Update: Deep Fried Butter won Most Creative New Food in the Big Tex Choice Awards, and Fernie’s Deep Fried Peaches and Cream won in the Best Tasting New Food category. Read on to find out more about food (especially deep fried food!) at the State Fair of Texas, and for a look at all of this year’s nominees and past Big Tex Award winners.
Deep Fried Butter tops the list of finalists in the fifth annual Texas State Fair fried food competition. Winners of the Big Tex Choice Awards will be announced Labor Day in the categories of Best Tasting and Most Creative top new foods at the Texas State Fair. The State Fair of Texas runs from September 25 through October 18, 2009 at Fair Park in Dallas.
Eight finalists for the Big Tex Choice Awards were chosen from a list of forty-nine entries. The awards are intended to showcase the best new food offerings available at the Texas State Fair. There is no requirement that the competitors be deep fried, but ironically– or perhaps inevitably– all eight finalists are.
“If you fry it, they will come” seems to be the food vendor mantra at the Texas State Fair, and with good reason. Unusual and unlikely fried foods attract customers, cash in hand, eager to try the latest and greatest deep fried offering. This has been true ever since the Fletcher brothers decided that a deep fried hot dog in a corn bread coating sounded mighty tasty and fried up their first batch of Corny Dogs at the Texas State Fair in 1938. The current organizers of the Texas State Fair agree, proclaiming it the Fried Food Capital of Texas.
The judges of the Big Tex Choice Awards are enthusiastic passengers on the deep fried bandwagon. Every winner of a Big Tex Choice Award to date has been deep fried: Viva Las Vegas Fried Ice Cream; Fried Coke, Fried Praline Perfection, Texas Fried Cookie Dough; Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich; Deep Fried Latte; Fried Banana Split; and my personal favorite, Chicken Fried Bacon.
Deep Fried Butter is the brain-child of Abel Gonzales, Jr., a former computer analyst turned deep fried guru. Gonzales is no stranger to the mesmerizing properties of a deep fryer. He has won three Big Tex Choice Awards for his sizzling creations: Fried Coke, Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich and Texas Fried Cookie Dough. Gonzales’ winning streak came to an end last year when his Fire and Ice– deep fried pineapple chunks topped with banana flavored whipped cream flash frozen in nitrogen– lost out to the aforementioned Chicken Fried Bacon, although it was a finalist.
Oddly enough, Deep Fried Butter is not a new concept. (Paula Deen has a recipe for Fried Butter Balls on the Food Network website that is even more calorific, seeing as it contains cream cheese.)
And, as Abel Gonzales Jr. freely admits, it’s not health food. At 810 calories a stick, the golf ball sized chunk of butter in his deep fried masterpiece clocks in at around 405 calories per ball, and that’s before it’s injected with flavoring, wrapped in dough and dunked in a vat of oil. As for flavorings, you can go the purist route and savor your butter ball plain, or choose from grape, cherry or garlic if you’re looking for a bit more pizazz. Gonzales plans to serve 3 or 4 balls per order because “any more than that would be a little bit too much.”
It’s just as well, since you will undoubtedly want to save room to sample the other Big Tex Choice Award finalists: Texas Fried Pecan Pie, Country Fried Pork Chops, Sweet Jalapeno Corn Dog Shrimp and Fried Peanut Butter Cup Macaroons are all worthy competitors. Green Goblins are cherry peppers stuffed with shredded chicken and guacamole; the queso topping just might make up for the gratuitously healthy inclusion of chicken. Deep Fried Peaches and Cream may face an uphill battle because the cream is not actually deep fried.
Although Deep Fried Butter is a front runner, Twisted Yam on a Stick sounds like a winner to me: a spiral cut sweet potato gets the deep fryer treatment, after which it is rolled in butter and dusted with cinnamon sugar. In fact, I don’t see how it can lose since it contains all four of the State Fair Food Groups: deep-fried, butter, sugar and on-a-stick.
Critics contend that the Texas State Fair’s glorification of deep fried food is driving America’s obesity epidemic. Many of them are using the same kind of reasoning as the folks who claimed banning smoking in bars would be good for business. No matter what the reasoning, my answer to critics of the State Fair of Texas’ deep fried fare is the same: lighten up.
Do you know what’s causing the obesity epidemic? Eating too much fat, too much sugar, too much junk food every single day of the year.
I believe that a trip to the State Fair of Texas is the first step in combating the obesity epidemic because it gives parents a chance to teach their children about making healthy choices in their diets, every day of the year. Show your kids that it’s OK to treat yourself one day a year, as long as you don’t spend the other 364 days super-sizing it. Buy one order of Deep Fried Butter and share it. Wash down that Chicken Fried Bacon with water instead of a coke, deep fried or otherwise. If you spend the rest of the year eating healthy and exercising, you can easily afford to splurge every now and then.
And if that doesn’t work, frighten them. The State Fair of Texas is the perfect opportunity to show children, up close and with jaw-dropping personality, the unpleasant consequences of a lifetime of junk food and inactivity. Do it right and your kids will be begging for carrot sticks instead of potato chips in their school lunches.
If you are truly against deep fried food in all its gloriously greasy manifestations, vote with your wallet. Skip the Corny Dogs. Buy healthy treats for yourself and your children. One of these years, I might even join you for a salad.
After all, if anyone can figure out how to deep fry lettuce, it’s Abel Gonzales, Jr.
The State Fair of Texas
Dallas Morning News