What Is the History Behind the Fried Food Fest of Regional, County or State Fairs?


Quick Answer

The term "deep-fried" was first used to describe foods in the United States in the 1930s. The practice was popularized in the 19th century, mainly in the south, where African-Americans often prepared chicken by boiling it in hot oil.

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Full Answer

The practice of frying foods in oil is ancient, based on evidence from the fifth century BCE that suggests Egyptians deep-fried small cakes. A late medieval cookbook containing a recipe from Portugal demonstrates that Europeans were deep-frying fish before 1300, a practice that the Japanese adopted in the 17th century, when they invented tempura. In the 1830s, the Belgians and French deep-fried potatoes, and the English then paired deep-fried fish with "French" fries to give us "fish & chips." Deep-fried food really took off in the United States in 1930, when Harland Sanders of Kentucky started a chain of restaurants featuring deep-fried chicken. The deep-fried corndog made its first appearance in the 1940s.

One of the advantages of deep-fried foods is that, like most fast foods, they are portable. This make them a popular choice at outdoor festivals, including state fairs. By the1990s, innovators at state fairs across the country were experimenting with deep-frying nearly anything edible, including Twinkies, Snickers Bars, pickles and even globs of butter. In 2006 at the Texas State Fair, one vendor deep-fried Coca-Cola. More recent entries on the list of deep-fried foods available include Kool-Aid and bubble gum.

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