Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Served Up on a Stick

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'ĂȘtre 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,

"What food can I serve on a wooden stick this year?"

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.


Enric said...

I second the fun of stick-food.
By the way, did you know that the inventor of the candy with a stick was from Barcelona?

Bernat got the idea of a "bonbon with a stick" from Mark Eaton, who complained about his child getting sticky hands from melting sweets and wiping them off on the cloth. Bernat felt that at that time, sweets were not designed with the main consumers—children—in mind.

just innocent sweet fun..

Jeremiah said...

Mmmmmm. Food on a stick. The modern equivalent of the perfect food, schweinhaxe! We are, after all, still cave people.

Rebecca said...

Y'know the Minnesota State Fair is also known for its Crop Art, aka Seed Art. Are you familiar with it? I think it's amazing how creative people can get with food!!

Loren said...

Rebecca, I'm not familiar with the Crop Art that you mentioned, though hopefully I will get a chance to experience it sometime in the near future. I was actually back in Minnesota last week, but I missed the State Fair by a few days. Maybe next year...