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Adventures in state-fair food
Around the table
Corn dogs sold from a trailer are a staple of carnivals and fairs nationwide. - photo by Stock photo

The other night, I enjoyed a microwave corn dog.
Well, perhaps “enjoyed” is too strong a word, but it did cause me to recall state fairs I have enjoyed. I remember these fairs because of the variety of fair foods as well as agricultural and forestry exhibits.
Georgia has two state fairs (three if you count that little carnival thingy they hold in the spring in Macon). There’s the North Georgia State Fair in late September in Marietta and the Georgia National Fair in Perry, which is going on this week.
Fair rides aren’t for me. Never were. I’d rather jump out of an airplane than ride the Crazy Mouse or Tornado. Quiet, educational exhibits and uncommon foods are more to my liking.
Fair foods tend to be those things you normally wouldn’t buy at a restaurant or fix at home, like smoked turkey legs, deep-fried Oreos or chicken-fried bacon. When our kids were little, as soon as we entered the gate at North Carolina’s state fair in Raleigh, I’d buy a smoked turkey drumstick. That kept three kids busy the rest of the day — and we usually were there from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
They didn’t mind sharing the turkey leg but insisted on their own grilled corn on the cob. They alternated bites of turkey and corn as we browsed through the 4-H rabbit displays, antique cars or old farm machinery. Before we left the fairgrounds, it was mandatory to stop for an extra-large funnel cake, usually covered in strawberries and heavily dusted with powdered sugar.
My wife and I always shared an Italian or Polish sausage sandwich piled high with peppers and onions. It really doesn’t matter which sausage you choose. At the Texas State Fair, they serve a spicy, smoked sausage with peppers and onions. Delicious!
The basic recipe is the same:

Sausage with peppers and onions
Olive oil
2 pounds of sausage (Italian, Polish or smoked)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
2 large yellow onions
Kosher or sea salt
Coarse black pepper
¼ teaspoon of oregano
¼ teaspoon of basil
¼ teaspoon of crushed garlic
Add a few ounces of olive oil to a large, non-stick skillet. Cut sausage in 6- to 8-inch links. Cut peppers and onions in julienne-style strips and add to skillet with garlic and other seasonings. Cook veggies with sausage until it’s browned on all sides and veggies are somewhat caramelized but not mushy. Serve on a hoagie roll, generously covering the sausage with the peppers and onions.
My wife likes to visit the crafts and food-competition displays where she gets ideas for her classroom or our kitchen. She takes particular note of the ones with the blue ribbons and tries to imagine why one pie or cake is better. I always enjoyed entering our youngest in the milking contest. She didn’t mind because — win or lose — she got a bottle of Pine State chocolate milk.
I enjoy the agricultural and forestry displays because it’s important to know what crops we produce more of than other states, or where we stand in timber production. It’s interesting to see how big some farmers can grow melons, pumpkins and sweet taters.
It’s also fun to watch them run a fresh pine log through one of those old saw mills. In a matter of minutes, a 40-foot tree is stripped of its bark, and then sliced into boards. Then the bark and saw dust are collected for mulch. Nothing’s wasted.
There is one odd but nice thing about eating fair foods. As you walk through the agricultural and forestry exhibits, there is a plethora of odors, including dust, hay, horse and cow manure and diesel smoke from the tractor pulls or other races. By themselves, these smells might turn your stomach. Combined with the tantalizing aroma of fair foods, they make a state fair a culinary adventure.

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