Temperatures are rising, trees are blooming and pollen is everywhere. Yes, summertime is nigh and with it comes that most cherished of American traditions: state fairs. And while the rides, games and various types of freak shows are all annual staples, the piece de resistance of low-brow festivals is, of course, the milieu of deep fried foods.
Year after year, state fairs across the land keep outdoing themselves in creative and disturbing larded creations. We don’t want you to venture into these sweltering attractions ignorant of the latest fried trends, so we've prepared a handy guide of some of recent contenders for fattiest, fried-iest, grossest, most delicious-looking fair foods—each with our customized superlative.
Let’s dive right in!
Best Inefficient Way to Get a Buzz: Fried Beer (Texas)
Sure, you could just drink your state fair beer. But at this point, that’s practically like showing up to a Halloween party without a costume. So be a patriot and consume your brewski via this pretzel-like ravioli. Don’t worry, the dough is only submerged in oil for about 20 seconds, and the beer is still alcoholic post-frying. In the competitive spirit of the fairs, see what gives out first: your liver, stomach or heart.
Best Way to Refuse Adulthood: Fried Kool-Aid (California)
If fried beer is a little too adult for you, swing to the other extreme with kiddy-approved fried Kool-Aid. The creator describes these neon pink balls as “kind of like donut holes” made with flour, water and, of course, aggressively saccharine Kool-Aid. If only charismatic cult leader Jim Jones had known about these atrocities, his mass-poisoning distribution could have been a lot simpler.
Best South of the Border Abomination: Fried Salsa (Texas)
Salsa is minimalist: just diced up veggies and vinegar. But this is a state fair, dammit, and minimalism is for losers. The solution, as always, is to deep fry that sucker! For this dish, salsa is dipped in dough and crushed tortilla chips, then served with a generous dollop of queso. It may be fried to high heaven, but this offering does provide some vegetables, which makes this kind of healthy. Except not really at all. I’ll fess up: I actually really want to try this mofo.
Best Unholy Union: Fried Bubblegum (Texas)
This one’s a winner for fattie creativity, with bubble-gum flavored marshmallows dipped in batter and fried. And in case the gum flavoring of the mallows isn’t pronounced enough, they are topped with Chiclets. Which causes all kinds of consumption confusion. (Do you swallow the gum? Or try to selectively swallow the fried-ness while keeping the Chiclets in your mouth?). We hope your epiglottis is really on-point if you dare confront this state fair monstrosity.
Best Way to Conquer Arachnophobia: Fried Scorpion (Arizona)
Maybe spiders, ticks and scorpions (oh my!) have gotten the better of you in life thus far. But now you can literally eat your arachnid enemy, crunchy style. Fried scorpions are served plain, or dipped in chocolate. We’ll just assume/hope the whole venom issue has been taken care of.
Best Infusion of Corn Syrup: Fried Jelly Beans (Massachusetts)
If your top complaint with funnel cake is its lack of candy, do we have the winning combo for you. These jelly beans are dipped in batter and deep-fried for dyed corn syrupy bliss. Sure, Jezebel points out the questionable safety of biting into such confections, asking “In what way are these not edible napalm capsules?” But burning your tongue off never tasted so sweet.
And finally, our place of honor goes to . . .
Best We Actually Really Want to Eat This: Fat Elvis on a Stick (Wisconsin)
Most of these contenders are truly too much to bear, but we’ve got to give it up to Wisconsin. Peanut butter, chocolate and bacon are folded into banana batter and fried to create what may be the greatest culinary invention of all time. It’s described as “savory, sweet and extra crispy.” We aren’t going into this naively; Fat Elvis is high-stakes. This amalgamation of indulgent foods could go horribly wrong. Or it could go so, so right. We're willing to take that risk.
Now go forth unto summer fairs, with your eyes wide open about the deep-fried possibilities that await you. We recommend swapping out a midriff-bearing tank for an oversized T-shirt, but hey, you do you.