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Fair food — Corn dogs and funnel cakes remain on top in a world of deep fried fair treats

Fair foodies stand in lines offering all sorts of fried treats Sunday in the food court of the Kitsap County Fair and Stampede. - Greg Skinner/staff photo
Fair foodies stand in lines offering all sorts of fried treats Sunday in the food court of the Kitsap County Fair and Stampede.
— image credit: Greg Skinner/staff photo

This season’s fair and festival circuit is Tom Smith’s first to work in a mobile deep fried treats shop.  The Oregonian has learned one thing for sure traveling the Pacific Northwest, corn dogs and funnel cakes are the kings of fair food.

“People tell me they wait all year for the fair to come around so they can come get corn dogs and funnel cake,” he said. “It’s the way [they] come out, fried, looking golden, clean, crisp.”

From his perspective, no other corn dog can match up to one that was fried at just the right temperature and in the right oil. And, you can’t pick up a funnel cake at a gas stop.

“It’s about the temperature,” he said.

By far the most popular item at his stand is the funnel cake, Smith said. During the first three days of the Kitsap County Fair and Stampede, Smith’s turned up to 35 pounds of flour a day into batter to make the American favorite.

Many attribute the nation wide craving for funnel cakes at fairs and festivals  to the  mid-morning snack of fried dough in the Pennsylvania Dutch region. With less calories than an average candy bar, and by far less than an average donuts or equal size and weight.

Of  the dozens toppings available, Smith said he prefers the old standard of powdered sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on his funnel cake. Most people, he said, go for the classic plain powdered sugar.

Across the fairgrounds last weekend, fried smells overpowered most of the the other smells and livestock on the 129-acres of festival grounds.

Though there was no exotic fried treats de jour, such as chicken fried bacon or spaghetti and meatball on a stick, fair foodies found alligator on a stick and a few varieties of deep fried “thing-a-ma-hickeys,” such as golden-battered Oreos, Snickers and Twinkies.

Much of what the vendors admit they like and eat themselves depends largely on their own stand’s offerings.

Wayne Powell pushed his bosses special Italian sausage as his favorite food at the fair saying it was a one of a kind treat.

Coiled multi-foot lengths of Uncle Buck’s sausage cooked slowly on the griddle of the stand as Powell broke off sections  to give out as tasters. Powell explained that his boss, Mark Nichols, spent twelve years following a stint in an east coast culinary school perfecting the sausage.

Winston Peters said he left his corn and turkey leg stand behind on a few occasions to sneak over to a Papa Murphy’s stand selling his favorite fair food – deep fried Twinkies.

Just to the west of the fair food court and its abundance of fatty fried foods, Kitsap County Food Sense nutritionist Camden Robbins stopped by the Washington State University Extension Office  exhibit to get kids thinking about drinking less sugary soda and more healthy options, such as milk.

Robbins said she didn’t eat fair food, but the most obvious choice for the “healthiest” among the foods sold  at the fairgrounds is grilled corn, “with not a lot of butter”  or, a  turkey leg.

“More healthy than deep fried Oreos,” Robbins said.

People’s love affair with fair food probably stems from the exclusiveness of its availability at fairs that happen once a year, Robbins said. And though the deep fried flair is not a healthy diet for everyday life, splurging on piles of fried concoctions during the fair is not a problem, she said.

“It’s a special one time thing” she said.

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