From pork to pickles on a stick
EAGLE – You better finish that funnel cake or there’s no cotton candy for dessert.The Eagle County Fair and Rodeo is a dream come true for little kids. Parents abandon the notion of nutrition, letting the little ones munch on anything from corn dogs to a plate full of fried dough and powder sugar. Kids aren’t the only ones indulging. The fair is a perfect excuse for adults to stop counting carbs and calories. After all, the fair and rodeo only comes to town once a year – why not splurge?”It’s unhealthy and magical – no calories,” Howard Walker of Wolcott joked as he took a huge bite of a hot dog deep fried in corn meal. “It’s just as awful as I remember, which is why I love ’em.”He bought the corn dog from Cheryl Wiggins’ stand, who also sells fried chicken on a stick and curly fries. The batter for the chicken is a secret recipe, Wiggins said, but black pepper is visibly one of the main ingredients.
“The thing about my food is it’s on a stick,” Wiggins said. “People can walk around and eat and a hold a drink in their other hand. But then there’s a heart attack on a plate …”A “heart attack on a plate” is Wiggins concoction of curly fries topped with chili, cheese, sour cream, bacon bits and jalapenos. Wiggins uses an electric drill press upon ordering to cut the potato into curls and then drops the pieces into a deep frier. Almost all of Wiggins food is fried fresh right in front of your eyes.Kristen Mehan of Eagle couldn’t resist the chicken on a stick. But does she feel guilty about eating a dinner that was cooked in a bat of grease?”Hell yes. Absolutely,” Mehan said. “I wouldn’t eat this if I wasn’t here. It’s a splurge. I’d never make it at home, it’s all fat.”
You can find just about anything deep fried, caramel coated, drizzled with chocolate or drenched in processed cheese at the fair, but the true characteristic of carnival food is it’s mobile.”An old carnival man used to tell me flash is cash,” Dan Jewell of Granny’s Hillbilly Kettle Corn said. “The more gaudy, the more popular it’s going to be.”So when his giant dill pickles weren’t selling, Jewell skewered them on a stick, making them an item people hunted out. “Sales quadrupled,” he said.
Jewell’s biggest money maker, however, continues to be kettle corn, which sold in a bag is a snack you can travel with. He said it’s much more popular with the adults than kids.”It’s a recipe from 1800s Germany,” Jewell said. “I make German brittle candy and then melt it down and pour it over the popcorn. I use three different kinds of sugar and a special blend of oils. It’s the old fashion way of doing it.”Jeff Pilon of Boston tries to stay away from anything drenched in sugar when at the fair. He opted for the gigantic turkey leg, which, handy enough, is sold on the bone – its own natural stick – making it easier for Pilon to browse the games with family and eat.”I usually look for it,” Pilon said. “My teeth feel better than if I eat cotton candy.”
The most sought-after junk food at the fair is undoubtedly the funnel cake. A batter made from flour, sugar, vanilla, eggs and baking powder is poured into a tub of grease, deep fried then sprinkled with powder sugar and served on a paper plate.”I’m partial to sweets,” Kari Siebelt of Chicago said, while finishing the last of her funnel cake. She doesn’t feel guilty at all for munching down the oversized donut. “Not if you have it once a year,” she said.But is there anything for the health nut who refuses to submit to the glutinous pull of grease fried to a crisp, beautiful brown? Marci Anderson of Texas has the answer. She’s shaking up the healthiest treat at the fair, the “One and Only Original Texas Twister drink.” She hand squeezes fresh oranges, limes and lemons, making every drink individually, and then shakes it up with a little sugar. The result is cool and refreshing. And for the real extreme calorie counter, Anderson will shake the twister sugar free.
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Nutrition tips for the fairIndulging on junk food one night while the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo isin town won’t ruin your diet forever, but here are some tips from
nutritionist Amy Young of the Vail Valley Medical Center on how not to goover board:- “Practice portion control”- “Choose foods that aren’t deep fried” (Choices may be limited here,
but turkey legs, pickles on a stick, ice cream are some foods that fitthe description.)- “Eat something healthy, like a salad, before you go, so you’re notrelying on the fair for dinner.”
Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado