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And now for something completely different… Minnesota State Fair Food!

Welcome to Minnesota

If I’m in a pretentious mood and someone asks me to describe how we eat, I’ll sometimes say we like our food to have “a sense of place” and “a sense of time”, which is just an obnoxious was of saying that we like to get our foods in-season and from local sources. It matters that it’s September in Massachusetts and not May in Virginia. The state fair is one case where the “sense of place and time” is spot-on, even though the local / seasonal part is waaaaaay off. in any case, these foods are iconic for the area, and they only come but once a year (for us more like every 2-3 years). I got to write this post because this is only my second fair, being an east coast city-slicker and all.

First, though, some context and scenery. The Minnesota State Fair started as an annual hub for the farming community to share seeds, trade livestock, check and purchase new equipment, etc. Farmers came in from all over the state. There were competitions for best everything. Those are the roots of the fair, in a nutshell.

You can still see those roots today. Every major manufacturer of agricultural equipment still has a showcase up on Mechanical Hill. The animals are also still highly featured. The photo below is the “Miracle of Life Center”, and it’s exactly what you think it is.

John Deere ShowcaseThe Miracle of Life Center

The farmers and their sons needed to eat (and heartily), so the grounds are covered in food stands. For the on-the-go-at-the-fair farmer, nothing could be more convenient than a complete meal on a stick. Let’s just say that concept has… evolved over time (see more pictures below). One of the things I love about the fair is the architecture of the permanent buildings. Many were built during the Depression by the WPA in a beautiful art-deco style. It actually reminds me of the Empire State Building and LaGuardia Airport.

Fair FoodArt-Deco Architecture

The fair also has plenty of rides on its Midway (and Kidway), including this slide that traumatized Lindsay as a child when the lady just pushed her off before her father could hold her hand. In all fairness, you’re supposed to just slide down that sitting on a burlap sack. That IS pretty scary.

Terror SlideThe Midway

There’s also musical entertainment. We heard John Phillips Sousa as well as Polka at the band shell next to the Leinie Lodge, which is run by the Leinenkugel brewing company.

The Leinie LodgeThe Leinie Lodge

The chicken shed features a few crazy breeds. You can see how insane they look, but what doesn’t come across is their spastic, jerky movement. They looked even more like crazy old ladies wearing hats.

Crazy Chicken #2Crazy Chicken #1

After seeing a TON of chickens, we made it to the butter sculptures!

Chickens... Lots of ChickensButter Sculptures

We also saw a lumberjack show.

Lumberjack GamesLumberjack Games

And finally, on to the food (on a stick!):

A pronto pup is a corn dog with a more pancake-like batter:

Pronto PupPronto Pup

The highlight was the deep fried Twinkie. It sounds over the top (and stereotypical), but I must say that the frying process improves the Twinkie by 1000%. Luckily there was a milk barn with $1 chocolate milk to help wash it all down.

Deep Fried Twinkies on a StickThe Milk Barn

That nasty stale “skin” is gone, and the cake becomes creamy, almost as creamy as the “cream”. This is about as far from our normal eating habits as we could possibly get. It was totally awesome.

Deep Fried Twinkies on a StickDeep Fried Twinkies on a Stick

I never heard of a nut roll until I started dating a Minnesotan. It’s a central rod of nougat with salty peanuts stuck to it. It may or may not be dipped in chocolate. I’ve had the commercial version before, and it’s good, but this freshly-made one was fantastic.

Fresh Nut RollsFresh Nut Rolls

The highlight of our state fair dining (if not the Twinkie) were the cheese curds. Two years ago we went to the wrong stall, but Lindsay’s cousin directed us this time, and these were perfect. We did skip the alligator, though, because that seemed even less local than the rest of the fair!

Fried Cheese CurdsAlligator?

A few more booths to round things out: “Hot Dish on a Stick” and “Scotch Egg on a Stick”:

Hot Dish... on a StickScotch Eggs... on a Stick

Brats, and finally, “Bacon on a Stick.” It was a strip of bacon skewered on a stick (and cooked via frying, although without any batter or anything). It smelled great, but we were full.

BratsBacon on a Stick

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