As one-and-a-half million of us make the annual trek to the State Fair, and you might be one of them, allow me to recommend some of the Fair’s most delicious food from each of the basic food groups. Now, I’m not a nutrition expert, but I am a Fair nut, so let me preface this list by saying, “pyramid… schmyramid” regarding the number of portions one should have from each group. At best, we’re just shooting for a bit of nutritional diversity while enjoying the great once-a-year food. And no, it’s not all about something-on-a-stick.
• Meat: turkey tenderloin sandwich. I start my Fair day with this terrific non-deep-fried food. Grab a sandwich, walk next door and wash it down with an icy cold all-you-can-drink glass of milk. Located between the Horse Coliseum and the DNR Fish Pond.
• Dairy: cream puffs. The first thrill isn’t even culinary; it’s the blast of cool sweet air-conditioned air you feel when they whip open the window to take your order. Those wonderful cream puffs are like biting into a perfect Minnesota summer’s fluffy white cloud. Indulge yourself kitty-corner from Heritage Square.
• Vegetables: roasted corn on the cob. This corn has to be the closest thing to magical food I’ve ever experienced. The secret is the combination of fresh corn, the roasting process, and the fabulous butter-sugar dip they use. It pains me that we are no longer serenaded by Tony Bennett and other big band crooners from the KLBB radio booth next door that’s now gone. Located near the Giant Slide and Grandstand.
• Fruits: fresh-squeezed lemonade. The floating lemon rind in your cup counts as a fruit serving. Also across from the Giant Slide. And/or there’s the caramel apple sundae, one of the messiest, stickiest treats at the place. Plan a serious hand- and face-washing excursion to the Grandstand bathrooms right after eating one, or dig out the babywipes.
• Grains: corn dog/Pronto Pup. Since the batter easily constitutes half of it, I throw it into this group. Slather it with mustard, the steamy goodness will make you weak in the knees.
• Sweet Martha’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. A big cup of these warm delicacies is exactly what you need as you are heading back to your car at the end of a great Fair day. By the Grandstand ticket booths.
• Seed Art. Not to ingest but it’s so grain-y that it deserves an honorary place on the list. Horticulture Building.
• Fats, oils, sweets. See above and forget that “use sparingly” language through Labor Day.
Lastly, be an explorer. Each year, I try something new to my tastebuds. It doesn’t have to be exotic — alligator on a stick seems like a waste to me. The international bazaar, over in the corner beyond the Sky Needle, always has unusual things I’ve never had before. But then again, I was 44 before I had my first “Blooming Onion.”
If you go, have fun at the fair!
Terre Thomas lives in the Lyndale neighborhood for 17 and owns Fairy Godmother, a gift shop in the Kingfield.