Fair food can be made at home


My friend Gary Butler. who has joined The Prairie Press as a regular columnist, wrote in today’s edition of his memories of attending the Edgar County Fair as a child.

Gary and I are about the same age so we grew up enjoying the fair of the 1960s with the Drew Amusements, the old wooden grandstand, the Paris City Band playing before the horse shows and the Joey Chitwood Auto Thrill Show.

My grandmother, Kathryn Roberts, loved attending fairs and the harness races. She purchased a box seat for the week for our family and we all enjoyed attending the fair and all its entertainment.

We didn’t purchase a great deal of fair food as I recall, although I do remember the Pronto Pups — now called Corn Dogs — from a couple who operated a food stand selling cold soda and pronto pups. 

I was mesmerized watching them carefully slide the sticks into the hot dogs then dip them in the batter. Then the Pronto Pups were dropped into the hot grease and cooked the brown perfection.

When we went to the food stand, my Dad would always ask the owner —whose name I cannot recall although I can see his face in my mind — what the score of the Cardinal game was that night. He always knew.

I’ve never tasted a Pronto Pup or corn dog that tastes the same as those from that food stand. I know some people buy them already made from the freezer section in the grocery store or the big box store, but they aren’t just the same.

I’m sharing a recipe Don and I used to make corn dogs for his son’s Timmy’s children and our neighbor kids who knocked on our door in Columbia, Mo. It’s the closest thing to my memory of the pronto pups I so enjoyed.

The recipe is a buttermilk batter. We always dropped the corn dogs into peanut oil but I’m told the new air fryers also do a great job.

We served the homemade corn dogs with a slather of mustard or ketchup — whatever our guests’ choice. 

I’m sure many of you remember the lines at the Vermilion United Methodist Church booth to purchase one of their refreshing lemon shake-ups. The church members even constructed a  permanent stand. The location never changed and Edgar County residents made a beeline for the booth as soon as they arrived on the fairgrounds.

I remember watching the women cut the boxes of lemons for the day and fill the tall glasses with ice and sugar  then lemon juice and water . The serving cup was placed on top of the glass and the shaking began. 

The result was pure heaven.

The recipe I’m sharing today calls for preparing a lemon simple syrup to use to make your homemade shake-up. I love this recipe. It’s convenient to keep the lemon simple syrup in the fridge and make a shake-up whenever you want.

Not far from the Vermilion booth was a trailer serving hot french fries served in a cone. We always sprinkled them with vinegar while they were hot. Boy were they good.

Try my recipe for vinegar french fries. Don and I usually cut our own fries but this recipe calls for frozen french fries from the grocery store. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

The Edgar County Shrine Club and their clowns for several years served Edgar County corn on the cob with butter. It was great but I love the recipe I’m sharing today. It’s a spicy corn on the cob that’s not tough to make but so satisfying. I enjoyed it for the first time  one afternoon at the Chatham County Fair in Savannah, Ga. We found the recipe shortly after and regularly prepared it on the grill.

My last recipe is really something relatively new that I experienced for the first time at a school carnival — not the fair.

I had never heard of taco in as bag until I purchased one at a school event in Pooler, Ga. It wasn’t messy and I could walk back to the grandstand and watch the football game without making a mess everywhere.

If you haven’t enjoyed dinner at the fair this week, take advantage of the last day today and enjoy lunch or dinner on the midway. After all, unless you try my recipes, it will be while before those delicacies will return.