Ohio State Fair
State Fair Grounds
If you’ve been following this website for any length of time, you know that I feel there are only three ways to turn a regular food item into something mind-blowing.
Drench it in chocolate.
Bury it in bacon.
Or dip it in batter and fry it.
But as I learned after a recent visit to the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, it turns out that isn’t always true.
For centuries, fairs have become the ideal location to showcase fun and experimental takes on junk food.
Some of man’s greatest inventions – everything from the hot dog, to the hamburger, to the ice cream cone (things right up there with polio vaccines, BBQ, and dollar beer night at the local ballpark)—have been invented at fairs.
And like any truly extraordinary breakthrough in society, these once experimental foods have become pillars of the American tradition.
And the annual Ohio State Fair is no different.
For more than a century, salt-of-the-earth folks from all corners of the Buckeye State have flocked to this spot just north of downtown Columbus to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl, check out blue ribbon chickens, and walk under a blistering sun and eat various treats on a stick.
Unfortunately, despite strolling the fairgrounds in 90 degree weather, there was no beer to be found.
The disappointment was soul crushing.
What’s the point of seeing an 826 pound pumpkin or a life-sized cow made entirely of butter if you don’t have a plastic cup of cold beer in hand?
Attempting to make lemonade out of lemons (literally), I decided to try some fair food that wouldn’t have gone with beer anyway.
Like chocolate covered bacon. After all, I love the salty, porky taste of good thick bacon. And who doesn’t like chocolate?
Unfortunately, like a poorly constructed bathing suit, the dark chocolate only enhanced the “burnt” flavor of the bacon.
Conclusion: Better together didn’t work for Hillary, and it doesn’t work with bacon and chocolate.
Next up, an assortment of deep fried desserts.
This was a life-altering and stomach churning experience for me.
Up until this fateful moment, I truly believed that any food could only get better when dipped in sweet batter and fried.
The deep fried Oreos seemed to hold up best under all that greasy fried batter. But still, I couldn’t help but wonder – why bother? Oreos are pretty good straight up.
The Nutter-Butter was even more pointless. I couldn’t tell where the batter, cookie, and peanut butter started and ended. It was just one hot, mushy, sugary mess.
But it was the deep fried Buckeyes that really did me in.
First of all, Buckeye is the official tree of Ohio – with leaves that look like pot and nuts that resemble acorns.
But “Buckeyes” are also a chocolate candy that resembles the nuts from the tree and have a peanut butter core.
They are quite tasty.
I watched as the lady manning the fryer put a toothpick in each Buckeye, dipped them in a massive bucket of batter, and then tossed them into the grease. Bobbing up and down, I watched them turn from tan to golden brown.
After heeding her warning to let them cool for a few minutes, I took my first bite.
A burst of hot grease immediately poured out as soon as I bit into it.
The chocolate had melted into the batter, and the peanut butter oozed down my fingers and onto the ground.
Now remember, I had been walking around under a broiling sun. So after just one greasy fried Buckeye, I was ready to curl up into a snow cone machine with a bottle of Pepto.
It was indeed one of the more humbling experiences of my life.
As my stomach churned and lurched, I had finally met my match.
Deep fried alligator? Sure.
Deep fried frog legs? Of course.
Deep fried corn on the cob? Amazing.
Deep fried vegetables? Even that’s a yes.
But please! Do not EVER ask me to eat another deep fried Buckeye.