Wednesday Detour: The Kentucky State Fair

What does this photo have to do with pastry? Nothing, but I’m running this show. We had a great day at the state fair yesterday, and those two little cocks were among the highlights. No more than nine or ten inches tall, they were amazingly loud. So much so that little 1-year-old Joan had to clap her hands over her ears. She loved every second of it.

There were of course some near disasters, mostly involving my expensive new digital camera. First, it rode to the fair on top of the car (nice one dad!), then some jackass nearly ate it. Really. You have no idea how big those animals are until you get right up close to one. And if you happen to be wearing your camera over your shoulder, one can easily bite down when your back is turned. Fortunately there was no damage.

But speaking of animals, here was 4-year old Josephine’s favorite animal, this sheep:

…because, well, kids that age find jokes like that really, really funny.

This being Kentucky, one of the centerpieces of the fair every year is the country ham competition. Each year after the judging the top hams are auctioned, with grand champion specimens going for up to half a million dollars if you can believe it. The proceeds all go to charity, then the hams are donated, often to local convents, where the sisters eat thousand-dollar ham sandwiches for months afterwards.

But what’s great ham without a great biscuit? Here are this year’s winners, from scores of entrants. There’s some mighty good eatin’ in this display case, I tell you what.

I spend quite a lot of time among the cake and pastry cases, of course. They were filled with very well-executed baked goods from across the state. Still, nothing got me particularly excited, that is until I came across this beauty, a Weber grill cake complete with gum paste cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Now that’s what I call creative pastry!

And last but not least there was my the much-anticipated centerpiece to my yearly state fair experience, the corn dog, and oh mama was it ever good.

It’s my belief that a corn dog can only be properly appreciated on a 90-plus degree day, slathered with mustard and accompanied by the smell of baking black top. Thus, I only get one really good one a year. Last year I was so desperate for a fair corn dog I actually paid a full admission and parking fee just to run in a grab one at my favorite stand. The thing cost me $17. Was it worth it? Do I really have to answer?

On that subject, a good friend and fellow Chicago expatriate, Mexico Bob, put up a post about corn dogs, Mexico-style. Bob claims his corn dogs are “the best”. Much more big talk like that and I’m just going to have to march down south of the border to judge for myself. And I’ll do it you know. Oh yes I will…

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