Just call me Templeton

Welcome to the FairFive hours in, I was starting to panic.

I had not yet found the Potato Lollipop, and my friends Amy and Betsy were clearly flagging in their enthusiasm for the 2007 Iowa State Fair. Time was running short. Would I find it before we had to board the shuttle bus back to my car?

I should note that, at this point, I was no longer hungry. I had already consumed most of an order of fried cheese curds, a corndog with mustard, a 32-ounce cup of lemonade, a pork chop on a stick, a Bauder’s peppermint bar, a bite of Betsy’s smoked turkey sandwich, and about a quarter of Amy’s cinnamon-sugar funnel cake. My Fair mantra?: “Are you going to throw that away? Because I’ll eat the rest if you’re done.”

In the Agricultural Building, we located one of the Holy Grails: an icy cold, garlicky dill pickle. As far as we were concerned, it was as good as a salad when you’re eating at the Fair. (And yes, for those of you who are purists, we did locate the salad stand, which was in the courtyard of the Fine Arts building, which, really, at an agricultural fair, is a truly out-of-the-way place to be. No actual salads, however, were injured in this eating endeavor.)

The only problem with this pickle? It was in a jar. Without a stick. “I wanted a pickle on a stick,” Betsy hissed.

“I don’t know if we’ll get another shot at a pickle, though,” I said. “Better buy it while we’re here.” I already sensed the disappointment I was planning to feel if I couldn’t find the elusive Potato Lollipop, and I didn’t want Betsy to experience the same pain. I’m friendly like that.

Betsy ordered her pickle first, her voice faint with disappointment over the whole lack-of-stick thing. Until, like the heavens were opening up on us, the man behind the stand asked, “Would you like that on a stick?” He whipped out a plastic stick and, upon Betsy’s frantic nodding, speared the fat dill and handed it to her.

“I want one, too!” I exclaimed, slapping down my $1.50. “Pickle on a stick! Pickle on a stick!”

There’s a way to behave in public, and then there’s a way to behave around Fair Food. I have both behaviors down, apparently, and am happy to throw out the former when in the presence of a funnel cake. Or a corn dog.

But we did not just eat. Oh, no. We also watched Queen Abby receive her 2007 State Fair crown (after, miraculously, also winning the Personality Plus award – when does THAT happen?), saw a girl do an acrobatic dance to “Werewolves in London” by Warren Zevon, and marveled as a boy tap danced to “Up Around the Bend” by CCR,

Cabbage and headWe checked out the Butter Cow and the Butter Harry Potter and the Butter Trunk of Harry Potter and the Butter Portrait of the Fat Lady (From Harry Potter). We marveled over portraits made entirely from rice and beans and a whole variety of vegetables, including this cabbage that was, as you can see, almost twice the size of my head.

I pet a day-old piglet, and a day-old baby goat. I would have pet the day-old calf, but it was lying in the middle of its pen looking as sullen, already, as a teenager.

And finally, as we trudged toward our plan to catch a few songs by Abbamania, followed by a ride on the shuttle back to our car, I saw something sticking up in a display of totally unappetizing food in a stand not far from the main gates into the Fairgrounds. A stick with three chunks of something fried. It looked more like a rock kebab than a potato lollipop, but it seemed worth investigating. Regardless, these people had meatballs on a stick, and I considered that a worthy fallback position. I could not leave, I had decided, without cramming one more thing down my gullet.

“What is that?” I asked the sales girl, pointing warily at the rock kebab.

“That,” she said, “is a potato lollipop.”

“Yes!” I exclaimed. “I’ve been looking for that all day!”

She served one up out of the metal tray under the heat lamp. She slapped it into a paper dish and handed it over.

“What about the dipping sauces?” I asked, forlornly. I had expected something exciting, something in a small plastic cup. Maybe a couple of somethings.

Eat the lollipop“Around the corner,” she said, and I trotted around the corner of the stand to find ketchup. Mustard. Relish. Mayonnaise. And ranch dressing.

I sighed. I chose the ranch dressing. And I ate the whole potato lollipop, folks. But it was not good. Not nearly as good as I had expected.

There is always next year, though. There is always the meatball on a stick.


26 Responses to “Just call me Templeton”

  1. 1 Libby August 16, 2007 at 7:14 am

    The Iowa State Fair is a pre-back to school ritual for my family. Sadly, I’m not sure that I will make it this year. I have been known to consume multiple corn dogs in addition to the other fare I choose. In the end, it really is all about food.

  2. 2 betsy August 16, 2007 at 8:21 am

    ah, memories. from last weekend. i can attest that once you enjoy a pickle-on-a-stick, you will never go back to the naked pickle. i’m all for nudity, but not when it comes to the pickle. as a reminder: genie, you are supposed to develop an edible stick, preferably as part of the pickle. you will make millions and i will collect royalties for the idea. go to it.

    p.s. we both look incredibly hot & sexy in that picture. i’m so wearing that outfit out this weekend.

  3. 3 Don August 16, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Great piece on the fair… I can just taste the deep fat fired cheese curds! My favorite State Fair story is when our sweet little friend Jane (a city gal) was being shown around the fair by some farm friends… in the horse barn, Jane saw a sign on one of the horse stalls saying “Morgan”. Jane, who’s always friendly, walked up to the horse and said “Hi Morgan”! Everybody about fell on the floor laughing.

  4. 4 Heather August 16, 2007 at 8:37 am

    Oh Genie, I’m so disappointed in the potato lollipop. Perfecting the recipe and cooking method sounds like a winter project to me!

  5. 5 inadvertentgardener August 16, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Libby, I thought about consuming multiple corn dogs. The only thing that stopped me was the fear of being too full for the stupid potato lollipop. I will not make that mistake again.

    Betsy, you’re so right. The pickle-on-a-stick just elevates it to an art form. As for the edible stick, I am going to have to work on that. Really, I’ll be doing that development work for the generations to come. They deserve the edible stick, which will aid in saving the planet from utter ecological destruction. Less trash, more pickles-on-a-stick. Al Gore would weep tears of joy in my honor.

  6. 6 inadvertentgardener August 16, 2007 at 8:48 am

    Don, that’s a great story! Hilarious. Of course, I shouldn’t laugh too hard…I’ve definitely made city-girl mistakes like that since moving out here. At least this year I remembered to wear closed-toed shoes, which are much better for barn tromping.

    Heather, actually, don’t tell anyone, but I just might try something along those lines. A fellow commenter sent me something as inspiration…stay tuned!

  7. 7 anniebetty August 16, 2007 at 9:03 am

    If I do end up out there planting as penance, can you at least serve me a perfected potato lollipop?

  8. 8 Tiya August 16, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Annie, I was about to suggest the same thing!

    How about a tomato lollipop? Tomatoes already come in lots of different colors :D Though, the trouble comes in actually keeping said tomato on the stick, as tomatoes are sometimes squeeshy.

  9. 9 inadvertentgardener August 16, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    AB, absolutely!

    Tiya, the tomato lollipop does have appeal. But it couldn’t be fried…and what’s Fair food without a little time in the deep fryer?

  10. 10 steven August 16, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Wow, what a disappointment the Potato Lollipop turned out to be. Never pass up the chance for more corn dogs again.

  11. 11 inadvertentgardener August 16, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    No doubt…I will never repeat that mistake. But like I said, I’m still intrigued enough with the concept that I’m wondering if it could be duplicated outside the Fair environment. An experiment. Perhaps performed in winter. We’ll see…

  12. 12 Caroline August 16, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Hey Genie it’s Caroline (Betsy’s friend). I can say my only regret from the state fair is that I didn’t eat more! My eat-a-thon consisted of the following: a turkey sandwich for brunch, an order of nachos and a brew for lunch, onion rings for a mid-afternoon snack, a cool hard-boiled egg on a stick, a pork burger for dinner, half a bag of mini donuts, a couple bites of a fried snickers bar on a stick (of course!), and to top it all off… one more egg on a stick and a caramel apple for the ride home. Not to mention several glasses of lemonade. Ahhh, the state fair I love it! It only took a few days this year to awaken from my food coma.

  13. 13 inadvertentgardener August 16, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Caroline! Good to see you, and I’m glad you guys had a good time. You may have felt like you didn’t eat enough, but that’s a pretty hearty list. I missed out on the fried Snickers this year…didn’t want to risk getting too full of sweets…but I’m starting to regret that decision.

  14. 14 cole August 16, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    Yum, fair food. There was this popcorn stand, kettle corn, that I aways had to have when I was little. And I don’t get the whole funnel cake phenom? I would rather have a flipper with molasses.

    The pickle sounded delish! Did you squeal “Pickle on a stick?” to the pickle guy? I would pay money for that footage.


  15. 15 inadvertentgardener August 16, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Cole, I am a huge fan of the kettle corn. They have a stand at the Iowa State Fair, but I didn’t walk by it while we were there. That’s OK — they have a really good kettle corn stand at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market…I have been known to partake from there from time to time this summer.

  16. 16 Michael August 16, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    I’m not sure who has or has not gotten the memo, but:
    All Iowa State Fair food items MUST be on a stick!

    It’s good to read the pickle vendor is in compliance with this law.

  17. 17 inadvertentgardener August 16, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Michael, I admit I was a little concerned about the pickle vendor for a moment. And then, yes, I did squeal. It was delightful.

  18. 18 The 2 Witches August 16, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Oooooo the joy of fair food!! We missed our local county fair this year and I am still heartbroken. Of course now after reading your post I am craving a large juicy pickle!!!

    Mama Kelly

  19. 19 anniebetty August 16, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Wait! An egg on a stick? I apparently need to move to Iowa.

  20. 20 inadvertentgardener August 17, 2007 at 9:39 am

    2Witches, at the very least, the pickle is something you could replicate at home. But yeah, missing the Fair is a sad, sad thing.

    AB, um…as much as I’d love to have you in the state, I’m not sure it’s worth moving to Iowa just for the egg-on-stick. I mean, you really could do that at home, too.

  21. 21 Heather August 17, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    Brew? At a State Fair? Say it ain’t so! Here I’ve been telling you to move back to the land of progress, yet our State Fair serves no booze to my knowledge. Maybe Iowa is actually ahead of the rest of us.

    Ah the Fair – I CANNOT wait to go this year! Corn dogs and fried cheese are always on the top of the list. Down south here, the ham biscuit is also an important Fair staple.

  22. 22 inadvertentgardener August 17, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Heather, oh, yes, indeed. And I realized I left that off my list of things I had consumed pre-potato lollipop! Iowa does have its moments of sophistication, most definitely. I’m not sure those include the people tanking it up in the beer tent, but a cold brew is mighty refreshing after hiking around the cow barn. And stop teasing me with thoughts of the ham biscuit. Stop it! :-)

  23. 23 Emma August 19, 2007 at 11:13 am

    that would be a ham biscuit on a stick! LOL. I hope you had a pocketbook full of zantac for those corndogs and rocks..er potatoes..and sticks. ;-) I would have been there dog for dog with ya!


  24. 24 inadvertentgardener August 19, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Emma, ham biscuit on a stick…wow! Now THAT is an idea. Luckily I seem to have a stomach of steel — no Zantac necessary. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing, though — it seems to me that one’s own body should probably not allow that kind of abuse…but oh well!

  25. 25 NC Heather August 20, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    I realized there are two Heather’s who respond to the blog, so thought I should differentiate the two!

    A Ham Biscuit on a Stick – what a lovely, lovely idea. Would we batter and fry it I wonder? Oh – what about fried cheese grits on a stick?

  26. 26 inadvertentgardener August 20, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Oh. NC Heather. Fried cheese grits on a stick? I would fly in for THAT.

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