Adventures in State Fair Eating, or The Making of On a Stick!

By: Matt Armendariz

I should have listened a bit more closely to the stern warnings of almost every person I know who has written a book.

“It’s more work than you think it can be.”

“You’ll gain 10 pounds.”

“You’ll miss your regular life.”

OK, alright, I admit that these are mostly from one end of the author spectrum but they still ring true: Writing and photographing a cookbook is a challenge and takes dedication and hard work.

It’s also a hell of a lot of fun!

Now that my book, On A Stick !, has been out a little over a month, I can almost sit back and let out a sigh of relief. What started in Spring 2010 is now on bookshelves all over the country, displayed just in time for summer cooking. And yes, I’m proud that it’s done and am delighted by the fun people are finding in its pages because it’s true: Food on a stick has that built-in fun factor!

But just how much do people love food on a stick? Visit any state fair and you’ll find out. Which is exactly what we did when we began the planning and research process.

I think this photo sums up the deep-fried, county fair goodness. Sausages, cheese and traditional wieners get stuck, battered and fried. And for the sake of research, I ate just about everything I could get my hands on. Nothing was too strange, too greasy, too out there to try. Of course not everything made its way into the book, but I had the best time trying.

Yes, those are porkchops on a stick. When you’re walking around the grounds of a State Fair the stick thing really comes in handy. And they were delicious, as plain as they look.

Here’s an assortment of fair foods. Yes, I ate them all. And the hot dog wrapped in spiral cut potatoes? Genius. And sadly not something I adapted for my book as I just couldn’t figure out how to put those things together. It’s probably better left alone.

Far be it for me to tell you how much people really do love things on sticks. Just look at this vinyl mural that wrapped the entrance to the craft corner of the fair: A field of corn dogs. And corn dogs in a basket! I am totally down for this kind of harvest. I am!

After visiting as many state fairs as we could find before our deadlines we headed back to the studio to begin the process of cooking and photographing the recipes. But before you can begin production you need to procure sticks because, well, what’s a stick book without lots of sticks? I’m happy to share with you that my other half is an intrepid shopper. If it’s for sale, he’ll find it. And find it he did, just look at all the various sticks we found:

Writing a cookbook about food on a stick wasn’t just about finding a bamboo skewer and calling it a day. There are many different types of sticks and each of them have their unique cooking properties. Skinny, thick, flat, round, stainless steel, branches -- there are indeed many options!

Here’s my food stylist extraordinaire, Adam Pearson, putting some last-minute touches on donut holes on a stick.

Here I am arranging some very small beautiful little bowls for a chapter on dips, sauces and marinades. Adam advises on placement.

Here’s an outtake of a cover idea. Needless to say it wasn’t selected, but please be assured the corndogs did not go to waste.

I think I need a few corndogs now to celebrate!

What to get a taste of On A Stick !? Browse through a collection of recipes from the book, including Margarita Jell-O Shots, Chicken and Waffles, Molotes and more.

For more fun and festive recipes, pick up a copy of Matt Armendariz's book, On a Stick!.

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