Why Is There So Much Fried Food At State Fairs?

As the last few dog days of summer blend with the coming of autumn, you may get those precious few days of beautiful weather. This is a moment when the air is still rich with the warm summer breeze but the trees are still turning their colors of oranges, crimsons, gold, and purples and the nights still come a bit earlier than they did before. It's this autumn atmosphere and warm weather that makes the state fairs all the more attractive.

No matter what the weather, be it late summer or the nipping chill of mid-September, the state fairs always offer the average fairgoer an assortment of the best state fair foods. Common treats are caramel or candy apples, funnel cakes, and apple cider, but fried foods are usually front-and-center for those who want the full state fair experience. Indeed, state fairs all across the nation are known for their wild and outrageous takes on fried food. People described the Texas State Fair as selling everything from french-fried hot dogs to fried pumpkin-spice Oreos, while Reader's Digest shared fried jelly beans, fried beer, and even fried pumpkin pie. It's not a state fair unless you're eating something fried and on a stick.

Why exactly do state fairs give away all this fried food? What is it about the state fair that makes it a magnet for folks who want to test both the limits and patience of both God and deep fryers?

Fried food is a competition at state fairs.

Although Americans are said to have the arcane ability to deep-fry most anything (and we hold such a title proud above the rest of the world), the state fairs aren't the birthplace of fried foods. Thrillist tells us that fried foods go back thousands of years ago, originating in the cooking methods of the ancient Egyptians and Romans whose cultures explored the use of batter and hot oil in cooking.

But how exactly did frying foods take on such a wild culture at state fairs? Thrillist chalks it up to two reasons: convenience and competition. It's far quicker to deep fry food than bake or grill it, something that comes in handy when there is a throng of hungry fairgoers waiting for food. Why wait until your food has been grilled on all sides when you can just dunk it in some oil and have it fried in under a few minutes?

As for the competition part, CNN Travel reports that it's simply a way for vendors to one-up each other, trying to draw customers to their truck or stand with the wildest fried food. If the guy next to you is serving deep-fried pickles on a stick, why not go above him and serve an entire deep-fried onion on a stick? If you're serving deep-fried chocolate chip cookies, someone will try and outdo you with a deep-fried birthday cake.

All is fair at the fair after all.