This news cycle has been brutal. I’m not going to get into the specifics because you’re probably well aware. And if not, Thomas Gray would deem you fortunate. (He wrote a poem called “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” in the 18th century, which is where the phrase “ignorance is bliss” originated. That’s basically all I know about the dude. Moving on.)
While it may feel like the world is burning—well, because it is burning—it’s important to seek out things that bring you joy. Things that make you laugh. Things that excite you. Things that make you say I’m alive! And it’s not that bad!
For many people, this thing is food. I know it is for me. I love food. I love food so much that I’m genuinely sad when I’m full and can not eat more food. Call me a glutton, I don’t care. Life is short. And food brings me joy.
Every year, the State Fair of Texas introduces 10 new, over-the-top, strange, fried, sugary, syrupy, cholesterol-spiking items. These are the Big Tex Choice Awards finalists. They’re whittled, by a panel of judges, from 49 entries. For many, this is a joyous occasion.
The 2019 finalists were announced this morning. Here, look:
Calypso Island Shrimp Bowl by Stephen Alade: cabbage stir-fry with carrots, kale, scallions, ginger, and sweet red bell peppers, served on a yellow tropical rice topped with grilled Caribbean shrimp and a sweet and spicy tropical glaze.
Fernie’s Fried Burnt End Burrito by Winter Family Concessions: a large flour tortilla is slathered with cream cheese, bacon, cheese, and diced jalapeños. It’s then layered with pepper jack cheese and burnt ends. It is folded into a burrito. And fried.
Ruth’s Stuffed Fried Mexi-Cone by Ruth Hauntz: slow-cooked barbacoa served in an ice cream cone-shaped tortilla shell with black beans and cilantro-lime rice. It is topped with pico de gallo, queso fresco, and homemade salsa verde.
Southern Fried Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo Ball by Greg Parish: a fried ball, filled with fettuccine Alfredo, Southern-fried chicken bites, and fresh mozzarella cheese. The ball is garnished with house-made alfredo sauce, grated parmesan cheese, parsley, fresh basil, and cracked black pepper. It comes served with a side of flash-fried lemon-pepper asparagus spears, and a toasted garlic parmesan baguette.
Texas Cream Corn Casserole Fritters by Clint Probst: cream corn, kernel corn, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and cornbread mix are combined into a batter. Chopped bacon and diced jalapeños are added. The batter is then fried into fluffy pillows.
Deep Fried Bayou Fruit Bites by Terrence & Lisa Henderson: fresh fruit wedges are battered, deep fried, and coated in a “secret sweet confection.” (I don’t know.) The bite is topped with whipped cream and drizzled with warm caramel sauce. Additional toppings include candy, chocolate chips, walnuts, pecans, and assorted berries.
Fla’Mango Tango by The Garza Family: a creamy mango pastry is fried and drizzled with a citrus glaze. It’s topped with whipped cream and served with a side of strawberry-mango sorbet.
Peanut Butter Cup Snookie by Michelle Edwards: a warm peanut butter cup cookie with vanilla ice cream topped with caramel and chocolate drizzle, whipped cream, and a cherry.
Quick-Fried “Black Gold” Truffles by Glen & Sherri Kusak: thin chocolate cookies are crushed into crumbs and combined with rich cream cheese. Mini white chocolate chips are added. They hand-roll the mix into balls and coat them in crushed vanilla wafers, Corn Flakes, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then fry them. The balls are topped with whipped cream and then drizzled with chocolate syrup and a cherry.
And last. But certainly not least because this is my favorite one. (At least to look at.)
Big Red Chicken Bread by Brent & Juan Reaves: a Big Red frosted doughnut topped with fried chicken.
Yeah, whatever, it’s not Soupe à l’oignon or Coq Au Vin or a really fancy rose water and vanilla-layered cake with 24 karat gold flakes. But it’s fun. Funny, even. I mean it’s an effing chicken wing that’s wearing sunglasses and sitting on top of a pop-flavored doughnut. I can’t say I understand it. But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe we’re simply supposed to observe it, and laugh, and forget that the world is burning for a fleeting fried-food-filled moment.
Maybe this is joy. I’d like to think so.