Four years ago, one of my brother’s friends received a deep fryer for Christmas. Whoever thought it was a good idea to give a teenage boy and his friends—who at the time, amused themselves by building DIY flamethrowers and giant slingshots to catapult rotten fruit over houses—access to this kind of power had some serious misconceptions. Over the next few days (until the fryer caught fire), my brother regaled us with tales of the various food items that the boys sacrificed to the boiling oil: Oreos, Twinkies, Snickers—at one point, even a pig heart from our local Asian market. I remember being flabbergasted by the deep-fried potential of what seemed to be normal, household foods. I’d find myself wondering as I ate Goldfish or Lucky Charms what their oil-drenched counterpart would taste like, but always chided myself knowing that such deep-fried masterpieces were only figments of my imagination.
After two visits (one time simply wasn’t enough) to the State Fair of Texas a few weeks ago, I quickly discovered that I’ve been living a culinary lie and that my brother’s gastronomic experimentation was just the tip of the deep-fried iceberg.
“If you can think it, you can fry it” – State Fair of Texas Motto
Avocado. Reese’s. Butter. Hot Dogs. Cookie Dough. Oreos. Pickles. What do all these things have in common, you might be wondering? They have all been deep-fried, and I am proud, but also kind of ashamed—no, mostly ashamed, to say that I have eaten them all.
What really got me was the fried butter. I mean, come on—fried BUTTER. I imagine its creator waking up one morning and saying, “Never mind America’s obesity crisis, today I’m going to drop a fatty stick of margarine into a bubbling vat of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, just to see if I can make an unhealthy condiment become an even more unhealthy entrée!”
Obviously, after learning of its existence, trying this food item shot to the top of my bucket-list, but after eating it, I’m scared I’m going to kick the bucket that much sooner. My order came with four little golden balls of fried butter. The first three were actually not too shabby and really just tasted like warm buttered biscuits. The fourth ball is where things got serious. Expecting it to be like the others, I popped the whole thing into my mouth, but, when I bit into it, I realized the butter had not been absorbed into the dough like it had in the others. I was surprised with a mouth full of hot liquid butter. Not gonna lie, this was unpleasant.
Paula Dean’s Heaven
After eating the balls of fried butter, it felt really good to see a massive statue sculpted from butter—possibly even the same butter that was still sitting in my stomach! It made me feel more connected to my environment, like I was part of something bigger than myself, you know?
As I stared in awe at the resplendent buttered mustang statues, just one question came to mind: how in the heck did someone create this idea?! Was there a great clay shortage one year that forced artists to look to other mediums of expression? And who would’ve thought that Texas, one of the hottest states in the U.S. and the one voted* "Most Likely to Make You Melt" would be the state to experiment with such avant-garde material?! My realization that these glorious, deserving mustangs would never survive the heated journey to a museum deeply saddened me, and pushed me onward in my Fair exploration.
* Voted by me
Crikey! Is This a Barnyard or Safari?
My knowledge of Texan critters is very sparse. Still, I was surprised to encounter both giraffes and zebras in the petting zoo portion of the Fair. Walking into the exhibit, I thought I would be petting only animals originating from the Texan ecosystem—cows, goats, pigs, scorpions—and was elated to think that Texas had wild giraffes roaming about. After about half a second, I realized my mistake and was glad I hadn’t voiced my thoughts to anyone. Yet here I am voicing them now. Oops.
Apparently, Big Tex is the mainstay of the Texas State Fair. Quite honestly, I’m surprised he wasn’t made out of butter…or maybe he is, on the inside? After failing on my first visit to take a picture with the big guy—and if you didn’t take a picture, it didn’t happen—I made sure that he was the first stop on my next visit. He’s such a gem, and quite photogenic, if I do say so myself.
The State Fair of Texas was a buttery affair to remember, and I look forward to returning next year with an appetite. First on the food list for next year: fried bubble gum.
Chelsea is a Level 5 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She is obsessed with music of the 60s & 70s and her vices include vanilla lattes and Swedish Fish. You can check out more of Chelsea’s thoughts and ponderings HERE!
(Butter sculpture photo credit: Kevin Brown/State Fair of Texas)