studio lighting against a yellow background.

This style of photo, with the subject in front of a bold-colored solid background and the contrast cranked way up, is something I like a lot but also think is getting a little long in the tooth. It makes everything look slightly pornographic, which was certainly the right choice for these photos.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:01 PM on August 27, 2019


technically the 'stick' in deep fried turkey legs is not edible either

technically anything is edible if you're not afraid of the cronch


cronch cronch
posted by sciatrix at 12:16 PM on August 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


Ratherbejorting, I can assure you that the salad on a stick that Manila would have experienced involved some fresh peppers along with tomatoes and mozzarella - unfortunately, I think that both closed a few years ago. There are also other places that had veg shish kabobs, so pretty much the same thing but grilled.

Other items on sticks I've seen:

Beer on a stick: a flight of beer stored on a stick for easy handling.
Scotch Eggs on a Stick: I mean, you don't have to do anything special to scotch eggs to make them state fair food other that put them on a stick, and even that's only if you want to go the extra mile.
Falafel on a Stick: Same. (also, yum)
Ruler on a stick: It's a ruler. That's the joke.
Condoms on a stick: disclaimer, I volunteer for the org that gives these out One condom (still in wrapper, with expiration date clearly visible) stuck onto a popsicle stick. The booth also has some candy available for the kids who come by wanting the special lollypops.

I've always enjoyed the understated rebellion of caramel apples in a dish.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:29 PM on August 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


I will take technically edible cronchy over technically edible chewy or soft any day.

Bring back the weird stick formula from Fun Dip?
posted by wellred at 12:30 PM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Have been reeling ever since I read a post suggesting that corn dogs are 'meat Twinkies'.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:00 PM on August 27, 2019 [5 favorites]




+1 for the 'onnastick' tag.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:41 PM on August 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


I was really worried that this was poffin boffin's entry into #PostYourAnimal.

PLEASE for the love of GOD poffins are not ANIMALS they are POKEMON SNACKS why does no one know the LORE
posted by poffin boffin at 1:42 PM on August 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


this raises further questions about how one boffs a snack
posted by sciatrix at 2:06 PM on August 27, 2019


aaaaaaaa
posted by poffin boffin at 2:09 PM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


i am fully aware of them and neither of those come with an entire roast chicken or a slice of actual fried pie on the stick, do not attempt stick fraud!

#NOSTICKFRAUD 👮‍♀️
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:13 PM on August 27, 2019


oh no I totally agree there's room in the market for chicken and pie -supporting edible sticks! Just wanted to make sure people didn't think Foci for Analysis created an entire crunchable munchable stick industry

WE SHALL SEE MR EDISON

WE SHALL SEE
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:16 PM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


The next step of evolution from pretzels on sticks is heads on pikes, so *crosses fingers*
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:39 PM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Pretzels on a pike would be totally badass.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:28 PM on August 27, 2019


I could feed you a pretzel from across the room.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:42 PM on August 27, 2019


Oh my god now I really want a corn dog so badly I can't even describe it. I have had good vegan corn dogs, but honestly, I would break edge for the real deal. I love corn dogs so much.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:38 PM on August 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


I had pork belly on a stick at a beer fest in PA recently, and it was mind-blowing.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:43 PM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


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