New Elkhart County 4-H Fair food includes all sorts of fried stuff

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By: Marshall V. King

Of course there will be deep-fried bacon and peanut butter at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. It’s only natural, right?

This annual carnival game that we now undertake to throw things into a fryer and sell them – all in the name of trying something new – keeps taking us down this path.

It’s like one of those carnival games where you win a little stuffed animal but want the big one. We want someone else to throw something in the fryer for us, something we’d never do ourselves. Once a year, we’ll pay someone for that and try it.

Long after elephant ears, funnel cakes and other variations of fried dough, there were deep-fried snack foods like Twinkies and Snickers bars. They’re still at the fair and have been joined by Oreos. What really seemed to push us to this place, this place where it’s almost a game, was deep-fried butter.

A few years ago, the McGrath family dipped frozen honey butter in funnel cake batter, fried it and sold it. Last year, it was back on the menu at the Best Around Concession booth. People are still proclaiming whether they’d eat deep-fried butter.

The fast food chains and casual dining chains have taught us that reinventing food will catch our interest. We want to try the new thing.

So people have been asking what the new foods will be at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.

My answer has been that we won’t really know what will be coming out of the fryer until the fair because the research and development is happening now at other fairs and festivals. The professional vendors are trying different combinations of batter, flavor and grease. Louie Pacifico’s corn dog booth at the north end of Food Row last year served a different flavor every day. As I said at the time, I ate a Fruity Pebbles corn dog so you don’t have to.

Tim Yoder, this year’s fair board president and the guy who oversees the concessionaires, provided a list of the new foods. Drum roll, please.

  • Corn dogs with pickles, with cheese, or with cheese and jalapenos. This year, Louie and his son Aaron will likely be serving corn dogs with the new add-ins at a newly designed food stand on the north end of Food Row.
  • Pineapple inside-out funnel cake. The McGrath family will sell the new flavor from its funnel cake booths along Food Row (near Heritage Park) and near the grandstand. It’s the same booths that have had red velvet funnel cakes and other flavors in past years.
  • Blueberry waffle. The service clubs and nonprofit groups who operate food stands at the fair don’t add as many new items as the professional vendors who make a living from the circuit of fairs and festivals, but the Elkhart County Exchange Club pancake booth is adding this item this year.
  • Coffee funnel cake. Louie Pacifico indicated to Yoder that they’ll have the new flavor of funnel cakes, along with caramel to put on them, at some of its booths on the fairground.
  • French fries. Fried potatoes aren’t new at the fair, but a new Frazee’s French Fry booth east of the Pie Pantry on Rotary Drive will offer fresh-cut fries.
  • Deep-fried peanut butter with bacon, banana or tomato (?!). The Pence family has brought us the bacon sundae and other fried concoctions in past years. This year, at the booth along Food Row at the base of the Ferris wheel, they’ll have some of those things, but a bunch of new fried things too. Other items on Pence’s list are blueberry puffs, fried jelly beans, fried licorice and sundaes made with cotton candy and bacon/bananas.
  • Deep-fried Gatorade and energy drinks. Pacifico plans to fry Gatorade and sell it near the Ferris wheel. Pence is trying to fry energy shooters and may have them at the fair.

The new items are fun. Some will work and some won’t. But many of us have our favorites and seek those out. I head for the Elkhart County Pork Producers pork chops and burgers, the Kiwanis steakburgers I help make and the soft ice cream at the Dairy Producers stands. Others will head for the Pie Pantry, Nedderman’s sirloin tips or the chicken and noodles at Eastern Star.

I hope to see you at the pop-up restaurant sponsored in part by Flavor574 in Young McDonald’s Farm. The restaurant will serve $5 plates of foods from the garden starting at 5 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, July 21-23. I’ll be there Tuesday and Wednesday night.

See you at the fair.

I’m hungry. Let’s eat.

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