Given my history (remember Groundhog Day?), I suspect many readers were looking forward to a column on bunny fricassee, rainbow egg salad, or Peeps cheesecake. My brother even tried to contribute by referring me to an alleged study in which one group of rabbits were exclusively fed peanuts soaked in Coke, then were compared to a group that only ate peanuts soaked in Pepsi. But it was another group of readers who predicted this week’s subject correctly: those who saw me walking around the Cotton District on Saturday juggling plates.
The first food I tried that morning was also the most appreciated - the quarter of a bagel that was provided after the Cotton Mill 5k Run/Walk. No, I did not sneak a bagel off the table just for the sake of this column – I actually participated in the race. Surely those five kilometers would help me begin the day with a negative calorie balance. The scales were bound to tip by day’s end.
I thought I had already felt enough burn that day via the race, but there was more to come. Breakfast was a simple funnel cake. Nothing fancy – just sweet, crunchy and hot. Warning: funnel cake right out of the happy vat will burn your mouth. To keep a healthy balance I moved directly over to the MSU Dining tent. Sure, my original intention upon noting the MSU sign was to score some of the chocolate chip cookies (the especially white ones) and fruit bars from the Fountain Bakery – those have been my favorites since childhood. Alas, there were none. After a mild scolding, I played nice and settled on a little cup of gazpacho (a cold vegetable soup of sorts) and a vegetarian spring roll with sweet chili sauce. Wowee. The spicy gazpacho and sweet chili sauce kept the fire burning. But in the end, I figured the raw veggie dishes counteracted the fried funnel cake about equally, and I was back to a zero balance.
In the meantime, my son purchased a couple of yummy cheeseburger sliders from the Central Station Grill tent and he was gracious enough to share a bite. It took a bit more finagling to get a bite of my wife’s gyro from Zorba’s – I’ve tried to teach her to share, but this one was so good she didn’t want to give it up. And I couldn’t go by Morris’ Bar-BQ table without trying at least something. I am who I am.
I happened to see the Taste of Starkville judging team stop at Zorba’s, and noticed they were being served a little piece of meat surrounded by a crispy batter. Upon further query, I learned it was a beer-battered bratwurst corn dog on a stick. (Are sticks a given for corn dogs? Further research may need to be funded.) As I write this, I don’t know the results of the judging. But for my money, this was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten on a stick – a big, juicy brat surrounded by a thin, crunchy, and slightly sweet batter. Fabulous.
Later in the day, after walking through the district what seemed like a dozen times and working off the “early shift” of meals, I found enough space to try skewers of Beef and Chicken Yakitori from the Two-Stick tent. My son, who had finished his shifts as one of the official Boy Scout trash-haulers and ice-deliverers for the festival, helped me out here. I asked the vendor what Yakitori meant in Japanese (he was not from the islands himself) and apparently it means “chicken on a stick”. It was tasty, but looked a far cry different than the chicken on a stick from the big yellow fried food van.
We were thankful for the great weather (no tornado in sight), but sunny weather meant we were pretty hot and tired by mid-afternoon. On the way to hear Nash Street the Italian Ice cart helped to cool us down with a delicious mango ice. After taking in a piece of humble pie at the 5k to begin the day, I wanted to end with something sweeter and headed for Bop’s, where I always read the menu carefully, then (against my own principles of variety) order Bop’s Favorite. It’s mine, too.
The day’s one disappointment was the scarcity of deep fried sweet stuff, like Snickers and Oreos. I went to the two biggest funnel cake purveyors and asked them what else they might be hiding back there that I could try. One just said they had not brought any candy bars this year. The other was a little more helpful – she said, “You find a Snicker, and I’ll fry it for you.” Next time I’ll come prepared.
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .