1. Funnel Cake: Food writer Ken Hoffman calls this "the greasiest, slimiest, hardest-to-eat, choke-your-arteries, wipe-your-chin treat on the carnival midway." I consider that high praise.
2. Cheesecake on a Stick: Available at the 4H stand at the district fair, it's "My Daddy's Cheesecake" frozen, dipped in chocolate and impaled on a stick. It puts ordinary Eskimo Pies to shame.
3. Fried Oreos: Even Nabisco, which now makes more than a dozen varieties of the iconic cookie, can't compete with the batter-fried version.
4. Fried Snickers: What batter-frying does for Oreos it can also do for candy bars. Some fairs offer fried Three Musketeers and Milky Ways, but they are just pretenders, if you ask me.
5. Fried Twinkies: Batter-frying a Twinkie actually transforms it into something akin to a souffle, making it the haute cuisine of snack foods.
6. Fried Butter: Frozen balls of butter dipped in batter and fried until golden and the interior melts. Once again butter triumphs over margarine.
7. Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger: Ronald McDonald eat your heart out, which is what anybody who consumes these burgers sandwiched between doughnut halves is doing. Happily these are easy to construct when fair season is over if you happen to know of a Krispy Kreme store next door to a burger joint. As it so happens, there is one in St. Louis. Drop me a line if you'd like the address.
8. S'mores on a Stick: Spread marshmallow creme on a graham cracker, put it on a stick and freeze. Just before serving dip in melted chocolate for a genuine s'mores taste. Who wants a campfire when it's 90 degrees outside?
9. King Taters: A specialty of King's Food Service, which has been dispensing its wares at the SEMO District Fair for nearly a quarter of a century, these are thinly sliced potatoes that can be either eaten warm or cooled to crisp up like a potato chip.
10. Bucket of Chocolate Chip Cookies: This is a new item to be offered by King's Food Service at the district fair this year. It tops my bucket list.
If you're looking for a sophisticated take on the classic version once fair season is over, give this recipe, adapted from one by Las Vegas chef Michael Mina, a try.
2/3 pound cooked lobster meat
1/3 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp
1/3 cup cream
1 tablespoon lightly sauteed fennel
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 1/4 cup yellow corn meal
3 cups flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups milk
Puree lobster in a food processor until smooth and remove to a mixing bowl. Place shrimp in processor and puree, adding cream slowly until smooth. Combine shrimp puree with lobster puree, fennel, tarragon, salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to a piping bag with a nickel-sized tip. Pipe sausage-like portions of the mixture onto plastic wrap, rolling up each tightly. Twist the ends and tie to secure. Simmer sausages (in the plastic wrap) for seven minutes, then plunge into ice water for five minutes. Combine corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper, add milk and eggs and stir to make a smooth batter. Unwrap sausages, insert stick into each, and dip into batter, coating evenly. Deep fry at 350 degrees until golden.
Tom Harte's book, "Stirring Words," is available at local bookstores. "A Harte Appetite" airs Fridays 8:49 a.m. on KRCU, 90.9 FM. Contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Southeast Missourian, P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63702-0699.