Huzzah! Renaissance Festival Recommends Healthier Fare

An event designed to celebrate tightly corseted wenches and bloodthirsty jousters isn't exactly synonymous with restraint, but organizers of this year's Texas Renaissance Festival are promoting the fair's healthy snacks.

The festival, billed as the nation's largest, hasn't leached all the fat and calories from its standard food line-up: Concessionaires are still planning to sell Scotch eggs, fried stuffed olives and iconic turkey drumsticks. But with the State Fair of Texas continuing to up the fry ante, the festival's apparently making a play for prospective fairgoers' well-kept hearts.

"When most people think of festival food, they think of deep-fried diet disasters such as funnel cakes and fried Twinkies," festival spokeslady Tami Benton writes. "But festival food does not have to be fattening!"

Benton suggests fairgoers' seek out alternative indulgences, including ye olde veggie wraps, yogurt parfaits, roasted almonds, salsa-topped baked potatoes and energy bars created by festival founder George Coulam. She's also a fan of fresh strawberries strung on a stick.

Fair vendors across the country have this year put berries on sticks, but few have stopped there: At the Illinois State Fair, "berry kebabs" are dressed with chocolate. Attendees at the 2010 Florida State Fair had their first encounter with "strawberry shortcake on a stick," featuring berries dipped in batter, deep-fried and covered with powdered sugar and whipped cream.

According to a recent article in Grist, corn dog innovator Stanley Jenkins in 1929 filed a patent application that listed strawberries as a food that should more frequently be impaled on sticks and deep-fried. "The resultant food product is a clean, wholesome, and tasty refreshment," wrote Jenkins, who was equally excited about the prospects of battering and frying boiled ham, eggs, cheese and figs.

But the simple version of stick strawberries available at the Renaissance Festival, which opens next month, may be truer to 16th century tastes. Strawberries were terrifically popular in England during the Reformation: King Henry VIII ate them by the pottle (a half-pint basket.)

"They be much eaten at all men's tables in the sommer time with wine and sugar," The Gardener's Labyrinth's author Thomas Hill wrote in 1577.

Hill didn't have anything to say on the subject of sticks.

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