Deep-fried candy sweetens state fair

DALLAS (AP) _ Anything good can be made better when dropped in a deep fryer.

Such is the logic at the State Fair of Texas, where food booth banners boast of “Fried Candy” and “Fried Cheesecake,” and willing participants line up for the latest in batter-fried fare.

“In Texas, everything is fried, and it’s always a joke,” said David Bacon, who was about to bite into a fried Snickers bar.

“It’s gooood,” the Dallas man said with a hint of surprise. “I mean, this is like a chocolate pie with crust. It’s very similar.”

The Snickers and Milky Way bars are among several new fried items on the State Fair menu this year. And get ready for more. This year, fair vendors have added fried onions on a stick, fried ice cream, fried plantains and fried cheese curds, to name a few.

In the land of all things fried, it is a diet-buster’s paradise.

As lunchtime approached, Jill Stautner was scrambling to find her fried food fix. The fried Twinkies were out because the vat was cold. She managed to consume a fried banana and was now standing at the fried Oreo booth.

Fried Oreos are a top seller this year, vendors say.

At Shirley London & Sons’ booth, they were selling about 1,700 of the glistening, powdered cookies a day and expected more on weekends. The London booth is just one of several vendors selling fried Oreos.

Stautner ordered a basket of six fried Oreos — and somehow, with the rides whirling and carnies barking, the gooey indulgence seemed perfectly fine.

“I just lost 40 pounds on the Atkins, so I’m really blowing it today,” said Stautner, who still had her sights on that fried Twinkie.

Food vendors have tried selling healthy salads and low-fat items in the past. They ended up spending the day watching lines form at the Fried Turkey Leg booth next door.

“It’s the fair. People are out here to have a good time and destroy their diets,” said vendor Shirley London. “I’ve never had anyone in my 12 years here ask me, ‘Where can I get a salad?”’

Eating healthy is an awkward concept amid vendors who fry up green tomatoes, funnel cakes and the State Fair standby, corn dogs on a stick.

“People know when they come to the fair, they’re coming to eat crap,” said Tracy Shreve of Dallas as she ordered fried cheesecake. “They know they won’t get it anywhere else.”

The oblong chunk of fried cheesecake has 400 calories _ before frying in fat. What counts, according to fairgoers, is how it tastes.

“It tasted like funnel cake and cheesecake mixed, but it could use a little fruit on it,” said Will Hoffman, 13, who gave it seven points out of a possible 10.

A fried critter fritter prompted questions at a booth in the Tower Building. Turns out it is a deseeded jalapeno filled with ground beef, deep fried with cornbread batter, then served with melted cheese. And the calories?

“I take those out,” promised vendor Evelyn Shields.

Not every fried feature has been a hit. One taster said the fried Twinkies are mushy and oil-soaked. The wagon wheels, lightly battered and fried wheat pasta, haven’t exactly taken off.

But for each flop there are several hits, such as vendor Randy Cherry’s honey bread, which is hefty and shaped like the state of Texas. Sprinkled with cinnamon and deep-fried, it tastes like a sopapilla.

Though fried food rules at the State Fair, a healthy enclave was found here and there. At one Greek booth in the Tower Building, Al Stewart of Dallas ordered a simple Greek salad. At last, a person with conviction. Or maybe not.

“This is just a start,” he said when asked about his healthy choice. “I start healthy and go bad. Then at least I can say I did one healthy thing.”

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