In Defense of the Fair’s Fried Food…And Why You other states shouldn’t be so quick cast the first stone.

Why must Texas continually fry up everything in some gross salute to obesity at the Fair? T.M.

It seems like every year around this time (when the State Fair of Texas announces the newest concoctions), transplants from Chicago ask this question. There are also the almost comically boilerplate articles in HuffPo, or in other places about the ridiculous things us Texans are doing with food. How we’re just hillbilly idiots frying up whatever we can get our hands on, thereby contributing to the obesity problem in America in our own trailer trash way.

texas-state-fair-300x257A small sample of the State Fair’s options

Well I’m here to defend my state and its deep fried inventions, and to also throw a little mud in the eyes of all you other states who think you’re better than us.

To begin, you have to understand that although we did deep fry butter, we didn’t make it our state food. The State Fair of Texas (the Fair to locals) runs for three-four weeks once every fall and then it’s over. If you really liked eating the deep fried smores at the Fair in September and you’re looking for it in late December, you’re S-out of luck.

smores_bmp_728x520_q85Thank God they’re not available 24/7 365

 You have to wait nine months to have one again because they’re only available during the Fairs’ run. The Fair grew out the agrarian society of harvest festivals and fairs. Times when communities would come together to celebrate the harvest, when communities would throw feasts full of foods that weren’t normally available or were too extravagant for normal consumption. They were festivals filled with food that, as Cookie Monster recently found out about cookies, aren’t everyday foods. Little at the State Fair of Texas, including the most famous “Fletcher’s Corny Dog”, is available for sale everyday.

DSF6506The only proper way to eat a corny dog, which was first created at the Texas State Fair.  With mustard while saluting Big Tex at the State Fair.  Not alone on your couch watching TNT everynight.

But you know what is an everyday food…the Big Mac. As I pointed out to my transplanted friend from Illinois, McDonalds and Big Macs are an Illinois product. They are perhaps more unhealthy than fried butter because, if nothing else, you can eat one every day from today until the day you keel over several months from now as a result of eating Big Macs every day.

2009-09-31-mcd-bigmac2Just looking at one ages you several years.

Furthermore Illinois, specifically Chicago; you’re responsible for the Deep Dish Pizza. Something so unhealthy that it shouldn’t even be considered a sometimes food. I could literally go out and eat half a dozen corny dogs, and then eat two more corny dogs, and then eat another half one before I stopped after realizing I ate a box of corny dogs. And I would still have eaten less fat than there is in one personal deep dish pizza from Chicago’s famous Uno’s Pizza. That’s right; a box of corny dogs has less fat than one personal pan deep dish pizza.  That I might add, is available in your grocer’s freezer every day of the year including Christmas. I’m disappointed in you Illinois.

Eat through the pain!!!!

I’m disappointed in you too Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, pretty much the entire American South, plus Missouri, West Virginia, Alaska, Oklahoma, and Michigan.   You’re all fatter than Texas. I know we as a state have our own love handles (I’m looking at you San Antonio) but as a state you are all fatter, so please fling mud in someone else direction.

imagesCA8UJL6VCome on West Virginia, get some exercise

And how about you California. You wonderful bastion of moderate consumption, vegan eating and generally healthy food trends. You know, trends like the time the culinary leaders of your state decided that the breakfast taco wasn’t healthy enough, so you replaced the tortilla with an Eggo waffle and syrup.  Illinois may well be the birth place and home of McDonalds, but Mickey D’s has never done something as stupid as the Waffle Taco from California based Taco Bell.

waffle-tacoCalifornia Cool Cuisine???

Even our culinary artist at the State Fair looked at that and said “um, yea, no.” And California, before you go Googling chain restaurants in Texas, rest assured that no matter what you come up with for us, you have Taco Bell, Jack In the Box, In and Out, and of course Red Robin. Red Robin makes the Monster Meal that includes over 3,300 calories, that’s one and half times the Personal Deep Dish Pizza. And yes California, I know Red Robin wasn’t founded in your state, but it’s been there for 2/3 of life, so I’m blaming you for two thirds of the calories. The other third lies squarely at the feet of Washington State, which I’m blaming for the other 1/3, roughly 1,100 calories, or two and a half corny dogs.

imageOkay, now I see, this is heathly California Cool Cuisine

Let’s quickly knock off a few other states, like Minnesota, because, Spam. Come on guys.

Also, any Rocky Mountain state. Look, we here at the State Fair have fried butter, beer, smores, deep fried bacon, snickers, and any number of things. You know one thing that we haven’t fried, bull testicles. Or as you call them Rocky Mountain Oysters.  Even if we did, we wouldn’t have decided to name them after one of our state’s most prominent features. California’s bad, but at least they didn’t go, “here have these mountain lion testicles, they’re called San Fernando Valley goose eggs.”

To recap, the American South, the Rocky Mountain States, Illinois, Minnesota, West Virginia, California, who’s left? Ah New York. Let’s examine Swanson’s, particularly Swanson’s TV Dinners. If the leading culinary cause of American obesity is fast food restaurants, then coming in at number 2 might be TV dinners. Swanson’s headquartered in your state created TV Dinners and continues to be the largest producer of these waist line killing meals.

swanson-tv-dinnerIf you need a spoon to eat a TV Dinner, you’re in trouble.

Swanson’s makes the completely unhealthy Hungry Man TV Dinners. But they also the fake “I’m Healthy”, but really “I’m not healthy, particularly from an emotional and social point of view” Lean Cuisine TV dinners.

lean cuisineCouldn’t say it better

These frozen TV Dinners are available for every meal of the year. As Jim Gaffigan would say, you can have a Hungry Man Dinner for breakfast, a Lean Cuisine for lunch and be dead by dinner.

I’m running out of space, so let’s see, Arizona, three words, Heart Attack Grill. You know how I know my state is healthy than yours? This horrible restaurant was founded in your state, and when you tried to open one up in Dallas, it lasted three months.

*Mar 01 - 00:00*05_Flatbed_WEBCome on man, with Arizona’s heat this guy literally won’t live seven more minutes

Vermont or New England – um…Ben & Jerry’s. We fried chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow and served for three weeks. You fried chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker, stuck it in ice cream, and shipped it worldwide to millions lonely housewives.

smores-detailCreative favors?  Yes.  Hippie?  Yes. Healthy, Wait a minute

Ohio – you have Wendy’s and the Baconator. Which sounds like a super villain who’s bent on world domination by clogging the worlds’ collective arteries. Also you’re home to the only President to get stuck in a bathtub because of his weight.

Pennsylvania, okay, I don’t have time to figure out if the Philly Cheesesteak is healthier than a corny dog, so let’s call it a draw.

Wisconsin, your state is way too in love with cheese to be considered healthy.

green-bay-packers-cheeseheadUnhealthy for a number of reasons.

In the end, the point of this essay is to point out, that yes, for several weeks in September people in Texas at the State Fair concoct dishes that are frequently unhealthy. But before you go writing your articles or issuing grand statements about the stupidity of it, ask yourself, is my state responsible for the Waffle Taco, or the Baconator? Do we love cheese a little too much? Is my state taking it a little too far with a official state dessert that’s a ten  layer cake? Should I make fun of a state when 50% of the people in my state are obese?

No, No you shouldn’t.

Editor’s Note: If this article failed to mention your state just Google “unhealthy food” and your state’s name.

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How Dallas’s West End died…

Why did the West End Die?  – Wendy

I begin with the obligatory statement that the West End is not completely dead. There’s still some life there but definitely not what it was twenty years ago when Van Halen played a free concert that Bruce Willis MC’ed at Planet Hollywood (how 1989 is that sentence).

 van halenThere’s even a DVD of the show for you super Van Halen fans out there

Anyways the reason why the West End is almost completely dead is pretty simple once you understand a few simple aspects of urban life in American Cities.  But first a little history on the West End, don’t worry it’s not boring there are prostitutes, saddles and pillows involved.

e88725a45a73032005026ac88729d495This is the most PC version of a picture that involves two of the three topics from the previous sentence.

Most histories of the West End begin in the early 20th century when the West End was a center for warehousing and manufacturing along the railroad. For the most part this makes sense; most of the buildings that are still standing there were built around that time. There was a cracker factory (boring and unappetizing), a saddle factory (intriguing), and a pillow factory (kinda depressing when you realize your pillows are made in a factory).

crackerFrankly, that’s an awful lot of smoke to be coming from a “cracker” factory

Unfortunately this view of its history ignores West End before 1913 or so, which is even more interesting than a pillow or cracker factory.  Back then the area was known as “Frog’s Town.” Not because of a large population of Frenchmen, but because the area was prone to flooding and hence it had a very large population of frogs.  You know what else it had a large population of?

imagesCAXBCA1E

That’s right  19th century prostitutes. Frog’s Town was one of a few so called red lights districts in Dallas.  Keep in mind that prostitution was legal in Dallas all the way up to 1913. When the state literally had to intervene and force Dallas enforce the state law(Austin always was so prude). If this comes as a little bit of a surprise keep in mind Dallas as a long history of providing outlets for carnal delights, and that Dallas was still very much of a frontiers town back then. One with 100,000 residents albeit, but one of those residents was Doc Holiday of the OK Corral fame, who ran a crooked dentist office and a straight card game.

doc

He’ll be your Huckleberry

Anyways fast forward some 60 years to the 1970’s and West End’s “revival as an entertainment district.” Downtown Dallas post WWII had expected a building boom. And because it was pretty much reigned in on all side by freeways, that building boom went vertical. The majority of Dallas’s skyscrapers were built at the expensive of many of the older mid-rise buildings or historical buildings which were torn down. By the 70’s many of those older historical structure were gone. Preservationist, fresh off victories along Swiss Ave and in Old East Dallas began pushing efforts to save the historic buildings in the West End.

imagesSaving these buildings

At the same time as the Preservationist efforts were taking hold, many civic leaders in Dallas were becoming aware of another problem. Retail, dining, entertainment and other so called built cultural amenities were fleeing downtown. This was in part because the new skyscrapers were replacing the venues for entertainment. But also because during the 60’s and 70’s Baby Boomers were fleeing urban areas and central cities.

runningThere’s a new mediocore subdivision in Plano?!?!?  Last one there gets shunned by the PTA and HOA leaders

That was the era of suburban shopping malls and chain restaurants. Many civic leaders in Dallas wanted to chase those fleeing suburbanites, compete with the suburban shopping mall and regain those tax dollars. A strategy that most urban planners nationwide and local civic leaders today find utterly foolish, but more on that later.

So as a result of the Preservationist efforts to stay the West End historical structures, and civic leader’s efforts to lure suburbanites back to downtown, the West End began to develop as a shopping, dining and entertainment district in the late 70’s. By the mid 80’s it had really taken off. The first and Original Spaghetti Warehouse had moved in along with other restaurants. Shops were popping up, the West End Marketplace (a mall) had openned and Club Stark had made quite the name for itself in nightlife circles.

imagesCAJ0GPERClub Stark in it’s hey day.

In a D Magazine in a 1984 story about the district the author even said that the West End was well on its way to becoming something the downtown really needed…”a place to visit in the heart of the city that offers a wide selection of food and drink.”

That above statement from D mag hints at something most people growing up in Dallas knew about the West End. The West End was a nice place…to…visit. It was a nice place to visit…means it was for tourists.

201919_304

Come to the West End for longhorns and cowboy hats.

Let me explain. If you go back and read, or at least thumb through the D mag article, you’ll notice that the author spends a lot of time talking about all the restaurants, some of the shopping, and she even mentions the pains to which businesses moving into the office space went through to project a different vibe then traditional downtown Dallas. The one thing she doesn’t mention until the very end is that no one actually lives in the West End. The West End was conceived to be a standalone entertainment district.

westend

The West End trying to be like Time Square in New York

Standalone entertainment districts in urban areas usually aren’t that successful.. Think of the most popular areas of Dallas right now for dining, shopping and “entertainment”. Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts, Greenville Ave, Uptown, Knox/Henderson, the Cedars; they all have residential communities in and around them. The West End didn’t and hence it lacked a certain urban excitement or bohemian feel that attracts people.

Segways1Any area that allows you to rent a seg-way to see it, is not an exciting urban area

The West End also tried to compete with suburban entertainment districts, which generally speaking were more favorable for suburbanites then the West End.

In the end, the West End, devoid of residents, an urban vibe, and struggling to compete with suburban malls; was left to the realm of the tourists. Which would make sense why Bruce Willis opened a Planet Hollywood with a concert headlined by Van Halen.

willis1

Bruce Willis, in early 90’s jeans seen at Planet Hollywood’s groundbreaking

But Dallas, despite a robust convention crowd, has never had the tourists economy to support all those restaurants, let alone a movie theater and an entire mall.   The West End tried mightily, see: free Van Halen concerts, the Hoop-It-Up tournaments; but slowly it began to die off. The Stark Club, though a truly unique and wondrous place, failed to create much of a clustering effect of similar nightclubs or businesses. Those around the time likened it being one Ziggy Stardust amongst a thousand J.R. Ewings. The restaurants started to flee in the late 90’s. Planet Hollywood closed in 2001 as did the movie theater. And the mall finally closed its doors in 2006, with it’s most notable tenant, the antiques shop, moving to….a suburban mall, Grapevine Mills.

There’s hope of course, as I write this news has come out that the owners of the old West End Marketplace, where the mall was, are trying to rebrand the building, and court residential condos or apartment developers to convert the space.