Patent and corndogDrawing of a proposed food-on-a-stick frying machine, and the Pronto Pup (aka corndog) that such machines made possible. (U.S. Patent Office and LinksmanJD/Flickr)County fairs used to be about farmers and their wives showing off giant pumpkins, prize pigs, and peach cobblers, as Steph Larsen writes. Nowadays, the treats most people associate with fairs come on a stick — and probably deep fried. There’s just something about these hot, crunchy, greasy concoctions that can reduce even diehard locavores to a puddle of drool.

America’s love affair with foods-on-a-stick began with the corn dog. In 1929, Stanley Jenkins of Buffalo, N.Y., filed a U.S. patent application [PDF] for a “Combined Dipping, Cooking, and Article-holding Apparatus” (pictured, right) in which he marveled at the untapped universe of items just begging to be fried and devoured without utensils:

I have discovered that articles of food such as, for instance, wieners, boiled ham, hard boiled eggs, cheese, sliced peaches, pineapples, bananas and like fruit, and cherries, dates, figs, strawberries, etc., when impaled on sticks and dipped in batter, which includes in its ingredients a self rising flour, and then deep fried in a vegetable oil at a temperature of about 390° F., the resultant food product on a stick for a handle is a clean, wholesome, and tasty refreshment.

“Clean” and “wholesome” are not adjectives that come to mind in connection with “deep-fried Coke” or deep-fried butter — or with the entries on the following pages. But “tasty?” That’s in the mouth of the beholder … of the stick!

What are your favorite fair foods?

Fried PineappleAloha there: Pineapple on a stick at the Iowa State Fair ain’t local, but it’s sort of wholesome…(vanhookc/Flickr)