| The first Los Angeles county fair was held in 1921. Since then, the fair has become a tradition offering a variety of attractions and food to each visitor. This year offered a mixture of rotisserie classic delights and newly added deep-fried Twinkies, artichoke hearts and olives.
Greasy, fattening, unhealthy: the words associated with all things deep-fried. It was my task to ignore all health concerns and visit the Los Angeles County Fair with one goal in mind: eat a lot of deep-fried food.
But I wasn’t ready to completely forget about my health, so I brought two friends to take part in my oily quest.
We began with the infamous deep-fried Twinkie. I’m no fan of the standard Twinkie, so I didn’t have high hopes for its deep-fried friend.
I underestimated the power of batter.
The first bite into the Twinkie was very crunchy, but the texture immediately changed to something smooth, creamy and sweet. The vanilla filling apparently melts when deep-fried, so the flavor makes its way through the entire Twinkie. The melted filling wasn’t too sweet, and it wasn’t runny; the smooth consistency created a perfect balance between the crunchy exterior.
Our next foe was the deep-fried Oreo. I love Oreos, and after the amazing experience with the deep-fried Twinkie, I was expecting nothing less than the second coming of the Oreo.
Unfortunately, the magic of batter does not treat all junk food equally. Deep-fried, the Oreo degenerates into a mush of cookie and cream with no identifiable Oreo-like qualities.
“It’s like fried shrimp, but then it’s Oreo,” said Kent Huynh, my friend and junior kinesiology major at San Diego State University. And although I didn’t know what he meant, I agreed because the Oreo had no discernible features.
After our disappointment, we moved onto the deep-fried Snickers.
I cannot express in words how much I love Snickers, so I was more than ready to have my body slathered in batter and covered in Snickers bars. Unfortunately, no booth had such offering and I had to settle for just one deep-fried Snickers. It came on a stick and I was strangely excited by that fact.
After pulling the stick out, we split the bar into thirds and were once again disappointed by the deep-fried downer. The batter doesn’t crisp and the bar melts into a blend of chocolate, caramel, peanuts and nougat. We were left with a spongy abomination.
“It just tastes like chocolate bread,” said Kendrick Han, my friend and senior computer science major at Cal Poly Pomona. “It’s too spongy and you wouldn’t be able to tell what it was without the peanuts.”
We were one out of three so far. Things were looking grim. Was this visit to the Fair going to be a failure? We trudged on, our hearts struggling with each grease-clogged beat.
As a change of taste, we tried to find something that was still deep-fried, but not sweet. My taste buds jumped with joy when we found a stand selling deep-fried mushrooms and deep-fried artichoke hearts.
What joy! The two best vegetables known to man, covered in batter and fried to golden perfection. I gladly handed over $10 for an order of mushrooms and one order of artichoke hearts. We got the ranch dressing and cheese dipping sauces.
We tried the mushrooms first, dipped in cheese. The crunchy batter made a great shell for the tender, juicy mushroom. The cheese was OK, but when dipped in ranch dressing, the mushroom created a flavor explosion in my mouth. The mushroom, batter and ranch dressing fought a battle of colossal proportions on the plain of my tongue, but only I emerged victorious.
“It's like a salad, but so much better,” I said.
I don't think they understood me, but it didn't matter. Kendrick and Kent were both enjoying the fungal treats as much as I.
After I died, went to heaven, high-fived the genius who thought of deep-frying mushrooms and was magically transported back to my seat near a train exhibition, I was ready for the deep-fried artichoke.
To finish our deep-fried frenzy, we partook in one of the most glorious gifts given to man: deep-fried artichoke hearts.
The tender heart and attached leaves were graced by a light, crisp, golden batter that highlighted the already superb flavor of artichoke. The artichoke heart simply melted in my mouth and was a perfect way to end the night. It was refreshingly not soaked in oil and the batter didn't overwhelm the artichoke.
Despite being sold at an inconspicuous fair stand, the artichoke hearts were both exquisite and elegant.
We immediately forgot about our poor experiences with the Oreos and Snickers and began devising recipes and ways to begin deep-frying our own artichoke hearts and mushrooms.
Eric Iberri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.