23 June 2011

Carnie Food Fun!!

In honor of the Greeley Stampede, which opens Friday, might I present this humble ode to all the nasty little snacks we put into our bodies throughout summer festival season...

So, I live in Greeley, Colorado, home of the world’s largest 4th of July rodeo (that’s specific, isn’t it?). It starts this week, and it’s approximately seven blocks from my house. I'm a little bit excited in spite of myself.  I do not enjoy country music (though I can hear it from my porch every night of the Stampede, so, bonus for me) and rodeos seem pretty cruel, but the Stampede holds kind of a special place in my heart. It was my introduction to this little Western town’s ranching culture, which is quite different from my childhood memories growing up in Chicagoland. It is also –or was, until this year—free to enter, and I love free stuff! I will eat things I hate or listen to a poetry reading in a language I don’t know if it’s free! Of course, the rides and the food cost money, but the gawking was free, and that was good enough for me.

Upon first visiting the Stampede, I was surprised to find that the food here was different than it had been at the super-awesome Frankfort Fall Fest (can I get a holla Lincoln-Way class of ’92?!), or the Illinois or Iowa State Fairs of my youth. Carnie food is not universal; it is nuanced, finely tuned to its audience to deliver the most pleasure it can. Ahem. Oh sure, you can get a bright pink hot dog or gray bratwurst anywhere, but the Stampede has some pretty special things, too…

Deep-fried Oreos Doesn’t that sound terrible? But they’re not—the fried outer coating isn’t really salty so much as it is like a doughnut, and the Oreo inside is slightly melted, creating a fudgy texture that is a vast improvement upon the dry, crumbly original. Just beware: after three, my heart started pounding and I was suddenly rendered unable to walk for a short period of time. They have deep-fried candy bars, to, but that’s just gross.

Green Chili Fries I suppose it’s not surprising, in this heavily Mexican-American community, that you can get some really good hot green chilies. I just didn’t expect to get anything so good at a street fair. Not so different from French-Canadian poutine, this is simply a Styrofoam plate of fries slathered in green chili and cheese sauce. I love it.

Giant Turkey Leg I have not eaten one of these things (never been a turkey fan), but my neighbors swear by them. And they really are giant—these things are almost the size of a one-year-old’s pudgy leg. They are pre-cooked and then smoked until they get a bit dry, but it’s worth just holding one up to your head for the great facebook picture.

Fried Coke I’m not kidding. It’s a doughy mixture with coke syrup which is then deep-fried in balls and topped with more coke syrup and powdered sugar. It kind of tastes like funnel cake, but also like Coke. I like it because it’s chewy.

“Berrie-Kabobs” (spelling not mine) I know! How healthy! You get a big skewer of chunked fresh fruit, generally strawberries and bananas. The catch—everything’s coated in white or milk chocolate.  And that's carnie.

Smoothie Bar I like fresh fruit smoothies at any time, and these don’t seem to have any weird, unhealthy additives. It’s like a Carnie Jamba Juice. And that’s just funny. Coloradoans—so healthy!

Pork Chop on a Stick I hate pork chops, but I just like that they exist.

And of course…

Beer Garden Every fair I have attended in this state has a beer garden with crappy Coors, but also some local brews that taste delicious. Love you, Colorado.