Deep-Fried Dreams at the State Fair

I tried to do it right this time, really I did. I trained like a champion for my third trip to the State Fair of Texas, where I always order the dumbest things on the menu and write about them here, for your pleasure.

I hydrated on the drive up. I canceled my order of wings at the Alamo Drafthouse and ordered a kale salad to eat for my late-night screening of Venom (both were underwhelming). I ate light the next morning. I even worked out right beforehand, just to make sure my conscience would be clean as I trotted off to the mecca of fried foods.

Then I stumbled. I attended a pregame Texas-Oklahoma bash at Four Corners Brewing, because a reporter will never turn down free food and drinks. In this economy? I figured, I’ll stop in, shake some hands, have a cold one, and head down to the fair. Maybe I’d have a slice of brisket, but I wasn’t going to go nuts. I was good, for a little while. I spent some time people-watching: Texas AD Chris Del Conte holding court with his counterpart, Joe Castiglione of Oklahoma; Matt Leinart being a tall guy whom people wanted to speak with; Longhorn greats of yore taking pictures with fans. Then I sidled up to the bar for a beer. The dreadlocked gentleman slinging oat sodas turned out to be my saboteur, my Loki, if you will. For some reason, he gave me two beers instead of one, because, “One wasn’t pouring correctly?” Huh? I trusted him. I trusted him! Half an hour later, I was facedown in a pile of burnt ends. I knew what was awaiting me at the State Fair, and I did it anyway. I even slammed a chicken fajita taco, because (as you’ll read later) I made poor choices.

An hour later I was sitting shotgun on 35, fuller than full, like a dang rookie. But did that stop me from gorging on some of the most unnecessary culinary creations on the planet? Take a wild guess. As always, food and drink rated with vintage Bevos.

Fried Frito Pie Bites

I barely made it to the midway before I was dropping coupons left and right. There was absolutely no way I was making it past the fried Frito pie stand, despite my skepticism. Sometimes the State Fair evokes my inner existentialist. Why? Why does the Frito pie, already a perfect foodstuff, need anything extra to muck it up? Then the id-like Venom voice (callback!) takes over and orders me to shovel this garbage down my gullet. Turns out, this is basically a taquito filled with Frito pie. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Kool-Aid Pickle-Dilly Sangria

I swear, the choices get weirder every year. Or maybe I choose the weirder stuff every year. Either way, when given the choice of 10 different, normal drinks, like a margarita or a daquiri, I chose something I was 99 percent sure I would hate. Wouldn’t you know, I was right. First of all, I hate sangria! It’s a bad drink. Just drink wine and eat fruit separately, it’s not that hard. Now, I love pickles, so I wasn’t turned off by the notion that this might be pretty briny. I could stomach the Kool-Aid because I’m about as mature as a 10-year-old when I step foot inside the fairgrounds. One sip of this bad boy had me questioning my decision-making capabilities. Am I fit enough to raise my children? What if they join the circus or something because of me? This drink was that bad. It tasted like sticky-sweet pickle juice, and every sip made my kidneys angry. The pickle spear turned a radioactive red, which I forced myself to try, almost barfing, Exorcist-style, in front of the aerial tram. It was disgusting. I think I might be disgusting. This was so bad that I am using an alternate rating scale for it.

Air Conditioning

Technically, this isn’t a food, but I do breathe in the air, so, whatever. The State Fair is always 15-20 degrees hotter than the rest of Dallas, probably because of all the hot grease and beer sweat wafting around. This year, I found the Old Mill Inn, an oasis near Big Tex where you can A. sit down B. be inside C. pay with cash instead of coupons D. drink out of glassware. I enjoyed the sweet respite of cold, conditioned air on my stupid, sweaty body, and it gave me the strength to eat more food that more and more doctors have been saying “should absolutely never be consume under any circumstances.”

Sweet Bakin’ Bacon

After almost creating a microcosm of the Sahara inside my body, I got back on the right track with this completely unnecessary but nonetheless satisfying sweet-savory dessert. It’s basically a fried Twinkie with bacon inside, which … fine. You know? Everything has been done before, but there’s something to be said for piping hot dough and cream and confectioners’ sugar. Folks, it’s good. The bacon was a bit undercooked, and I ended up forking it out of the inside so I could enjoy my insulin spike unabated.

I’d like to take an intermission here to point out a couple things. I am not from Texas, but I have a real affinity for blown-out events like the State Fair. We do not have anything even approximating the excessiveness of this in New Jersey, which can lead people (like me!) down a path of iniquity. But for normal people, it’s probably a ton of wholesome fun. I’d like to share my favorite sign of all time, which crystallizes the absurdity of the State Fair into one image.

There’s a lot to unpack here. “Finally!” is a masterpiece in copywriting. Calling it the Grub Tub is effective in using two words that I hate, but for some reason love when used together. I have so many questions about how the drink stays cold and the food stays hot. Also, I think they solved this problem when the table was invented, but who am I to judge? I drank the dang pickle drink. This sign made me smile, even if it reminded me that Idiocracy is a once-futuristic documentary about our present. OK, back to the food.

Chili Cheese Fries

Don’t overlook a classic. Do you ever ask yourself why the Longhorn Network shows the 2006 BCS National Championship Game seemingly on a loop, almost as if the programmers get a residual every time Vince scores or something? It touches the right nerve. Chili cheese fries combine meat and fried potatoes and jalapeños and sour cream and cheese and, duh, chili. Every item is a certified banger. The fries were underwhelming, but I have to recommend detouring from the novelty items once in a while.

Dole Whip

Hell yeah. By this point I hated food. Seeing someone eat a corny dog made me wish for a fainting couch. My shirt was 74 percent sangria sweat. But my coworker—shoutout Lewis—convinced me to take a bite of his Dole whip ice cream cone. He even gave me the first bite! What a gentleman. It was like eating a cloud. It was a balm that soothed my indigestion, literally cooling my charred esophagus and, in effect, making me forget my woes as we trudged to the car. What may have turned me off to ever doing this stupid experiment again actually made me forget about how poorly I had treated my body over the previous few hours. Just one sweet bite turned my day around. Thank you, Dole whip.


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