10 Carnival Foods Invented By Crazy People (Taste Tested)
Is there any greater summer activity than going to the local fair and discovering what unholy deep-fried concoctions are being sold to those with a disregard for their stomachs and their mortality? Cracked sent Evan Symon and Mark Hill to the Calgary Stampede, a massive Canadian festival and rodeo, to taste test the latest carnival culinary innovations. We don't want to spoil anything, but this article is being published posthumously in their honor.
Much like "diet lard" and "enjoyable Samuel Beckett novel," "cactus burger" are not words we ever thought we'd see strung together.
The option of eating a magical cow named Patti was too weird for us.
There was a strange silence from the back of the truck after we ordered it. Making food that shouldn't be consumed can do that to people.
"Come on, eat me! I'm just a normal, delicious burger!"
At first glance and smell, all seemed normal. Thinking it was too good to be true, we went in for a closer look.
"I lied. I'm a demon in food form!"
It was too good to be true. A more accurate name would be the Tucson McDonald's Dumpster Burger. The smell of rotting cantaloupe crept into the previously unspoiled air. We dug in before it got worse.
This experiment brought to you by Pepsi.
You do not know the meaning of the word "regret" like we do now. Ingredients are supposed to make a bunch of tastes fuse into something delicious. The soggy, chewy, rubbery cactus leaf negates that with the overwhelming, gag-inducing flavor of a month-old melon/avocado hybrid. This burger's taste stays with you, but part of you dies in return. We're surprised they bothered to take the cactus' stabbing parts out.
Grilled Cheese Donut
Ever since Subway invented the sandwich in 1965, mankind has yearned to replace bread with more exotic ingredients. KFC used chicken as bread and set America's international reputation back by decades, and many a donut has sacrificed itself and the arteries of whomever consumes it to make up the "bun" of a burger. But new this year was the glazed donut ham and grilled cheese. The flag in front of the truck proclaimed "You Gotta Try This!" When you can't win them over with accolades of quality, resort to boldfaced dares.
Damn you, peer pressure.
It looks like a hobo ejaculated into a Krispy Kreme garbage bin. Simply picking it up proved to be a challenge. It was piping hot, and our brains were screaming at us not to do it, the same way they once told our distant ancestors not to eat those funny-looking berries.
"You know what would improve this Havarti? Enough sugar to give an elephant hypertension!" said no customer ever. When your first thought after biting in is "Why?" you haven't revolutionized food, you've dared God to punish you for your blasphemy. The sickly sweet aftertaste of sugary cheese lingered for hours, and the single provided napkin was woefully incapable of getting the thick, sticky icing off our fingers.
It's like looking at the blood on your hands the first time you kill a man.
The tiny cup of tomato soup dip did little to stem the tide of sugar, instead serving only as a dark reminder that we could have eaten something healthy. But it's just like P.T. Barnum always said: "No one gets famous on the Internet for eating tomato soup."
Camel, Kangaroo, and Crocodile Sliders
If there's an animal that man hasn't killed and served with a side of fries, we haven't heard of it. But many remain obscure in North America, and after tasting a sampling of animals we'd expect to pop up in an Indiana Jones adventure, we can understand why.
From left to right: camel, crocodile, kangaroo, bread.
While we realize that eating kangaroo is common in whatever country they're from (New Zealand?), to the average American, it's like eating a Disney character. It smells like beef that's gone off, and kind of tastes like it, too -- it's gamey and leaves a harsh aftertaste, like eating a roast beef sandwich, only to realize that it came from Arby's. It's unfair to judge an entire continent's cuisine based on one slider made in a truck, but it's also hard to shake the feeling there's an anthropomorphic joey out there going through a down under Bambi.
The face of a man tasting a mistake.
The camel smelled like a mix of carbon, fresh lawn clippings, and a grease trap. We really had to psych ourselves up to eat an animal associated with sand, spitting, and the Crusades. But much like how you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (unless it's got some lame babysitters on it), we shouldn't have judged this burger by its meat. Camel tastes like a savory, tightly-packed charbroiled beef burger. We'd wish it was more readily available in North America if a camel burger joint wouldn't launch a thousand stupid Facebook posts about Islamization.
There's a face that screams "Edible!"
The crocodile smelled like burnt chicken, but there was another scent we couldn't identify. That's usually a warning sign, and can be a literal lifesaver when it comes to food. But let's face it, our lives weren't worth much at this point.
We were still suspicious, though. It had become our nature.
For an animal that only lives to devour humanity and visit the dentist, it was pretty darn good. It tasted like a chicken/fish hybrid, like eating KFC and Long John Silver's at the same time, though without the accompanying shameful heart attack. The strangest part was the consistency. It was both crumbly and bristly, like a really old toothbrush. Feel free to use that line, crocodile meat salesmen.
How about "Crocodile: It's way better than those dick-sucking, dumbshit alligators"?
Mini Donut Pop
While mini donuts are undeniably delicious, after four or five, the taste begins to wear on you, and you're left with a bag of powdered sugar and regret. So while it's noble that someone searched for a way to enhance the experience of only eating one or two, we don't think ice cream was the most logical delivery mechanism. Not that logic has any place here.
The sign claimed it was the Midway's best new food, but there was no indication of who had issued the award. It certainly wasn't anyone concerned with the structural integrity of their meals, because this thing went to pieces before we could even get the wrapper open. Hey, it's like the first time we had sex.
It's not the size of the cream, it's the ... taste of it?
It was edible, although that's not a review you display proudly. The donut part just tasted like a cold mini donut, so obviously it was still delicious, but eating the ice cream was like sticking your face in a pile of cinnamon and inhaling. It was stringy -- not a word we'd ever thought we'd use to describe ice cream. As you can see from the "I'm vaguely turned off, and also wondering whether I locked the front door this morning" expression, that's not the ideal texture.
It was a bold and worthwhile experiment, but personally, we'd suggest just buying a bag of mini donuts and dumping them all over a bowl of ice cream, the way God intended it.
Bacon-Wrapped Pork Belly
The world's love affair with bacon has long passed the point of irony to become a dangerous obsession. This was made worryingly clear to us by a stall that offered bacon-wrapped hot dogs and bacon-wrapped pork belly, and would probably wrap a bunch of bacon into a ball and shove it down your gaping maw if you belched politely enough.
Simply approaching the stall was intimidating. There were enough giant turkey legs being cooked to feed a Viking army, and enough foul smoke wafting off of them to suggest this was that army's funeral pyre. There's something grim about uttering the words "I'd like the bacon-wrapped pork belly," because the unspoken but implied continuation is "because I have given up on life, and life has given up on me. Let us hasten the inevitable."
It was served on a stick, because that's as simple as they could make it, short of throwing it on the ground and telling us to scoop it up like the filthy animals we are. Man mastered sticks before we mastered not worshiping the sun as a cruel and unfeeling God. Biting into this porcine monstrosity felt like a reversion to those long-gone days.
"MEAT EDIBLE. YOU LOOK EDIBLE, TOO."
You could eat a pencil and the taste of carbon wouldn't be as strong. Each bite tastes like you're devouring a pig farm. There's enough fat and grease to briefly sate Paula Deen.
Your childhood puppy's skin could have been used in a gimp suit, and it would have been a more dignified end to an animal. Each new bite tasted just a little worse than the last, even in the rare moments that a tiny oasis of actual meat was uncovered in the sea of grease. And dear lord, the grease. It gets all over your fingers, it coats your lips like a second skin, it seeps into your very pores, and no matter how much you wipe and scrape, it doesn't come off. It stays with you throughout the long day. It doesn't come off. It stays with you after your pitiful attempt at cleansing yourself in the shower. It doesn't come off. It stays with you at night, in your bed and in your dreams of pigs impaling men on sticks for their hubris. IT DOESN'T COM--
Goddammit, what did we just say about bacon? Here we present to you our raw notes, like anthropologists fresh from the heart of darkness, still rendered temporarily insane from the horrors gazed upon therein.
"It's shiny and dusty. How can this be? Smells like stale chocolate. Wait, can chocolate be stale? What the hell are we smelling?"
"If I still felt shame, I would ask you to hide mine."
"Chocolaty, fatty, meaty, salty. It's all of them coming together awfully. Grease and chocolate do not mix. GREASE AND CHOCOLATE DO NOT MIX. It smells like a decade old ??? ??? closet ??? Left with a hollow taste. ??? ??? NOISE! ??? Each bite is regret. ??? Death? It's crumbling away! The chocolate ??? ??? ??? God ??? No ???"
??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???
That's where the English notes end and letters(?) that no language has ever used begin to ramble on for page after greasy page. In conclusion: The combination of fat, chocolate, meat, and grease wasn't very good, and also possibly summoned an ancient demon. We're still not entirely sure what transpired. We're still not entirely sure if we ever will be.
Deep-frying vegetables is like filling your swimming pool with concrete. Nothing's stopping you, but it's a crude mockery of the original purpose.
"Why? We could have been in salads, damn you! Salads!"
Our sampler came with broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, mushrooms, and confused, sorrowful looks from passersby. This must be how fat children get tricked into eating their vegetables. "There'll be no deep-fried cheesecake until you finish your deep-fried broccoli, sweaty and panting young man!"
The zucchini smelled rancid, like a zucchini farmer accidentally used a thousand times the normal amount of fertilizer. This picture was taken shortly before it was spit out in disgust and despair.
The mushrooms were edible, but so is human flesh, and you don't see us going around and promoting it. It tasted like a button mushroom crossed with a rubber plant, and smelled like a rubber plant crossed with a tire fire.
Biting into it revealed puddles of grease hidden within the mushroom, puddles that quickly congealed. We're fine with mushrooms taking us on trips, but preferably not to the hospital for an emergency bypass. The ranch dip improved it significantly, but when ranch dressing is the healthiest option in front of you, you've made a terrible mistake.
The broccoli had the odor of bread mixed with the supermarket vegetables no one buys. All the taste had been zapped out. You could tell that any nutrition it once held had died forever in the deep-fryer, alongside its hopes and dreams. It was a breaded shell of green mush, food turned into non-food. There's something darkly impressive about that, in the same way you can admire the cruel ingenuity of a serial killer's traps.
Cauliflower is basically broccoli's cynical cousin, so we expected a similar result. We were wrong. It did taste briefly like cauliflower, as if all the flavor had rallied for their own personal Charge of the Light Brigade.
It is magnificent, but it is not food. It is madness.
But that shining moment was immediately followed by a rubbery, greasy mess. Don't ask us how it's possible, but it was like eating lard. And the moment our stomachs realized what we were putting in them, they rebelled.
On the plus side, regular vegetables taste heavenly now.
Red Velvet Chicken Strips
Red velvet cake and chicken -- two great tastes that taste "Meh, we guess?" together. Despite the odd combination, the photos looked legitimately appetizing ...
But wait, what grade is the cake batter?
... but as always, the reality was much, much sadder.
Oh, it's Orphan Grade.
It looked and smelled like chicken wrapped in the burnt edges of a cake pan. This confused our simple noses and minds, and like ancient hunters sniffing at a diseased animal carcass, we were hesitant to dive in.
We were eventually able to put aside our significant reservations and take a tentative bite. Flakes of batter fell off with every touch, they too knowing they did not belong. It was crunchy, burned, and sickly-sweet, but once our mouths adapted to the bizarre combination of flavors, it was surprisingly edible.
Adding the honey mustard only further confounded our poor, overworked taste buds. It was like a party in our mouths, only it was one of those awkward parties you go to in junior high where no one knows what to do, everyone stands around uncomfortably, and eventually you just go home feeling disappointed without really knowing why.
Either the red velvet bled into the chicken to make it look undercooked, or they found an ingenious way to sell undercooked chicken. Either way, that sight completed the baffling sensory ordeal that our mouths, eyes, and noses are still recovering from.
Cheese On A Stick
Most carnival foods are appealing because you lack the time, enthusiasm, or resources to make them at home. Cheddar cheese on a stick is appealing because if you stay at home alone and eat a hunk of cheese that's been rammed onto a stick, the next thing you'll put in your mouth is a gun.
No adorable cartoon mouse can mask how sad this is. The teenager running the stall acted friendly, but behind her eyes, we sensed well-deserved judgment. "Here is your lump of cheese on a stick, sir. Please, God, don't let me grow up to be like him."
It looks like an innocent corn dog, but it smells like the dairy section of the grocery store caught fire. It tastes like eating 20 cheese strings at once -- plastic wrappers included. The taste had seeped into the batter and possibly our skin, making every bite equal parts overwhelming and depressing.
From this angle, it kind of looks like it has an angry face.
The color was unnatural, like regular cheddar cheese had received a dose of radioactivity and got cancer instead of superpowers. It began congealing almost immediately, to the point where it looked like an alien capsule had opened to reveal a sentient goo that would search for a human body to inhabit, control, and consume.
"I WILL CRAWL OVER ALL HUMANITY AND THEIR ARTERIES."
It's the perfect food for people who only order pizza or nachos as an excuse to eat a bunch of cheese, and who also want to see civilization's decadence reach its unsettling apex.
Drinking pickle juice isn't all that weird, according to the weirdos who drink it after exercising. But when you add either Tabasco source or ghost pepper to the equation (the people selling it couldn't decide what they'd put in, which was terrifying), it ceases to be anything other than obscene.
It came in the kind of vial you'd sell futuristic drugs in, and looked like Ninja Turtle jizz. We retreated to our hidden concrete corner of shame and regret to consume it away from the sad eyes of polite society. Even the smell of the mystery spices mixing with the vinegar and juice made us queasy.
"Disclaimer: Pic-alicious is not synonymous with delicious."
With our dignity now hanging out with our childhood innocence in the Land Of Long Forgotten Things, we had nothing left to lose.
Notice the moment of delay between consumption and reaction. Our bodies froze in anticipation of the terrible fate that was about to befall us, as if futilely attempting to brace against the inevitable. Drinking it delivered a shock to the system, like eating an entire shaker of black pepper in half a second and then getting punched in the esophagus.
"I can see the meaning of life."
We almost threw up. We almost keeled over. We couldn't taste anything else for hours. We could feel no joy. We had gazed too long into the abyss of fair food, and it had spit spicy pickle juice back in our faces.
"But no, it's fading!"
Spicy pickle juice changed our life, for we no longer fear death. If there is a Hell, and if we are destined to go there, it can hold no horror that we have not already witnessed. Anyway, we hope you too can get out to a summer festival near you and try some new foods!
Evan V. Symon is the Interview Finder Guy at Cracked. If you have an awesome job or experience you would like to share, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read more from Mark at his website.