An Englishman Provides Our Final Word on the State Fair: One Hero Passes, Another Enters
I chose the saddest day of all to go the State Fair of Texas. The death of Big Tex (flame-grilled is the way he'd have wanted to go) cast a shadow over the whole event, which had Big Tex's now non-existent face on every piece of merchandise, every map, every stall, every advert, every building. When the twittersphere erupted with news and pictures on Friday afternoon, every workplace in Texas stopped. Our office crowded round a monitor in disbelief. My stepson says lessons were stopped briefly while they were all informed of the tragic news. No doubt the government are investigating -- perhaps a rogue Oklahoma freedom fighter is to blame.
Photos by Gavin Cleaver I would not like to meet the turkeys that gave up these legs.
I wore all black to commemorate Tex on my visit. I'm just trying to fit in. Big Tex would have applauded my task that day -- to eat as much fried food as possible or die trying. We arrived mid-afternoon, and I set to working my way down the stalls, in order, from my entrance. I am a brave man, on a noble quest, and I'm just sad I will be leaving my family behind at such a young age. Can I get a life insurance policy with a diet like this? I'm not sure it'll pay out. I have recently acquired health insurance, so it was clear more limits were going to be pushed here as I am no longer afraid of death. As if the usual BBQ gig wasn't bad enough, the pursuit of deep-fried perfection (or not) promised to add an extra dimension to the artery-clogging nature of my work, the addition of delicious batter.
Everything is bigger in Texas, obviously, including the propensity to die of heart disease, and, damn it, I am free to get this heart disease even if it kills me. I'm eating for freedom. The EU banned the sale of Lucky Charms and Mountain Dew when I was a child, leaving a hole in my childhood, albeit distinctly healthier teeth. Now I live in Texas, not only is nothing off the table, I am free to eat the unhealthiest thing I can possibly imagine. If anyone's seen anything unhealthier than a deep-fried cheesecake covered in icing sugar, I am all ears, although after Saturday I will need some time to recover before I can even consider something being fried again. I'm going to steam my bacon from now on.
Let me write a note here for British people who might be confused. The State Fair of Texas is an annual event dedicated to celebrating Texas. That much may seem obvious. How Texans have chosen to celebrate Texas, though, is something more of a leap in logic. While the expected hats, boots, trucks and cowboys abound, much of the State Fair has been dedicated to the glory of deep-fried everything. You can't even begin to imagine the extent of things they've deep-fried. They've taken foods you've never heard of to start with and deep-fried them just for the sake of novelty. How placing battered food into boiling hot oil connects to the heart of Texas' self-identity isn't entirely clear to me. What is clear to me is the overwhelming emphasis on any and all food being made more unhealthy just for shits and giggles. A further note -- Big Tex is (was) a 50-foot-tall cowboy, 60 years young, who waved at all the entrants to the State Fair and died an unfortunate, seemingly electrical, death last week.
With that, on with a tale so simultaneously fantastical and mundane that it will surely become European folklore while being dismissed by Texans in the comments telling me they ate twice as much and that I am a tiny girl with pigtails.
The typical Texas pickup truck -- economy-sized version.
Up next: a Heart Attack the Size of Texas