Column: Fair has more food choices than you can shake a stick at

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 29, 2002

&uot;From the park you hear the happy sounds from a carousel. You can almost taste the hot dogs and french fries they sell.&uot; &045; The Drifters, &uot;Under the Boardwalk,&uot; 1964

It’s Freeborn County Fair time once again, and that means starting tomorrow, county residents will have almost an entire week to sample the wares of the many food vendors &045; one of my favorite things about the fair.

One thing I’ve noticed about county fairs in general is the abundance of foods served on a stick. Corn dogs, or as they are known to some people, pronto pups, are probably the most popular example of this. Some fairs offer corn-on-the-cob served on a stick &045; which technically would make it corn-on-the-cob-on-a-stick, I guess. Throw in a pickle-on-a-stick and that makes a whole picnic &045; on a stick. And for dessert, take your pick: caramel-covered apples, cotton candy or chocolate-covered banana-on-a-stick.

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Whoever conceived taking the whole food-on-a-stick idea beyond the campfire and Popsicle realm was brilliant and should be awarded the Nobel Prize &045; or at least the &uot;Real Men of Genius&uot; award (a hilarious honor that Budweiser awards to various people on some of their radio commercials). They made it possible to eat an entire meal using one’s hands &045; without getting one’s hands dirty. With food-on-a-stick, you don’t even have to wash your hands before eating if you don’t want to &045; or afterwards, for that matter. Plus, you don’t have to do any dishes, either! Just throw the stick in the garbage and forget about it.

I think there should be more foods available on a stick. They already have hot dogs on a stick, so why not hamburgers? A ground beef patty shouldn’t be any more difficult to coat with breading than a hot dog. They could even wrap it in cheese before breading, for those who prefer cheeseburgers. I suppose to make it work, they’d have to put the stick in the side of the patty, kind of like an all-day sucker. It would probably fall right off if you tried it the other way.

Tacos-on-a-stick are another possibility, after a slight modification to the tortilla. They’d have to fill a corn meal &uot;crust&uot; with the seasoned meat, cheese and sauce,

and pinch the edges all around it, so it looks kind of like a Hot Pocket. Put a stick in it and put it in the deep fryer, and viola &045; or more appropriately, arriba &045; tacos-on-a-stick!

How about a pickled-egg-on-a-stick? I bet the only place there would be any demand for this would be in the beer garden. (They’re called pickled eggs for a reason.) They could sell them right up at the counter, as an impulse purchase. On second thought, that might not be such a great idea after all. If you think about it, anyone drunk enough to actually eat one of these is probably not sober enough to be trusted with a sharp stick. And where’s the novelty in a pickled-egg-in-a-bowl?

Then there are some foods that would be a poor idea to serve on a stick. Chinese food is a good example here. Fried wontons or fortune cookies might be possible, but you’d likely run into a few problems trying to make chicken-lo-mein- or pork-fried-rice-on-a-stick. Nachos might be somewhat difficult too, unless you dumped a bag of the chips into some cheese and let it set that way as the cheese cooled. Same deal for popcorn, with the exception of popcorn balls. Things that are normally appetizers &045; such as cheese curds, breaded cauliflower and onion rings &045; are too small to work. And somehow, food-on-a-toothpick just doesn’t have the same appeal, unless you’re into the whole cocktail party scene. Forget about Italian food &045; just imagine how long it would take to twine a half-pound of spaghetti around a stick &045; especially with meatballs. Even then, it would probably break.

As fun as meals-on-a-stick are, with some food choices, it is apparently not always possible.

Dustin Petersen is an Albert Lea resident. His column appears Mondays.