By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The 2021 Mid-South Fair at the Landers Center in Southaven, Miss., is wrapping up this weekend.
The longtime event has three important meanings to me. The first symbolic meaning of the Fair is fall is officially here. The second thing that comes to my mind when I see the Mid-South Fair is in town, the school year is about to launch into full speed. Summer is in the rearview mirror and it’s time to focus on getting your education.
The third representation of the Mid-South Fair is holding onto a piece of your childhood. From rides to games, going to a fair will quickly bring back those precious moments of youth. The lights and sounds are so inviting and will instantly cheer you up. The icing on the cake will be grabbing something to eat while you enjoy the festivities.
Anybody who knows Thomas Wayne Sellers Jr., knows I love to eat and rank food. This week The Best Sellers’ List will tackle the Best Fair Foods. Each town has its own special flair. No fair food is the same at every location. But there are some staples you can count on whenever you attend a carnival, festival or fair. Let me share my expertise with the masses on the best grub to eat at your local fairgrounds.
10. Chicken tenders
This tender, flaky treat comes in different forms by multiple names. You might order some chicken fingers, chicken goujons, chicken strips, chicken fillets or chicken fritters. No matter the name, when white breast meat is chopped into thinner pieces and battered with seasoning, you will have a delicious meal. You’ll be enjoying a snack while you walk. The only obstacle is picking a dipping sauce and trying to get the correct amount per bite. Hopefully your local fair will have a special sauce on the menu to make the experience of chicken tenders unique.
This entry needs a little clarification. I am not citing the nachos you get at your local Mexican restaurant or fully loaded. These nachos I only enjoy at a sporting event or fair are tortilla chips covered in processed cheese. There is no need for fresh melted cheese, toppings, beans, or even meat.
The closer to orange the cheese looks, the better. And the salt on the chips should be visible for maximum eating pleasure.
The ultimate food-on-the-go is pizza. Pizza takes different shapes and seems to have endless toppings. What is the basic breakdown of pizza. It is for the regions of Italy and normally has a round shape. The dough is flattened with a tomato-based sauce applied directly on the dough. Then the other ingredients flow on top of the cheese.
In Memphis you want a barbecue pizza. The sauce will incorporate sweet, tangy barbecue sauce. The meat will be pulled-pork or barbecue chicken. The mozzarella cheese should coat the meat and compliment the sauce. Then you’ll have a slice of Heaven.
7. Cotton Candy
Cotton candy is simply woven sugar. When you read that line you realize why cotton candy is so awesome. Plus it is a fun food to eat.
The sweet treat starts out as a powder poured into a hopper that magically gets spun into thin ribbons of candy. As the bowl gets full, the cotton candy master grabs it up and places it in a bag or on a paper cone.
The next fun part is adding flavors and colors. You can make the cotton candy specific to your fair’s theme or celebrate the region it is being eaten. Finally cotton candy only looks normal being eaten at a fair or some festival.
6. Turkey Leg
The oversized treat is a fantastic source of protein. And with seasoning and different cooking methods, you can have a variety of turkey legs to eat. I’ve enjoyed turkey legs in cajun, tandy barbecue and lemon pepper forms.
I recently discovered turkey legs wrapped in bacon. Of course bacon made it better. A lethal combination of smoked meats wrapped in the pork stripes of pure nirvana.
5. Funnel Cakes
The official fragrance of the fair (anywhere in U.S. America) is the funnel cake. The funnel cake seems so American but of course like most of our traditions treats its origins are foreign. Originally associated with Pennsylvania Dutch Country, the funnel cake made its debut in the States in the 17th Century with German immigrants.
The savory smell of fried pancake mix that was poured into hot oil creating funnels is intoxicating. Then add that powdered sugar and you have one of the best fair foods of all time. These days people are adding different toppings making it a full dessert.
4. Frito Pie
My research has informed me that Frito Pie goes by different names. I guess if you need to use an off-brand, you shouldn’t call it Frito Pie. This cousin to the nacho is also known as firefly pie, nachos in a bag or the walking tacos.
Once you hear those names, you can picture the treat. Take a bag of Frito corn chips and top them with chili, onions and cheese. Of course you can add hot peppers and even tomatoes. Take a fork and eat the food right out of the bag. So those typically messy nachos you eat on a plate are now in a bag to enjoy while you go from ride to ride at the fair.
3. Cheese sticks
In my family, we call them mozzarella sticks. But for some reason when you head to a fair they’re known as cheese sticks. That cheese and cover it with corn batter, and fried to golden brown perfection. The best batter has seasoning in it to increase the flavor of the cheese sticks. While ketchup is an acceptable dipping sauce, ideally you want marinara.
Snap at least one cheese stick in half to do the stretchy pull you see on the commercials. Then you get to dip two ends of cheesy deliciousness into the sauce.
2. Corn dogs
I sincerely hope if you have ever visited the Mid-South Fair, you grabbed a corn dog. It is the essential food of our local fair. It’s smell rivals the funnel cake. It’s flavor is savory and the quickest way to relive your childhood. And if you get the large one, you won’t be sharing.
The corn dog is a classic treat at the fair because it’s fried batter and comes on a stick. Once again you can walk around and enjoy the hotdog submerged in cornmeal batter.
Hopefully you’ll need a paint brush to apply your mustard. Using a brush means the corn dog is super sized. And a word of advice, apply the mustard when the corn dog is fresh out of the grease. The flavor will soak into the then layer of cornbread hiding the hotdog.
1. Deep-Fried Anything
In the south we will batter just about anything and deep fry it. To save time I will list the foods I’ve eaten during my lifetime that have been in a sea of hot grease: pork, pickles, Oreos, Snickers, bacon, corn, cheeseburger, butter, honey buns, bananas, peanut butter & jelly sandwich, eggs, carrots, chicken, onions, bell peppers… Hot oil and batter will give bacon a run for its money for the award of Making Everything Taste Better.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.