Fair Fare

                Go for a spin, funnel cakes. Goud-an outta here, fried cheese curds. Aw, shucks, corn dogs.

                You’re so last year’s fare.

                We should eat to live, but if you attended the Nebraska State Fair, perhaps you lived to eat. Celebrating the tagline “The Good Life on a Stick,” food vendors showcased fair favorites, as well as some newfangled treats, impaled or threaded onto a stick.

                At this year’s extravaganza, over 30 different menu items dish up either fried or chocolate-covered edibles on a stick. Catfish on a stick. Deep-fried peaches on a stick. Fried chocolate chip cookie dough on a stick. Pecan-smoked pork chops on a stick. Shrimp on a stick.

                I feel like I’m stuck in a scene from “Forrest Gump.”

                Not satisfied? You could try peanut butter and jelly, deep fried butter, or fried bananas, all – you guessed it – on a stick.

                Craving chocolate? I saw chocolate-covered Twinkies, chocolate caramel corn with nuts, Hostess-brand Ho-Hos, and rice krispie treats. Yup. All of these delectables were served on a stick.

                One vendor sold chocolate-covered bacon.  Interestingly, this may be the healthiest choice on the fairgrounds. The bacon is baked instead of fried.

                Why are Nebraskans – and their peers from other parts of the country – fascinated with fair food?

                In a world consumed by foodie catchphrases like “Bam” and “Yum-O,” in a society that embraces a bit of unusual cuisine creativity, the artery-clogging, chocolate-dripping allure of fair food draws crowds.

                The Nebraska State Fair isn’t the only expo in the country to offer interesting edibles. Just when you thought there weren’t enough food-on-a-stick options, inventive entrepreneurs developed interesting, new options.

                 In Minnesota, fairgoers could try camel meat, spaghetti and meatballs or s’mores on a stick. And in Texas, the fair’s food vendors like to compete in a game of one-upsmanship. They’ve perfected beer-battered salsa balls, deep-fried beer, chocolate covered jalapeños, and deep-fried Coca-Cola.

                The long lines at the food vendors indicate that the public is willing to indulge their appetites, and maybe, their curiosity. The self-imposed food coma comes at a cost: calories and high dollars.

                I’ll admit I’m guilty of searching out one vendor. When the fair moved to Lincoln, Scott and I wandered the grounds until we found them. But in my defense, visiting this particular booth is a family tradition. When the fair was in Lincoln, my dad’s favorite spot was the stand serving vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and rolled in chopped peanuts. And yes, it’s served on a stick.               

                What does all this skewered food say about society’s skewered outlook about food choices? Is it okay to overindulge in a beer-battered-deep-fried-dipped-in-chocolate anything during a visit to this statewide get-together? Where are the healthy options?

                Or is this a balancing act? You’ll walk off the calories perusing fair exhibits.

                The food-on-a-stick craze brings out the best of ingenuity. What’s next? Gouged goulash? Speared spinach?

                If you live to eat, you’re destined to find a treat on a stick that celebrates Nebraska’s good life when you chow down on fair fare.


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