Last Thursday was the first full day of the Mississippi State Fair and I had plans to hit it early, while the oil was still fresh.
Wednesday night felt like Christmas Eve. Sleep came in snatches, with just enough REM for a terrible dream. In this nightmare I arrived at the Fair to find that nearly all the food vendors were shut down. Horrors. But we trekked to Jackson anyway, and for the most part, my dream did not come true. The only empty booth was the one that gives away hot biscuits and syrup. A downer, but not a day-killer.
No shock, the first sign I spotted (it was really tall) was the Krispy Kreme Burger. The intoxicating aroma of the beef on the griddle was almost enough to pull me in, but because last year we had been there, done that, I refrained — at least, I told Wife, until we had surveyed the scene. The same vendor did offer something new: a “chocolate-dipt” [sic] corn dog, which was just that — a regular corn dog dipped in a chocolate sauce. Or you could get the sauce on the side. How genteel. Surely we can do better than that, folks. Like a good hymn, we repeated the refrain.
One of the items I saw but was too full to try last year was the Hot Beef Sundae sold by the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association. This year it was the savory base upon which all the other sweet stuff was laid. It did look like a sundae – mashed potato subbed for the ice cream, gravy for the hot fudge, and a cherry tomato topped it all. Grated cheese added some color (sprinkles?) and the beef brisket … well, it was there, too. Not bad for creativity, but not quite enough wow factor to order it again.
Just two or three trucks down the midway, past the first of multiple taffy stands, we found our first UFO (Unidenti-Fried Object): deep fried brownie bites. The lady told me it was just like a fried Oreo. We were more than pleasantly surprised. The end product was something like an extra-large donut hole filled with brownie. What’s not to like about that? Maybe it was even better than a fried Oreo. Is that blasphemy? I don’t know.
When it comes to deep fried candy bars, I never depend on the menu. You never know what they might have hidden away, and I abide by the principle “you have not because you ask not.”
So I asked at another trailer what fun things they were frying that day. I got the usual list: “Snickers, Twinkies, Oreos – and I might have a Goo-Goo Cluster left from the Nashville trip – people down here don’t know much about Goo-Goo’s, but they like ‘em in Nashville.”
Well, I don’t know about that – I certainly know what a Goo-Goo Cluster is, and I sent him to the freezer to look. He said he had one more (already conveniently on a stick), and I gave him the go-ahead (i.e., four bucks.) There were a lot of textures happening in every mouthful of this giant fried lollipop, with the chocolate, the peanuts, the caramel, and marshmallow nougat – not to mention the batter and powdered sugar. Almost too many textures at once. Almost.
We walked a bit after that. Moderation. Pacing. Calorie expenditure. It was lunchtime, and we noticed a lot of Jacksonians in scrubs meandering around the midway, eating all sorts of things. We took that to mean we were hanging out with the healthcare crowd of the capital city, thus together making healthy lunch choices. It’s all about perspective.
Next on the UFO list was the deep-fried cinnamon roll. We chose that over the peanut butter cookies and the muffins (this time), and it was the right choice. It was a pretty big roll, and when it exited the fryer, the vendor first brushed it with butter, then poured (not sprinkled) a cinnamon/sugar mixture over the top. This was the day’s clear winner in our book, hands down. I was craving another one the next day. And now.
By this time we were getting full, but not quite dizzy, so we kept searching. And we found what for months I’ve been searching for: deep fried Kool-Aid. It’s not exactly like it sounds. It has the appearance of a perfectly round hush puppy, except that it’s red and it tastes like sweet tropical punch. This vendor had taken the original idea and kicked it up a notch, providing a scoop of Kool-Aid-infused whipped topping for dipping, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Very creative, and tasty enough to try again, especially if other flavors were offered.
The last sweet of the day was a red velvet funnel cake, differing from the usual only in aesthetics: a deep brownish-red, like you would expect from red velvet. The extra two dollars almost caused another refrain, but in the end it was just too bizarre to pass by. It even had a glaze drizzled on it, I suppose to remind us of cake frosting. Maybe it would be great. It wasn’t. My advice? Have a look, but save the two bucks and get another cinnamon roll.
That was all we could manage in one lunch. Almost. We’d had so many sweets, I felt the need to end with something savory for balance, so we went back to the beef people and got a rib eye sandwich. My only unsatisfied longing was for the sweet potato waffle fries, but I suppose it’s alright to leave wanting more.
Plus, I wanted to get back to the car under my own power.
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .