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Armchair Field Trip: Gorging on Fried Foods at the State Fair of Texas

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Before this week, I would have told you that the Iowa State Fair is arguably the best State Fair in the U.S. After visiting the State Fair of Texas this week, I will tell you that the Iowa State Fair is definitely the best in the U.S. Because I grew up going to the fair, I am more than familiar with delicacies such as the Hot Beef Sundae, Meatballs on a Stick, and, my personal favorite, the Pickle Dawg. However loyal I am to the Iowa State Fair, though, I have to admit that the Texas fair has us beat in one area: variety of fried foods. Purely for research purposes, I made it my mission to sample as many strange foods as I could possibly get my hands on. Check out my in depth and very scientific analysis below.

1. Fried Coke

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As in Coca-Cola. I had heard of this before but couldn't quite wrap my head around the concept. Turns out, it's basically just discs of fried dough with Coke syrup and whipped cream on top. I was not impressed at all. My rating: 3/10.

2. Fried Cookie Dough

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In a NASCAR box. This was delicious, but rather overwhelming. The inside of the fried cookie dough is exactly like biting into a really underbaked cookie "“ gooey, warm, heavenly. The problem is that they were the size of a small egg and it was just a bit much. Make them bite-sized and we'll call it perfection. My rating: 7/10.

3. Porkchop on a Stick

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Oh, the travesty!! This is one of everyone's favorites at the Iowa State Fair, for good reason: they're thick, juicy, delicious and surrounded by a perfect ring of fat (and I don't really even like meat that much). They are to die for. Imagine our surprise, then, when we bought one at the Texas State Fair that was approximately the size of an amoeba. OK, maybe a little bigger, but I thought everything was supposed to be bigger in Texas. This was pathetic. Despite the disappointing porkchop, my friend Mason still managed to eat two of them. Mason's rating: 6/10 (I didn't try this one).

4. Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich

friedpbj.jpgElvis would be proud. Iowa State Fair, take note!! Sure, this sandwich is probably equal to your fat and calorie for an entire month, but it's really damn good. Also, lest you are thinking "fried" as in fried chicken, I should tell you that it's more like corn dog breading "“ sweet, fluffy, delicious. The fried PBJB was AMAZING. My rating: 9/10.

5. Corn on the Cob

Why did I even bother? Iowa is known for its corn "“ the peaches and cream variety is so yummy it doesn't even need butter or salt. This corn was so lackluster that even being drenched in butter couldn't save it. My rating: 1/10.

6. Fried Latte

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texasfairoscar.jpgYep. Apparently this is good enough to win the award for best new Texas State Fair food. See, it won this prestigious award (====>)

It's basically just chewy bits of fried dough with chocolate ice cream, coffee granules and whipped cream. It was pretty good, but I'll definitely take the PBJB instead. My rating: 6/10.

7. Miller Lite

Neither fried nor on a stick. I am here to tell you that the Miller Lite in Texas is just as good as it is in Iowa. My rating: 9/10.

8. Fletcher's Corn Dog

I am told that the State Fair of Texas is the birthplace of the corn dog, so of course I had to see what all the fuss was about. I thought, you know, a corn dog is a corn dog. I was wrong. I suspect it comes down to personal taste, but I really prefer my corn dog batter to be a bit sweeter. Eh. My rating: 5/10.

Overall, I'm glad we had the change to go, but give me my Iowa State Fair any day. Even the butter sculpture at the Texas State Fair fell short. Seriously, this:

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Compared to this?

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I think the butter speaks for itself.

Now it's your turn. What's the best part of your state's state fair? How about the most wonderful/artery-clogging indigenous fried food?

Previous Armchair Field Trips:

The Corn Palace
Portugal
The International Spy Museum
Utah
The Grassy Knoll
Intercourse, Pennsylvania
Ogunquit, Maine
Aquinnah, Massachusetts

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©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0
The People of Texel Island are Professional Beachcombers
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©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0

If you’ve ever tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean from anywhere in Northern Europe, it’s likely it ended up on Texel Island. Located off the North Coast of the Netherlands, Texel is at the intersection of several major currents, and close to several shipping routes. For the last 400 years, Texel residents have survived, in part, by scavenging items that have been lost at sea.

According to documentarian Sam Walkerdine in a piece for The Mirror, the practice has faded as other economic opportunities have opened up, but many residents still scour the beaches for lost items. One professional beachcomber, Cor Ellen, claims to have found over 500 bottles with letters inside—and has even answered some of them.

Ellen is one of the subjects of Flotsam and Jetsam (2012), Walkerdine’s 13-minute documentary on the Texel Island beachcombers (you can watch it above). In the film, a handful of Texel Islanders show off their best finds, and share their stories and strange observations. Ellen, for example, brags about scavenging crates of food, fur coats, powdered milk (“I didn’t have to go to the milkman for one year”), and even umbrella handles from passing cargo ships. Another beachcomber reminisces about finding something more personal: the collected photos and memorabilia of an English couple who had broken up and tossed their memories into the sea.

One of the weirder observations comes from Piet Van Leerson, whose family has been beachcombing for at least five generations: he claims that only left shoes wash up on Texel’s shores. The right shoes, meanwhile, end up in England and Scotland. (The shapes cause them to go in different directions.)

Beachcombing is such a big part of life on Texel, they’ve even opened several museums to show off their weirdest, funniest, and most interesting finds.

If you do decide to try and get a bottle with a letter in it to Texel, the residents have a few suggestions for you: drop the bottle somewhere off the coast of England, weigh it down with pebbles so it doesn’t get caught by the wind, and of course, remember to include a return address.

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YouTube / British Movietone / AP
A Film Tour of London in 1981
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YouTube / British Movietone / AP

Earlier this month, the Associated Press began releasing loads of archival video on YouTube. A large part of that collection comes from British Movietone, which has uploaded thousands of videos of all kinds, including many newsreels.

I have scrolled through countless pages of such videos—most without sound and/or extremely esoteric—and I finally discovered a 1981 gem, This is London. It's a sort of video time capsule for London as it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, comprising plenty of stock footage of all the sights, royals, and ceremonies you can imagine.

If you've been to London, this is a great glimpse of what it once looked like. If you've never been, why not check out London circa 1981?

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