I've had a lot of pork chops in my time. I don't want to brag but I've eaten pork chops in some of the best restaurants in world, though I can now say that the best pork chop I've ever had, hands-down, bar none, was at the 2011 Iowa State Fair... and it was on a stick.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.
Last weekend I took Harry, my six-year-old liberal East Coast elitist son, back to my ancestral home of Des Moines, Iowa so that he could experience the fair.
I really wanted Harry to see the big pig. Fun fact: this year the winner of the Biggest Boar crown was "Tiny," a Hampshire boar who weighed in at 1,196 pounds! Basically the best part about seeing the big pig is that you walk up to the pen through one of those bank maze things, look at the big pig and say, "Wow, that's a big pig." And then you're done.
I also wanted him to see the world famous butter cow. Another fun fact: 2011 marked the 100th anniversary of the butter cow. The most well-known sculptor of the butter cow was Norma "Duffy" Lyon who recently passed away. Unfortunately, the lines were too long for us to pay our respects this year.
Another cool thing about the fair is all the baby farm animals. Harry got to pet a baby lamb and was obsessed with the baby ducklings, but the absolute best were the piglets. Harry and I walked up a special ramp to the piglet area and saw a litter of five-day-old piglets in one pen, followed by a litter of five-week-olds in the next pen (they grow up so fast). Then, at the end of the ramp, there she was: the Iowa State Fair Pork Queen holding a two-day-old piglet. Harry almost plotzed he was so excited.
After all that we figured it was time to eat.
Now, there was a lot of press this year around the advent of fried butter on a stick, and while that may sound appetizing there are a ton of other stick foods available at the fair that you should try before fried butter. Like bacon on a stick...the great taste of bacon with the ease of use and handling of a stick! Or how about peanut butter and jelly on a stick? Or you could go for my mom's personal favorite, which is chicken cubes, pickle wedges, and onion chunks on a stick that is then deep-fried and sprayed with vinegar (the spraying is crucial... we don't drizzle at the fair). Or you could go old school and just get a corn dog.
The simple fact right now is that there is an arms race in the stick food world. The fair's web site says that there are 53 different stick food options at the fair. 53! They range from the simple (pickle on a stick) to the truly wrong (deep fried candy bar on stick) to the unnecessary (the Octodog, which is a hotdog in the shape of an octopus... on a stick).
But this discussion of the minor players in the stick food world really diminishes the importance of the pork chop on stick.
I guess in hindsight it should be more disturbing, but right after we left the company of the Pork Queen and the two-day-old piglet I moseyed over to the Iowa Pork Producers Association which was conveniently located in the Iowa Pork Tent, to get one of the aforementioned pork chops on a stick. All Harry wanted was another root beer, so I was on my own.
There was a long line (naturally) so I had time to get nervous about how to actually go about ordering one of these things. Do you just go up and say "one please," or do you have to be more specific and ask for medium, medium-rare, etc? In the end I just walked up and said "one," and plunked down my $6.50. The lady behind the counter handed me a pork chop the size of an iPad on a wooden stick wrapped in a paper napkin. After posing for a photo with my prized possession I sat down on the curb and tore into it.
I have to say it was pretty great just sitting on that curb with Harry rolling around in the grass behind me in some kind of post-sugar-rush seizure, and just going to town on that pork chop. At one point I noticed that there was a slick glob of grease or fat or sauce or something on the side of the meat that normally would grossed me out but I was in the zone and couldn't be bothered by trivial things.
It must have been a pretty disturbing scene, but thankfully it only lasted about two minutes. I washed it down with a Diet Coke (my body is a temple) and then Harry and I made our way to the other side of the fairgrounds so we could grab a funnel cake before we headed out for the day.
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