Canadian Midway Food
The deep-fried food offerings at the midways in Canadian (and American) fairs and rodeos are a time-honoured food tradition. Many people (i.e. me) go to these events just to have their fill of deep-fried food decadence. So with thoughts of our Cheapeats readers in mind (and antacid at the ready), I explored the midway fried food at the Red Deer Westerner Days in my home area of central Alberta.
Red Deer is a medium-sized city of about 100,000 people, and every year it holds a celebration to its honour its farming heritage called Westerner Days. A big part of the event is the midway with its rides and its variety of fried food.
My childhood favourite midway food is the corn dog, so I made straight for the first food stand that I could see and ordered this processed and deep-fried food delight. A corn dog is a hot dog on a stick, dipped in cornmeal batter and deep-fried. I love them. Or I used to. My tastebuds must have changed, because I felt the cornmeal batter was sweeter than it used to be, and I prefer a more savoury taste. I remain undaunted and will continue to research other corn dogs while I am here!
As I strolled down the food stand lanes, I was heartened to see that local food trucks were there to supplement the midway concessions. That meant that the range of food on offer was considerably widened to include gourmet fries with a variety of toppings, Ukrainian perogies, Italian food, toasted cheese sandwiches, fish and chips and Mexican food to name but a few.
I spied the midway Funnel Cake stand (batter is drizzled out of a funnel and deep-fried, then topped with sugar, whipped cream, fresh strawberries, etc). Tempting as this was, I headed straight for the Deep Fried Colossal Onion stand. I had seen this on television, and had wanted to try it for myself.
Whole sweet Vidalia white onions are segmented with a special cutter (see photos on this post), dipped into the batter which is massaged onto each segment, then deep-fried. The onion was served with a spicy aioli dipping sauce. The cooked onion blossoms out like a flower, with each segment covered with the crisp batter. I loved it! Such a shame that I was on my own and couldn’t do it justice.
After wandering over to watch the pony chuckwagon races, I decided that a soft Dole pineapple ice cream cone would hit the spot. No small cone options here – big and bigger were the two sizes. The ice cream was refreshing but I would have enjoyed more of the pineapple flavour.
On my way out of the fair, walking through the rides, I spied a food stand that stopped me in my tracks: deep-fried chocolate bars (Kit Kat, Mars bars), Kit Kat fries, deep-fried cheesecake and deep-fried cookie dough on a stick. OMG! I regretted that ice cream cone – this would have been my deep-fried food nirvana. Oh well, something to look forward to trying on another visit. And I will keep on my search for my ideal corn dog!
You can enjoy a fried-food feast at any of the many fairs held throughout the Canadian summer. Here are a few to watch for in Western Canada: Red Deer Westerner Days; Calgary Stampede (one of the biggest in Canada); Edmonton K-Days; Vancouver PNE (Pacific National Exhibition). Keep in mind the bigger the fair, the bigger the selection of food. Bring your appetite!