A lot has changed at the Wisconsin State Fair since the 1920s, especially in the categories of foods on sticks, foods that are fried, and foods that are fried and placed on sticks.
But a surprising amount has remained constant for nearly a hundred years - prize-winning farm animals. Concerts by the Beach Boys. And a pavilion devoted to the iconic symbol of the dairy state's annual fair - the cream puff.
You want cream puff statistics? 400,000 of them are consumed at the State Fair each year. 50 to 60 are purchased every minute the fair is open. It takes 830 pounds of butter and more than a ton of cream to produce the crop of cream puffs sold at the fair.
But just citing statistics would miss the point. What Bubbler Talk fan Beth B. from Milwaukee wanted to know was about technique:
What is the proper way to eat a cream puff? In two pieces, or like a hamburger?
While Lake Effect staff members shared their preferences, we decided it was a question best left to the experts - the guests on Thursday's show, recorded at Energy Park at the Wisconsin State Fair:
'The Twist & Scoop' with Kyle Cherek, host of Wisconsin Foodie
Cherek takes a page from Dave Schmidt of the Wisconsin Bakers Association, whose technique involves a twist and a scoop, after which you bite it "like it's a giant Ritz cracker full of great Wisconsin cheese."
But more important, he says, is the olfactory experience. "My twist on it is you need something on your nose. We have more taste buds up in our sinuses than we do in our throat." So what does that add up to? A dollop of whipped cream on his nose.
'Choose Your Own Adventure' with Dale Leidheiser, State Program Director for the 4-H Youth Development Program
Dale is what we might term a "Cream Puff Professional." He eats a cream puff every day at the fair. But depending on the scenario, he chooses from one of several techniques.
"If I have a shower available, I do the full load - top on bottom, cream in the middle." Sadly, he rarely has access to a shower at the State Fair. "So I do the twist and eat, too. But sometimes, I have a third alternative - which is the first bite, full blown [like a sandwich]. And the plate is necessary to catch the cream that comes out the side."
'Oreo Style' with Melinda Myers, gardening expert and State Fair presenter
Myers has been coming to the State Fair for more than fifteen years, and has honed her technique. "I do a twist, too," she says, "kind of like an Oreo. Twist it, eat it separately, so that I don't end up with most of the cream down my shirt."
But there's always room for improvement, she admits. "I need to work on the scoop, because I left half of the cream behind."
The verdict: While separating the cream puff into two open faced halves seems to be the cleanest, most popular way to consume the pastry, really just do what you want. After all, what's a good meal without a good mess?
And as for our Bubbler Talk question asker Beth, she eats her cream puff in two pieces. "I suppose it's tradition -- my parents, my grandparents, that's just the way we do it."
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