When I think of state fairs past and present, I think of Monday’s off from school with a free ticket in hand compliments of the local public school system — and then — all those sensory sights and sounds of the midway.
The carnival barkers, the crowds, the food, the rides, the pings of coins hitting the stacked plates and glasses from tosses thrown by hopeful midway gamers. I can still recall one classmate proudly struting and parting the crowd with his hard won prize — a stuffed animal half his size — that was surely bound to decorate the bed of some girl wearing racoon thick Maybelline eye liner.
If I listen hard enough, I can hear the words of an old familiar tune that will forever mark my coming of age in the early seventies: “in the summertime when the weather is high you can stretch right up and touch the sky….”. Even now, the sounds of those first notes of Mungo Jerry’s summertime anthem transport me back against my will to a particular thrill ride that continuoulsy played this song while whirling its passengers in a backwards circle. I recall feeling so old and worldly listening to the music, standing next to my girlfirend Mary Sue as we waited our turn to ride. Not quite fifteen, my friend and I were enjoying the first fruits of being all-grown-up, having been dropped off at the front gate to explore the state fair on our own terms. No more being dragged through the boring and endless exhibition buildings and picking up freebies if we didn’t want to.
And oh my how times have changed. Today, those exhibition halls are exactly where I’d head to first. Then, of course, there’s all the food! No fair experience is complete without sampling the fare. Maybe it’s the plate-size cinnamon rolls that I track down by following the scent of freshly baked bread and crashing head long into the longest line in the park. Or maybe its the taste of a sweet hot corndog burning my tongue. Or a caramel apple with nuts that for me, just like falling leaves, always defines the arrival of autumn.
But for many fair-goers in Oklahoma, its the year-long wait for the first bite of an Indian Taco. It was for me too until I ran across my cousin Judy’s recipe. And while there are plenty of sources for the fry bread, Judy’s recipe for the meat is beyond fair compare. Pick a fry bread recipe from the internet and mix your own with a little flour, salt, baking powder and water. Or you can do what Judy and I do — purchase it pre-mixed – Woodenknife sells their version on line as does Red Corn Native Foods, marketed under ha-pah-shu-tse. Both pre-mixed dough offerings require about a 45 minute rest period before the dough is rolled, cut and fried.
But whichever way you go for dough, use Judy’s recipe for the filling. From my life to yours.
Prepare your favorite fry dough mixture (refer to above sources) and set aside. Follow the directions to shape and fry when meat filling is almost ready to serve.
Serves four — allow thirty minutes to prepare1 lb ground beef, extra lean 1/2 cup chopped onion 1 tsp garlic powder 2 tsp cumin 1 Tbsp chili powder 1/2 tsp salt 1 can chili beans (or pinto) 1 cup picante (we use Pace) water for thinning (1/2 cup?)
Brown hamburger and onions. Add spices and brown and simmer for 10 mins for flavors to blend. Thin with water or more picante to consistency of chili. Can be made a day in advance and reheated. To serve, top a piece of fry bread with meat mixture and your favorite toppings: