In 1841, America's first state fair was held in Syracuse, New York. Organized by the state's agricultural society as a way to promote their products, the two-day fair (which could be derived from the Latin word "feria," meaning "holy day") was attended by 15,000 people. There were speeches, performances, animal exhibits, farm equipment demos, plowing contests and food tastings. 175 years later, the New York State Fair is still going strong. Over 1.1 million people attended the now 12 day fair to see pie-eating contests, animal races, milking demos, Korn and to eat lots of absurd, unhealthy food.
Across the country, fair food has become a top-draw. Nearly every state has a fair (for shame, Connecticut!) and all make a big deal about their culinary curiosities. Sure, there are local delicacies like New York's Cornell BBQ Chicken or Montana's "Vikings on a Stick," but it's the battered and cripsy heart attacks that usually get the most attention. Deep fried Twinkies, deep fried Oreos and deep fried butter have now become commonplace nationwide. While those options sound at least somewhat palatable, every year vendors try to top themselves with grotesque offerings that seemingly make the menu more for publicity and shock value than for taste. And this year was no exception, so here are 7 disturbing foods that are available at a fair near you.
Spam Curds - Minnesota State Fair
The description provided on the fair's website tells you a lot about this item even if it says little: "Cheese-flavored SPAM® that has been cubed, battered and deep-fried, served with a side of ranch dressing." Putting aside SPAM for a moment, this so-called cheese-flavor doesn't appear to be actual cheese. That's rather upsetting and gross. They could at least use real cheese when cubing and deep-frying the eight-decade-old made-up food SPAM.
Deep Fried Jell-O - Texas State Fair
Deep fried Jell-O isn't new to the state fair circuit, having made its jiggly debut at the Utah State Fair in 2012. However, this year gelatin is back in the spotlight thanks to a recipe from an 82-year-old tamale maker that won this year's "Big Tex Choice Awards" at the Texas State Fair. Who are we to argue with a panel of esteemed judges?
Fried Fruit Kabob - Iowa State Fair
Fresh peaches, pineapples and strawberries are not typical state fair fare. But deep fried in funnel cake batter and drizzled with melted chocolate, it fits right in. It also destroys perhaps the one healthy food option at the Iowa State Fair.
Rocky Mountain Oysters - Oklahoma State Fair
First things first, these are not oysters and they do not come from the ocean. "Rocky Mountain Oysters" are a euphemism for a deep fried item that's routinely enjoyed across the American (and Canadian) west: Bull testicles. In this part of the country where ranching is prevalent, it's commonplace to eat all parts of the animals - including their sexual organs. Crunchy and often eaten with cocktail sauce, gonads are a fair favorite in Oklahoma.
Bacon-Nutella Pickles - The Orange County Super Fair
The Orange County Fair isn't a state fair, but it's the second largest county fair in North America. With over 3.16 million people in this Southern California county, it is no wonder that this fair attracted 1.3 million people in 2015. Every year, new food items are added to the lineup, but this year there's one that will particularly pucker the taste buds. Bacon, Nutella and pickles are all good things separately, but the folks at Pickle O'Pete's, for whatever reason, brought them together. This Frankenstein creation of Nutella-stuffed pickles, wrapped in bacon and deep fried in funnel cake batter looks rather awful, but something tells me it could end up the next big pregnancy craving.
Deep Fried Scorpion - Arizona State Fair
Poisonous arachnids should not be eaten. It doesn't matter if they are deep fried or if their stingers have been removed. No, thank you. Oh, they are dipped in chocolate? In that case, pile those suckers high so I can chow down claws first!
Deep Fried Beer - Texas State Fair
The country's largest state fair gets two entries on this list. The theory with deep fried beer is pretty simple: Everyone loves deep fried food and everyone loves beer, so putting them together makes more sense than aliens existing. However, there's a little thing called chemistry (or is it physics?) that says liquids can't be deep fried. Well, Texas found a way by concocting pretzel bread in ravioli form, which encases a liquid center full of beer. Yes, you have to be 21 to purchase this. According to a 2010 NPR interview with the inventor, it tastes like a pretzel with beer. As for me, I'm not comfortable ignoring the laws of science.