Extreme Cuisine: A Few Bites of Kentucky State Fair Food

burger close upImagine a world in which one of the healthiest things you can eat is a foot long hot dog. This is the Kentucky State Fair.

The basic underlying food philosophy of the fair is that everything is better for being submerged in boiling oil. You might think some foods are so delicious that any attempt to make them better is like trying to reinvent the wheel. Oreo cookies, Snickers bars, Twinkies and Derby Pie, for instance. In an effort to go where no man has gone before, these specific foods have been bravely popped into the FryDaddy.

turkey leg guyYou’ve heard of extreme sports? This is extreme eating.

Fair foods promise an adventure and a challenge that some people can’t resist. Fair-goer Gabe Grosskopf answered the siren call of the deep-fried Derby Pie with raspberry sauce.

“It sounded good,” said Grosskopf who likes everyday Derby Pies and said to himself, “Why not fried?” One bite in and he gave it a positive review.

Morgan Kersnick works in the deep-fried Derby Pie stand, which also serves the Hot Brown on a Stick. She’s been working the fair every summer for 10 years – since she was 10 years old. She loves the work, especially “watching all the people.” She’s sampled the pie, too.

“I love it. It’s kind of dangerous, having it in the same stand with you all day,” Kersnick says.

hot brown on a stickThe Hot Brown on a Stick fulfills its promise of tasting mostly like a hot brown. Imagine it crossed with a corn dog, and you pretty much have the picture. It’s got all the turkey you would expect on a skewer with a cherry tomato at the center, a corn dog-style breading and a Mornay sauce finish.

For other people, like Ross McFadyen and his two children, crazy fair food is an annual tradition. McFaydyen is a repeat customer of the Krispy Kreme donut burger, which is exactly what it sounds like – two glazed yeast donuts serving as the buns for a burger.

heartburnThis year, though, McFadyen decided to try the new Philly Cheesesteak on a donut – the envelope pushed even further.

“Everything in moderation, right?” says McFadyen, whose son and daughter raise rabbits in 4-H and exhibit them at the fair. He confesses to having his doubts about the burger/donut combination on a previous occasion. Still, “I gotta try it ’cause it’s greasy, nasty fair food,” he says. “I took one bite and said ‘mpph!’”

cheese steakTodd Luckett’s annual fair rituals include a corndog at Pat’s Footlongs.

“This is our first stop every year, is at Pat’s,” he says.

This year, however, his wife talked him into buying the Heartburn, a foot-long hot dog with, literally, everything – chili, onions, sauerkraut, relish, melted cheese, mustard and ketchup.

Fair food isn’t just a tradition for the people who visit the fair. Many people work the fair every year. Frank Jones was there, cooking turkey legs. He and the other tent staff prepared 500 of them in one day.

“You gotta cook it slow – at least four hours,” he says.

And the heat doesn’t get to him. “It’s fun. I enjoy it,” he says. VT