Fair food becoming exotic

July 17, 2011 at 8:29 PM

SACRAMENTO, July 17 (UPI) -- Cuisine at the California State Fair is moving beyond the fryer, adding maggot sandwiches, grilled raccoon and more to fair-goers, officials say.

While corn dogs, cotton candy and turkey legs are still in abundance at fairs countrywide, exotic food fare has become extremely popular, a trend that is more than just a gimmick, The Sacramento Bee reports. Culinary specialists say the exotic food movement is due to the evolving American palate, popular TV shows that highlight unusual cuisine, and the innate desire to sample the latest thing.

"It's kind of the cool new thing," said Stephen Chambers, executive director of the Western Fairs Association. "I think it started with the explosion of deep-frying things, and then as folks ran out of things to fry they started moving toward the exotic. The new love child is deep fried, exotic food."

Some experts speculate that television shows such as "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" and "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern" give Americans the confidence to try exotic foods that the people of other countries have been eating for centuries, while other shows like "Fear Factor" and "Survivor" present a thrill aspect to eating things like fried scorpions.

"It used to be that the teenaged male sought to prove his manliness at the fair by going on thrill rides and participating in carnival games," said Chambers. "I wonder if this version of that is, 'Watch me eat fried scorpions?'"

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