Don't Eat This: Fried Bubblegum

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[Photographs: Grav Weldon and Kat Robinson]

Hundreds of thousands of people will be converging at the Texas State Fair this month. Many will seek out the winner of the "Most Creative" title of the Big Tex Choice Awards: Fried Bubblegum. Our warning: don't be that guy. You will regret it.

Last year's Most Creative award winner, Fried Beer, brought a new level of vile to fair flavor. The little ravioli-like pods filled with hot stale beer had a taste similar to a beer belch after a frat party: flat, bitter and gassy.

We thought we had encountered the worst flavor possible at any fair. We were wrong.

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We attempted the Fried Bubblegum shortly after arriving at the fair on opening day. This was a mistake. Eating it early in the day did nothing to change our minds about it.

I was holding out great hope that it wouldn't be as bad as it sounded. My photographer is not fond of bubblegum flavoring so we had already decided that I'd take one for the team on this.

Here's the plate of three puffy pink fried whatnots on a stick. Though extraordinarily fragrant of the bubblegum scent, the contents, for the most part, were not actual gum. The body included three large bubblegum flavored marshmallows dipped in a bubblegum flavored batter, deep-fried then drizzled with a rarely-seen-in-nature blue tinted bubblegum flavored frosting. A small handful of bubblegum bits were scattered on the plate, too.

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My face actually went ashen during that first, and only, bite.

I'm brave. I really am. I ate a whole marshmallow off the stick. And at first, it wasn't that bad. It was overwhelmingly bubblegum flavored, but the texture wasn't too bad and the sweetness didn't seem too cloying.

Since I didn't make the same ick face that I'd made after Fried Beer last year, our photographer Grav decided to give it a shot. He took a pinch of the second marshmallow, maybe a quarter of it, then immediately got a little paralytic on me, jerking back at the flavor.

He asked me for the paper towel that had been included with the dish and started scraping his tongue. His face practically twitched with distaste.

I tried to talk it out. Maybe it's not that bad. But I couldn't bear to try another piece. I tossed it.

That should have been the end of it, but it wasn't.

I was onsite to chronicle every neat and odd fair food, yet I was reminded of that flavor over and over again.

I tasted fried bubblegum when I sampled some of Ocean Spray's tasty Pomegranate Blueberry Sparkling juice. Thirty minutes later, I could still taste it after a Critter Fritter (a jalapeno stuffed with ground beef and cheese battered in cornmeal and deep-fried). Could I burn out the taste with a Deep Fried Frozen Margarita (which includes a shot of tequila)? Nope. Still there was that bubblegum taste after sampling Kraut Balls.

It still lingered when I ate a portion of a Sweet Jalapeno Shrimp Corndog. It even briefly came back when I was sampling the Ultimate Fried Burger (through the burger patty, bun, lettuce, fried onions, fried cheese, fried pickles and fried green tomatoes).

The Fried Bubblegum isn't necessarily bad for its flavor; it's bad because no matter what else you eat after, it will taste like bubblegum. When you see the booth, have a beer, a footlong corndog, or lemonade instead. The folks deserve your business but do yourself a favor; don't eat the Fried Bubblegum.

And if you decide that you must, there's a Sensodyne toothpaste station about a hundred yards away towards the Test Drive track where you can brush your teeth and obtain some mouthwash.

About the author: Kat Robinson is a writer and storyteller out of Little Rock, AR who writes the Arkansas Times' Eat Arkansas blog and who explores Arkansas and the American South looking for great stories, interesting people and the next great meal.

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