I get a lot of flack for what I eat. More accurately, I get a lot of flack for what a lot of people assume I eat. “Why are you not 500 pounds?” they cry. Other times, it’s “Your poor arteries!” Why? Because I dig the fried stuff.
I didn’t fully appreciate the crucial role the fryer plays in the life of my family (and others in our community) until recently. It was The Wife’s birthday and we decided to go out for lunch. Son had an open schedule due to the life of luxury bestowed on college students, and tagged along. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were notified that the gas line was temporarily out of order. Translated: we could order nothing that was fried. Grilled? Okay. Pan-Seared? No problem. Blackened? Yep. But no fried chicken. No fried pork chop. No french fries. No po-boys (fried shrimp). You get the picture. I still managed to have a lovely meal, but I was slightly taken aback by how much of the menu depended on hot oil and gas.
If I were to list all the crazy fried things I have consumed over time, I’m quite sure it would be novel-esque in length. I’ve been to the Texas State Fair, and that’s pretty much a trump card when it comes to fried goodies. Going to the Texas State Fair is like going to the Boston Marathon – you need to qualify first, and I did so through a steady attendance rate at the Mississippi State Fair and scads of street festivals.
Years ago I was at a Wal-Mart – it had been a while since I’d been in one because we lived overseas – and I saw a Fried Twinkie Machine on the shelf in the checkout line. Now I can’t even find one on eBay. I guess everybody who bought one is keeping it, or they went the way of Mr. President’s “Cash for Clunkers.”
Nevertheless, the Deep Fried Twinkie may have been the first UFO (Unidenti-Fried Object) I ever tasted. It was at an upstairs shop in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and every time I return to that area I look up and remember the moment fondly. Since that time, however, I have focused on other UFO’s: Snickers, Milky Way, Reese’s Cups, Moon Pies, Goo-Goo Clusters, butter; the list goes on and on. (Remember? State Fair of Texas.)
But in Tupelo recently I returned to my roots. I was there for the Tupelo BBQ Duel. The night before, I was on a panel of judges that had the responsibility of choosing the best ancillary dishes prepared by the competitive barbecue teams. The next day I joined the throng of Tupelo citizenry around lunchtime to help determine the People’s Choice Award. Later that afternoon I spent some time with Mitch McCamey, of The Neon Pig and Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, who was doing a demonstration on the breakdown of a whole cow.
After all the pork consumption and beef education it was about time to head back home. As I began wandering towards my truck, I slowed down to check the menus of the non-barbecue food vendors set up at at the festival. Not surprisingly, I noticed one was selling deep fried Twinkies. It had been a while, and I debated whether or not I needed one. Funny, huh? Who NEEDS a deep fried Twinkie? Me, I guess. I ordered it. They dipped it in the batter. They fried it. Then sprinkled it with powdered sugar. And it was awesome. It was so awesome I ate it before I could take a picture of it. For me, that’s a big deal. So I debated again. Could I handle another one for posterity’s sake? It was only a few bucks, so yes – I could handle it, even if I only ate a little of it. Did I only eat a little of it? Heck, no. The second was as awesome as the first. And that is the Tale of Two Twinkies.