I don't know precisely when state fair food became a game of shock-and-awe one-upsmanship. I'm going to speculate that it started with a corn dog. Followed by a bigger corn dog. And then some savvy entrepreneur started contemplating what else could be done with all those wooden sticks.
Or maybe there was a serendipitous deep-fryer accident.
"Whoa, look what happened to that Twinkie!"
But there you have it, the state fair modus operandi: What can feasibly be balanced on a wooden stick, or slid into the deep fryer for a crunchy-exteriored-molten-interiored mind-blow, or piled unflinchingly onto funnel cakes?
The Florida State Fair, annually one of the country's first state fairs of the calendar year, runs through Feb. 20, with an outlandish number of shock-and-awe comestibles. Evidently we have introduced to the world such showstoppers as the Red Velvet Funnel Cake and the Pizza Funnel Cake (which went for its 15 minutes of fame on Food Network's Carnival Eats show in 2016).
The thrill rides have nothing on these gut busters: This year, let's start with the White Cheddar and Bacon Pretzel Dog.
Or there's the Florida Firecracker, a burger stuffed with jalapeno poppers and bacon, slow roasted and served on an 8-inch hoagie roll with cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles.
But those are just the warning shots. The crowd favorite for 2017 has been crowned: This year brings the Cheesy Fried Enchilada Funnel Cake from the always-outrageous McGrath family at Best Around concessions. Envision corn meal funnel cake batter mixed with enchilada spice topped with queso and ground chorizo. Erp.
I also heard something about a steak sundae, which I can't unhear. On the sweet side the debutantes are Kettle Corn Ice Cream and the Nutella Oreo Funnel Cake. How could either of those be bad? This year's fair also boasts the debut of the Alaskan Soda Jerk, a one-of-a-kind soft drink concession stand serving old-timey root beer floats and nostalgic boardwalk delights like cherry lime aides, as well as shakes and malts.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.