Kentucky Cookout

By Hyacinth Miles

My roommate’s parents called on the way back from the Ohio State Fair the other day.

“How was it?” She asked.

“I ate a fried Twinkie.” Said her dad. “It was good. Then I ate a funnel cake and a fried Snicker’s Bar. Oh, and a chili dog. Here talk to your mother.”

“Hi honey. Guess what? I just ate a fried baloney sandwich and fried pickles.”

“Is that all?”

“No. I also had a cream pastry and a shredded chicken sandwich. But those weren’t fried.”

“Well, maybe next year....”

Now I would never make fun of State Fair food.

Like most people who would never admit it, there is nothing I enjoy than eating something revolting and delicious and then riding one of those rides that spins you upside down and makes sinister creaking noises.

Then I enjoy going back home and describing to my horrified, feta-eating, vegetarian friends exactly how eating a deep-fried, fudge-covered, Twinkie-wrapped, hot dog is part of the American Way. In fact, it’s darn patriotic. If you’re not supporting fair food, you’re not supporting your country. But I digress.

The problem with fair food, especially for the purposes of this column is it isn’t exactly regional. You can fry something anywhere in America and plenty of places outside it too.
So for a more regional taste at the fair I recommend the red and white “Great Kentucky Cookout” tent.

There, different Kentucky farmers unions sell food made from their farm’s specialty. So you can get a chicken sandwich from the Kentucky Poultry Growers, an ear of corn from the corn farmers, and finish it with a milkshake from the dairy farmers.

“It’s the best food ever,” gushed the friend who introduced me to the cookout, “because it’s so fresh.”

For more information I called Bill Robertson, the man in charge of the cookout. Less than a week before the state fair began Mr. Robertson was busy, and had better things to do than talk to a budding food writer incapable of boiling an egg. This was completely understandable, but I was persistent and eventually my phone rang.

Unfortunately it rang at 5:15 while I was driving down Man O’War late for work.

“Hi Mr. Robertson.” I said brightly. “I was hoping get some information about the Great KY cookout.”

“I’ll try to help you with that.” Robertson said, a little grudgingly. There was a pause while I tried not to rear end the person in front of me.

“What do you want to know?” he finally asked.

“Um,” I dodged another car. Think farmers, think farmers! “Where does the food come from?”

“We butcher all the animals in USDA approved slaughter houses.” He said. “We do not do backyard kills. That would not be allowed.” “Oh.” A whole new world of fair food worries opened up before me. “Actually I meant, is the meat served from KY farms?”

“Some is, some isn’t.”

My dreams of fresh, lovingly raised KY beef crumbled. “So how many booths are there?”

There are seven unions. They include the Cattlemen’s, the Pig Growers who do the BBQ, and the Country Ham farmers who serve the ham sandwiches.”

“Oh.” I said. “So what is the difference between an animal raised by the Pig Growers and one raised for country ham?”

“Nothing.” He said. “It’s the same animal.”

“Well that about covers it.” I said brightly, my face beet red. Well, what had I expected him to say, they feed the country ham pigs more salt?

“Bye lady.” Said Robertson, and hung up. For a second I imagined how he pictured me, some sort of unbelievably stupid city dweller with black clothes, good sun-glasses, and maybe a nice shade of lipstick. I tried not to get too carried away.

Next week, when I enter the Great Kentucky Cookout Tent and order my possibly-Kentucky-grown country ham sandwich I can do so confidently because the telephone is not a visual medium. I can eat my sandwich in security and Mr. Robertson will never know. n

The KY State Fair will be held August 19th-29th.

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