Joey Harris and his wife, Katrina, made a beeline for the deep-fried Ho Hos when the N.C. State Fair opened its gates Thursday afternoon.
"Wow. It's good," declared Joey, 31, after taking a bite of the treat, breaded, fried and dusted with powdered sugar. "It melts the chocolate inside and the cake."
Katrina, 29, was less enthusiastic. She prefers a deep-fried Twinkie.
So what was next for this Fayetteville couple? "He wants a turkey leg," she said.
Turkey legs, grilled ears of buttery corn and cotton candy were once enough to satisfy a fairgoer's palate.
But now state fairs across the country are embroiled in a battle of deep-fried one upsmanship. Deep-fried candy bars begot deep-fried Twinkies, then deep-fried Coca-Cola and, now, this year's jaw-dropping creation that debuted at the Texas State Fair: deep-fried butter.
Besides deep-fried Ho Hos, the attention-grabbing new item at this year's N.C. State Fair is chocolate-covered bacon.
"You look around and ask, 'What else can we fry?' We're doing a Twinkie, why can't we do a Ho Ho?" said Paul Amburn, manager of the Murphy House, the concession stand that always seems to come out with something new. It's where the Harrises went to taste-test deep-fried Ho Hos.
The fair food connoisseurs did not let Thursday's cool, dank weather deter them. There were deep-fried delights to consume, everything from macaroni and cheese and pecan pies to cheeseburgers and Snickers bars.
Lori Lancaster, 37, and Jennifer Arthurs, 17, both of Dunn, savored the deep-fried macaroni and cheese -- deep-fried breaded triangles of the Kraft variety. With their manicured fingernails sporting rebel flag detailing, they daintily dipped their treats in ranch dressing. "It is sooooo good. I had to get them three times last year," Lancaster said.
This was Arthurs' first taste, but it was no surprise she found the deep-fried macaroni was to her liking, too. "I live on Kraft," she said.
Even experienced fair food eaters like Luann Wilson of Winston-Salem occasionally have their heads turned. She couldn't believe it when she saw the THK Food Shop Inc.'s stand selling chitlins, collard greens, even streak of lean. "I cracked up," she said.
Her sister-in-law, Charlotte Wilson, ordered a serving of streak of lean, a piece of pork fat with a little bit of meat in it. It's deep-fried until crisp.
This is the first year Tim Keith of Johnston County has had a stand at the fair, and his sister, Rose Crowder, said they have had a lot of questions.
"The biggest question is: 'What is a chitlin?'" she said. (It is fried pig intestines.)
Charlotte Wilson, who enjoyed Keith's streak of lean, said: "When they say you can get everything at the fair, this year they mean it."
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