Earlier this week, SF Gate food critic Michael Bauer attended the Association of Food Journalists conference in my home town, the Twin Cities. While he was there, he and the 60 or so conference attendees from around the country took the opportunity to visit the annual state get-together, the Minnesota State Fair. In his blog, Bauer writes about his visit to the festival, an homage to the state's agricultural heritage and a celebration marking the end of another summer past.
While the fair features a multitude of art and science exhibits, musical performances, and carnival rides, I would argue that it is the food that draws people to this event year after year. Indeed, for a brief twelve short days at the end of each summer, the state fairgrounds become the proverbial center of the culinary universe. You see, among the 4-H livestock judgings, the farm equipment displays, the roller coasters, the REO Speedwagon concerts, and the stock car races lies the true raison d'être of the State Fair: food-on-a-stick. As any true Minnesotan knows, it is not the molecular gastronomy nor the Slow Food movement that marks the leading edge of the culinary world today, but it is rather the answer to the simple question,
As Bauer notes, the Minnesota State Fair is the home to all foods served on a wooden skewer. From walleye pike-on-a-stick to alligator-on-a-stick to spaghetti and meatballs-on-a-stick to Reuben Dog-on-a-stick to macaroni and cheese-on-a-stick to pork chop-on-a-stick to the classic Pronto Pup, the State Fair has it all. You can even get hotdish-on-a-stick, complete with cream of mushroom soup dipping sauce, though I'm not sure why it took until 2006 before someone revealed this secret to the entire world. Of course, you can find other culinary gems there such as deep fried cheese curds and cinnamon sugar lefse, but it's the food-on-a-stick that brings the people back year-in, year-out.
This food-on-a-stick phenomenon is not just restricted to the Upper Midwestern food scene. Folks visiting the Texas State Fair can now enjoy peach cobbler-on-a-stick. Sadly, the cobbler is the only entry for the Big Tex Choice Awards this year. Hopefully, if all goes well, you will be able to enjoy Fried Coke-on-a-stick at the next state fair.