Every year, vendors on the state fair circuit push the limits of fried excess: chicken fried bacon, deep fried peanut butter cups and, of course, this year's famous fried butter.
The farther they push, however, the more we all realize how far out those limits really are. Despite years of experimentation with guacamole and Snickers bars, there's a universe of yet-to-be-fried foods waiting to be discovered.
Walking around this year's fair, we saw no fried green tea acai ice cream, no batter-crusted Tootsie Pops or Weight Watchers snacks. No one even dares fry up some sushi.
Still, we think it's possible to find the limit, both of excess and taste--if we deep fry the right foods:
10. Chewing Gum
OK, so it's not really food--but there are a lot of possibilities here. For example, fry cooks could dip fruit flavored gum into beignet batter or a pair an herbal dough with Wrigley's spearmint so you could freshen their breath while you eat. And the flavor lasts a long, long time.
9. Pop Rocks
Frankly, we're surprised no one has thought of this one before. Take a handful of the explosive candy and roll it in batter. The result? A crunch that fights back.
8. Frozen Yogurt
Not the most exciting concept, we know. Nor is it the most original, considering that fried ice cream has been around for awhile. But given the overabundance of fro-yo joints popping up around Dallas at the moment (hoping to take advantage of whatever craze is in progress), by this time next year there should be plenty of unsold tubs of yogurt available--cheap.
7. Refried beans
They already serve deep fried guacamole at some stands, right? So why not go one step further? No one eats refried beans in their natural side dish state. Rolled in dough and fried once more, however, they will likely catch on...especially if someone calls them "threefried beans."
6. Hungry Man Frozen Dinners
We're almost certain they pioneered this one on The Simpsons. Nutritionists constantly nag about the fat content in TV dinners. Our take? A little more won't hurt, then. Besides, consider the number of real-life Homers waddling around Fair Park all day long, playing ring toss, watching pigs race and otherwise exerting themselves beyond reason. Only Hungry Man can ease the kind of hunger they work up.
5. Popcorn Balls
This is a really good idea, now that we think about it--sweet, crunchy and easy to prop on a stick. And we came up with a great state fair-friendly name for them: Big Tex's Balls.
4. Locally Sourced Organic Heirloom Green Tomatoes
Fussy 'slow food' types always complain about the stuff served at our state fair. At least we think they do. So imagine their excitement when they spot these beauties on some food stall marquee--and their joy when they bite into the delicate fruit grown with great care by an independent Texas farmer and deep fried beyond recognition by some temporary hire in a steaming hot tent.
3. Jello Shots
The fair is one big party, or so they say. We insist it can't be called a real party until someone breaks out the Jello shots. A basket of these and all those lame midway games seem like fun. And think of the harmless carnage after rival fans in for the Texas-OU game down a few cubes of fried vodka.
2. Vegan Cupcakes
If you think slow foods adherents complain about fair food, you should hear the vegan crowd. Well, a stall or two selling these almost meat and animal product-free beauties will calm them considerably. We say "almost" because, well, the batter has a little butter. And some eggs. Oh--and fry cooks use the same vats to prepare corn dogs. But that's OK, isn't it?
1. Fried dough
Yep, deep fried fried dough. Nothing could be more pure--and more true to the nature of state fair food than clumps of near black fried batter scraped from vats, covered in dough and tossed back into the oil. It'll make people forget about fried butter.