I recently just returned home from being abroad for seven months. There are definitely some “traditional” American foods that I’ve seen advertised in restaurants from New Zealand, Vietnam, Bali and more. As much as I had the occasional craving for a traditional “American” meal, it doesn’t get any more American than eating the food in the country.
Upon my return to the States, I did the most aggressive return to American cuisine that was available to me at the time: Consuming as much of it as I could at an American fair. More specifically, The Big E. It’s known as “New England’s Great State Fair.” The opening day happened to be on one of the supposedly spookiest days of the year besides Halloween, Friday the 13th. The only scary thing was the amount of food that I consumed.
Here are the foods that I ate, some reminiscing on my American childhood and my ranking of the foods that the vendors at The Big E had to offer:
To balance out the sweetness of what I had, and in true fair fashion, I had to start off with one of the most classic carb offerings of them all. Nowhere will you get something more wholesome and filling than a baked potato. The potatoes must be taken from a really special place, because the tender inside was just right. Potatoes themselves, or at least the ones I’ve had, don’t really have that much flavor on their own unless they’re tossed with a whole bunch of seasonings. But this potato, on its own with none of the toppings, was moist and did not have the slightly earthy taste that I was expecting. It was almost as if Mother Nature decided to simply take out the effort of making mashing potatoes and encased it all ready to go within this package. I opted for the vegetarian with melted cheese. Life is about balance and veggies on top of a big steaming potato (with some dairy for bone health) sounds like a good idea to me. The veggies themselves seemed as if they were steamed. I would have rather had them fried up because I wasn’t such a big fan of the extra mush factor. However, texture aside, the simple flavors of this baked potato was worth it.
Rating: 4 / 5
Honorary Mention: Butter cow
Listen, there’s a reason why butter tastes really good. The huge butter cow that was being carved in the 4H section of the grounds probably would have tasted amazing.
Rating: Off the charts
I was more excited to take a photo in front of their sign because it’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Dairy Bar at the University of Connecticut. Nostalgia aside, I was also excited about the $1.50 drink offering. No, it wasn’t buy one get one free tequila shots. Rather, it was $1.50 for your choice of a chocolate, vanilla or strawberry shake. I had a theme to stick to, so chocolate it was. I love a good milkshake but if you’re looking for a thick shake mixed in with scoops of ice cream, this isn’t it. The shake was equivalent to chocolate milk, but you could taste the high quality of the milk in the “shake,” which made up for my initial disappointment in how not a shake it was. Flavor-wise, the chocolate drink was not too overpowering and was perfect to wash down the potato I inhaled earlier.
Rating 3.5 / 5
Angela, honey, I don’t know who you are and frankly I don’t know if I care too much. But, you made basically one of my favorite foods giant sized and for that I thank you. Besides pizza, this stand also sells “giant cheese sticks” which basically means huge mozzarella sticks. I had this at the fair last year and I’ve been dreaming about it all year, among other things that I wanted to experience my senior year. This fried stick of cheese has the perfect balance of cheese and crispy, bready coating on the outside. A friend of mine from college enthusiastically, without fail, does what she likes to call “the cheese stretch test.” It’s simple folks: Bite, keep that piece in your mouth and pull to see how long that piece of gooey cheese will stretch out to. Try doing this with Angela’s giant cheese stick and not only will you be guaranteed to have the longest cheese stretch known to man, you will also make eye contact with the cashier who’s silently judging you. Angela, I’ll forgive you if you give me the recipe for the giant cheese stick. My email is at the bottom.
Rating: 5 /5
If you haven’t been to The Big E, you should know that our very own state of Connecticut has a building dedicated to all things Connecticut. What’s more Connecticut than apple cider donuts? Sweet Madeline’s was a truck that used to take all my money in exchange for their apple cider donuts two years ago. Last year, I didn’t see any sign of them but I guess there’s no better way to show that long distance relationships are sustainable than by ending my food tour with a Sweet Madeline’s donut at The Big E a year later. The donut itself is perfectly crumbly with sugar and cider crumbles on the outside and a soft, moist texture on the inside. The donut itself was not too cakey, which I appreciate in any donut. It had just the right amount of air without making me feel as if I was only eating a ghost of what I used to have walking past the Student Union on fall days. This donut is definitely one to reminisce on during and after the eating process. There’s even string lights hung on the rafters. How romantic.
Rating 4.5 / 5
All photos provided by author.
Kimberly Nguyen is the digital editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.