Texas State Fair Food: Fun or Foul?

I was talking with a friend of mine who loves the fried food madness of the Texas State Fair. Obviously many other people share her passion for fried strawberry waffles, fried margaritas, fried butter, and fried bubblegum. The recent “winners” for this year’s State Fair were announced Wednesday and the local blogs comment boxes have lit up like fried Christmas trees.

I hate it all as much as I hated eating in Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah. I can still smell the cloud of burnt butter that met me at the door of Lady and Sons Restaurant. The portions were obnoxiously huge and I had to shower when I got back to my hotel.

The last time I visited the Fair, I sat at one of the picnic benches and watched a family of three eat their way through a pile of food. The husband and wife, maybe in their early 40s, were obese. The woman was in a wheel chair with an oxygen tank. The husband, who weighed at least 350 pounds, was shoveling food in his mouth using both hands. The saddest sight was their son. He couldn’t have been 12 years old and already on the verge of obesity. He was listlessly staring at the ground and gnawing on a huge turkey leg.

I can hear you crying: “It’s only once a year. Live a little. Have some fun.” I can’t. That isn’t fun or funny to me. It’s gross.


  • Mike

    Totally agree, who cares what they are frying up for the fat people.

    Food truck posts are getting a little tiresome too.

  • Stacy L.

    II was just going to say the same thing about the food truck thing.

    And FWIW, My husband ad I love the fried food at the State Fair. We’re runners, and split an order of our faves to share. We aren’t fat, either. We do it once a year and enjoy ourselves.

    Good grief, you folks are cranky today.

  • Kat

    Let it be known, the State Fair (and food trucks for that matter) do NOT make people fat. People make people fat. And for the record Nancy while visiting Savannah this year I steered clear of Lady and Sons.

  • Epifanio

    I love a good corn dog now and again but the fried food has gotten out of hand. And, most of the time, it tastes like poo (hello fried beer). Europeans eat fried food but they’re not fatties like Americans are. Be who you want to be, fat people of America, but I don’t want to pay your stinkin medicaid bills.

  • bluebird

    i don’t really think of the state fair fried food as a food thing. it’s like those competitive and/or extreme eating things. they don’t really want 50 hot dogs or a 72-ounce steak

  • TLS

    Oh, give the chunky monkeys a break. They’ll spend 24 days gorging on grease and then it’s all celery sticks and water for the rest of the year. I’m sure of it.

  • allison

    The difference between the healthy & obese is largely, no pun intended, choice, portion control and moderation. (Not exclusively, I know, I know.) The State Fair is not an excuse to let go of those. I went with friends one year and we all had a food list and ate our own servings. We were sick, slow & nearly asleep within 3 hours and had to leave. We learned our lesson. Whenever I split fair food between several people and just take bites of each I want to try, it’s much better. Not eating beyond full also helps. But that’s the way everyday should work. I disagree with TLS a bit because people that are obese due to lack of self control are just going to have that fault magnified at the fair. The fair is probably a normal meal. That is what’s gross.

  • ELH

    Nancy do you have the same disgust when you walk in a grocery store and see “food” lining shelves that will never expire? That’s where the obesity problem is coming from, not one day at the fair.

  • TLS

    @allison: I was being sarcastic.

  • MeanJean

    Totally agree with Nancy. The rest of the year is not the point. People go to the fair to gorge on food.

  • allison

    @TLS I took it as a remark against the yoyo diet culture, but sarcasm works, too.

  • logan

    Hate to break it to you epifanio, but europe’s got a bit of a weight problem as well. it might not be as bad as that in the US, but they’re on their way.

  • A. B.

    logan is right. Spent 2 weeks in France this summer. My last trip to Europe was 11 years ago and, at that time, you could easily tell the Americans from the Europeans, most of the time just by their builds and if that wasn’t a tip-off then by their clothing. Fast forward 11 years and many of the Europeans I saw got their fashion cues from Jersey Shore and their waistlines from *insert name of American junk food purveyor*. It was a shock.

  • Bob

    So, because some people drink alcohol excessively, and kill their livers, and maybe kill other people, we should ban all sales of alcohol?

    Just because some people cannot exercise personal responsibility, everyone else should be deprived?

    We tried that with alcohol during Prohibition. Didn’t work. We tried that during the ongoing War Against Drugs. Didn’t work. If you try it during the Great State Fair of Texas, it won’t work.

    Leave us to our grease.

  • peanutbutterjellytime

    This is one of the most obnoxious and thoughtless things I have read in a long time.

    Clearly, public spaces present too much of a challenge for you to rein in your fat hatred and classism.

    I imagine that a more ideal scenario for you would have been for these people to have apologized for blighting your line of sight. Or better yet, stayed home. Because, after all, only fit people deserve to eat in public without scrutiny.

    So these people aren’t as fortunate as you are. I’m sure that the scorn and condescension of you and some of the commenters on this post will improve their circumstances.

    As for Paula Deen, I’m no fan, but you’ve got to be kidding me. Were you not expecting butter and grease?

    Wasting a meal at an expensive restaurant just to be a twit about it deserves a harsher judgement, I think.

  • peanutbutterjellytime

    I love you Bob!

  • The Janitor

    I think they ought to install a paint ball booth at the fair and stick all the fatties in there and have all the skinny folks shoot at ’em ’till they’ve run around long enough to shed a few thousand calories. Then everyone could go to the food court together and review the fun they’ve all had while sharing a good ‘ole Corny Dog with a turkey leg chaser, some spiral cut potato fries, a large Coke and a drizzle cake for dessert. Mmmmmm……

  • The Janitor

    OK, so how do you choose who goes into the paintball booth and who becomes a shooter? Well, at the entrance to the booth will be a dunking booth with a celebrity picker sitting on the precarious perch. To insure that the celebrity doesn’t get carried away with their choices, each time they condemn someone to the paintball booth they pay for their decision with a dunking of their own. Since Uncle Nancy seems to know a fat one when she sees one, she can be the first celebrity. Feel free to nominate other celebrities.

  • Sandy

    Excuse me, Ms. Nichols, why would you go to Paula Deen’s restaurant? It does not seem like an appropriate eatery for you. Have you not seen her show? Also, what did you think you would find at the fair? I found your story to be unnecessarily unkind.

  • Sandy, i went to Deen’s restaurant because my real job is a food critic. I feel it is appropriate to visit a place before I share my thoughts about it. Unkind? Why is this unkind? I wrote about an observation that made me sad. If I’d witnessed an anorexic person vomiting in a public bathroom, I’d have written the same thing.

  • Sassy

    Honey, you sound like an Anthony Bourdain wannabe, only without the talent and verve.

  • twoabouttown

    Nancy, I get it. you are a “food critic” and must say something about everything as your “profession” but are you really as far removed from the world as your blog suggests? If so, you may be physically healthy but your rotten on the inside. Get off the Unicorn you and your elitist friends flit about on and join the rest of us here in the real world. Just because you are unable to appreciate it does it mean you should try to discount it. If you remove that stick you might find life is fun and so is food. There is a place for whatever tofu and sprout chef you become inspired by and there is also a place for fried gourmet especially at the Texas State Fair. Having said that can someone point me to the Fried Salsa and beer.

  • Powter

    Eating fried foods in moderation is fine. .. pretty much anything in moderation is fine . . . obesity isn’t the result of doing something in moderation. Neither is alcoholism, or gambling or spending addictions. They all go in the same obsessive pot. I think that’s the point of the original post. It’s not about elitism or being on a high horse. There is a connection between the total lack of taking personal responsibility in life and the high instance of obesity, foreclosures and crushing credit debt. Ain’t nothing wrong with fried butter (besides the obvious) but the mindless eating by obese people that Nancy witnessed is indeed disturbing.

  • Twoabouttown, what do you know about my friends? Most of them love State Fair Food. Unable to appreciate it? I grew up eating the stuff. I wrote about a sad scene I witnessed at the State Fair.

    Powter, thank you for having a brain.

  • A. B.

    I’m with Nancy and fully support her observation. If you are offended by her point of view I’m guessing you are upset with Michelle Obama for encouraging families to get off the couch and live healthier lifestyles; angry with Jamie Oliver for his mission to make over entire communities and introduce them to healthier lifestyles; fed up with “The Biggest Loser” on TV. They are all part of the same message.

  • Melonie

    Goodness. You people are so hateful. I just read the post on eater and it is a gross misrepresentation of what is printed in this post. I’m with AB.

  • Tony the Tiger

    You are nothing but an Anthony B. want a be! Get an original idea. I would call you a b***h but don’t want to offend any female dogs!

  • Melonie Sherman

    Tony. People like you are just horrible. What males Nancy a bitch. Disagree with specifs and I wi pay attention to you. Cling people names without using yours is stupid.

  • mpl

    Nancy, this was a really cruel thing to say. It’s like anything. There are people who drink too much, smoke a lot, fool around too much, gripe too much, shop too much, wear too much perfume, spoil their kids too much, on and on. It was wrong for you to point out people eating at the fair. If I followed you around for a day or two, I bet I could observe you doing something I might think is gross. A public place should be safe for people to eat, sometimes smoke, sometimes drink, sometimes gripe, etc. without such judgement. I don’t think I will come to this blog much anymore. That was just totally wrong to say. Some observations should be kept to yourself or amongst your friends.

  • Tony the Tiger

    Melonie you obviously didn’t read her article. She hates Paula Deen and hates here restaurant, she hates the food at the State Fair and hates obese people. For the record if Nancy were a Nate I would have no problem referring to “him” as an SOB or an a**. I don’t use my real name since I don’t want my restaurant to end up on the D hit list.

  • I said “I hated eating in Paula Deen’s restaurant” not i hate Paula Deen. I don’t know her. I never said the people are gross I said the food is gross to me. the scene i witnessed was sad. Watching them made me sad. like watching someone smoke too much, drink too much, etc…I never said I hate obese people.

    I do not have a restaurant hit list.

  • Jo Bennett

    This country is filled with “excesses’ and the people who are obsessed by them be in food/big time/acquisition/shoppers/and the mentality that mine is bigger than yours….look at the state of our economy,health of our citizens,vitriolic politics that cannot will not even attempt at moderation or even seeing anyone else’s viewpoint but their own..get the heck over yourselves!Stop being in the constant state of denial about causes and effects on both your own lives and those in our world.

  • littleloo

    I totally agree