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Create your own Texas State Fair food! (Flashlight & A Biscuit, No. 42)
Deep-fried salvation, with a side of ranch dipping sauce
Welcome to Flashlight & A Biscuit, my Southern storytelling/sports/culture/food offshoot of my work at Yahoo Sports. Thanks for reading, and if you’re new around here, why not subscribe? It’s free and all.
This weekend is the 117th meeting of the great universities of Texas and Oklahoma on the field of battle, a football contest formerly known as the Red River Shootout but now known as the Red River Polite Airing Of Grievances In An Atmosphere Of Mutual Respect And Recognition Of One Another’s Individual Value1. But I’m not here to talk changing standards of language. No, I’m here to talk food. Nasty, glorious, artery-clogging, mood-escalating, soul-ravaging food that will make you see God in a pool of bacon grease.
I’m here to talk about Fair Food.
The Red River Whatever empties into the Texas State Fair, which has a worldwide rep for frying literally anything imaginable — Oreos, butter, beer, lost children, hopes and dreams — and every year, the formulas get more arcane and ornate. By this point, the creations bear about as much resemblance to actual human meals as Met Gala red carpet dresses bear to jeans and t-shirts. But anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I say, and the Texas State Fair takes that ethos and deep-fries it with powdered sugar.
We’re going to create some new Fair Food of our own together below, but first, some inspiration.
This year’s Texas State Fair has more than 20 new entries, lovingly summoned from the pits of Hell … sorry, crafted with grace and care for your indulgence. Let’s run down the top 10, and yes, these are all real:
10. Bacon Jam Corn Bombs
The deal: Bacon jam on hushpuppies, topped with ranch and candied jalapeño peppers.
Snap judgment: Bacon-ranch-jalapeño is a solid combination. Well, technically it’s a mostly liquid combination, but delicious no matter what direction it’s heading through your esophagus.
What happens when you eat it: Bacon Rapture. You ascend to a world created entirely of bacon, where everything is edible … and somehow nutritious! (May be a hallucinogenic state.)
9. Gobble Balls
The deal: Deep-fried smoked breaded turkey nuggets served with barbecue sauce.
Snap judgment: Smoked turkey rules. But the barbecue sauce is an odd pairing decision; should’ve breaded these in stuffing and served them with a whipped mashed potatoes/gravy dipping sauce.
What happens to you if you order it: For literally the only time in human history, you can say “Would you like to gobble these balls?” without fear of prosecution or cancellation. (Please, PLEASE make sure you are holding a tray of Gobble Balls while saying this.)
8. Deep Fried Peach Cobbler Soul Rolls
The deal: Peaches covered in butter and sugar, rolled into an egg roll and deep-fried, then topped with cinnamon sugar and served with a side of vanilla ice cream.
Snap judgment: I would eat like 80 of these. This is like “Tiger King” (remember that show from, what, five years ago?) — every successive revelation makes it better. Named “Soul Rolls” because you’ll need to pony up your soul to purchase them.
What happens to you if you eat it: You’ll be so jacked on sugar that your heart rate will leap into four digits, and you’ll be awake for three straight days. Worth it.
7. Dallas Hot Birddog
The deal: A turkey corn dog with spicy batter … then covered in mac and cheese and fried jalapeños (jalapeños are a big thing at the Texas State Fair, as you can see from this list) and hot sauce.
Snap judgment: I’m a big fan of phrases that sound like euphemisms, and “the ol’ Dallas Hot Birddog” sounds like something that would be illegal in most counties in the Bible Belt. The food itself just seems like it’d be the culinary equivalent of hitting yourself in the face with a brick. You know what’s going to happen, but hell, give it a try anyway.
What happens if you eat it: You get plenty of time to sit alone and plan out exactly what you’ll do in your next bathroom remodel.
6. Deep-fried PB & Razbrûlée
The deal: Fried PB&J pocket topped with vanilla creme and turbinado sugar, broiled and caramelized, then topped with mixed berries.
Snap judgment: If you’ve ever thought peanut butter & jelly needed to be classed up, or crème brûlée was too chi-chi, this is the crack for you.
What happens if you eat it: Congratulations, you’ve got diabetes! No, not even from eating it, just from reading the description.
5. Texas BBQ Brisket Banh Mi
The deal: Smoked brisket, cilantro, cucumber and pickled relish and carrots on a crusty Vietnamese baguette with hoisin sauce, jalapeño and honey sriracha aioli on the side.
Snap judgment: Look, banh mis are my favorite sandwiches2, and I do love sandwiches, so I’m not really the most objective audience here. This sounds delicious from any angle. Except the aioli. Sling that mayo-with-a-fancy-name into the ocean.
What happens if you eat it: I mean … you probably go away satisfied. This is the only item here that doesn’t seem like it would punch a hole through your gut and right on into the earth’s crust.
4. Lobster Corn Dog
The deal: Pretty straightforward, it’s a corn dog made with lobster. Sometimes these things are curves, sometimes it’s a fastball right down the pipe.
Snap judgment: Lobster rolls are also among the most delicious sandwiches ever, so that buys me a lot of latitude with this feller.
What happens to you if you eat it: You will begin demanding lobster in everything you consume from here on out — sandwiches, salads, coffee, yogurt, breakfast cereal, communion wafers …
3. Country Fried Shrimp Grits
The deal: Shrimp, grits and cheese, cut into squares, battered, egged and fried, covered with shrimp and crawfish sauce.
Snap judgment: Damn, this sounds really, REALLY good. Maybe not in the hot sun at a fair, but good nonetheless.
What happens to you if you eat it: Well, depends on how much of it you eat. A couple bites off someone else’s, you’ll be fine. A couple orders, and you’ll be rooted to the earth like a cut anchor on the ocean floor.
2. Deep Fried Shrimp Étouffée
The deal: A dumpling stuffed with rice and shrimp, deep-fried and covered in onion, celery, tomatoes, green peppers and cheese, served with mustard, ranch or hot sauce.
Snap judgment: Every single bit of that description sounds like angels singing.
What happens to you if you eat it: You can claim Louisiana residency in order to evade prosecution under the Napoleonic Code.
1. Texas Fried Surf and Turf
The deal: Filet mignon medallions filled with Langostino lobster and jalapeño, wrapped in bacon and fried up, resulting in a tasty bacon shell with medium-rare steak and juicy lobster within.
Snap judgment: Mother of God.
What happens to you if you eat it: You immediately become irresistibly attractive to both humans and dogs. Kind of a careful-what-you-wish-for situation.
Brilliant list, right? Let’s all head to the 2022 fair together. For now, though, here’s where you come in.
As you can see, all Fair Food follows a common pattern, combining the sacred and the profane, the savory and the sweet, the familiar and the disturbing. Throw in a vaguely unsettling noun to describe the whole package, and you’re good to go. For instance, off the top of my head I came up with:
Spicy Snickers Brisket Missiles
Goat Cheese Gummi Bear Egg Rolls With Dippin’ Gravy
Bourbon Lemon-Chocolate Cheese Swords
Fried Whiskey Bacon with Bacon-Whiskey Jam and Whiskey-Bacon Whiskey
Deep Fried Tabasco-Marmalade Chicken Chunks
White Chocolate-Dipped Pigeon Widgets With Red Bull Reduction
Batter-Fried Kool-Aid Popsicles With Corn And Scallops
Peanut Butter-Habanero Shrimp Niblets
Maple-Scrambled Egg Sausage Pucks With Melted Peeps Drizzle
Fried Candy Cane-Peach Potato Skins
All of these seem like good ideas gone horribly wrong — well, except the pigeon one, that’s a bad idea from the jump. But they all start out good, right?
Now, I really should have tried to make one or two of these myself — that’s what the great Scott Hines of the must-read Action Cookbook newsletter would do — but I came up with this idea a little too late in the newsletter production cycle to do it for this particular issue.
That doesn’t mean we’ll stop at making a list, though. Those of you who remember Blender Fridays from back in 20183 know I’m no stranger to brewing up kitchen nightmares:
So let’s do this: create your best Texas State Fair food in the comments and I’ll pick a couple and make them for future newsletters:
Come strong, friends. Let’s see what kinds of affronts to God that we can create together. The most inventive and most “liked” creations will be summoned into existence.
Till next time, stay safe and stay weird …
This has been issue #42 of Flashlight & A Biscuit. Check out all the past issues right here. Feel free to email me with your thoughts, tips and advice. And if you dug this, share it with your friends. Invite others to the party, everybody’s welcome.
This joke brought to you by my high school obsession with the columns of Dave Barry.
Get to Lee’s Bakery, Buford Highway, Atlanta. Thank me afterward.
For the record: Wendy’s played along on Twitter, Burger King gave me a couple “likes,” and Chick-Fil-A steadfastly ignored my existence.