Part of the enjoyment of going to a ballgame or fair is getting to indulge in concession food. Gooey, cheesy, meaty, sickeningly sweet concession food.
These are the foods you know aren’t good for you, but they’re just too good to pass up. And since you only get to have them during special, concession stand-related events it probably won’t do too much damage to your gastrointestinal system.
I’m always curious about where foods originated so I decided to look up some information about the most popular concession food selections. In my search, I also came across some new and interesting options that you may soon see at a concession stand near you.
The History of Concession Food
The history of concession food dates back to the 1400s. That’s when Germans began making what’s now known as the hot dog. This tasty meat treat is a staple of baseball concession stands. They are so popular today many parks have special hot dog days when fans can get franks in buns for a discount.
Cotton candy was also invented in the 1400s in Italy, but back then it was created by hand. Finally, in 1897, two Tennessee candy makers invented a machine that could spin out large quantities of what they called “fairy floss.” Most Americans didn’t get their first taste of cotton candy until the 1904 World’s Fair when the fairy floss machine made its debut.
The movie theater is another place you’ll find concession stand food. The National Association of Theater Owners estimates that movie theater owners make 40% of their money by selling snacks for film lovers to munch on during the show. But food historian Andrew F. Smith notes that popcorn was popular long before movies were imagined. It became an easy sell for independent vendors when theaters began opening in 1905.
Theater owners didn’t start selling their own concession stand food until the 1930s. Popcorn was one of the big sales because it was cheap (and it smells really good). Candy counters were constructed and included a few high-end options like handmade bonbons. They were sold alongside mass produced candies such as Milk Duds and Jujubes.
It wouldn’t be a concession food post without mentioning Cracker Jacks. Both salty and sweet, Cracker Jacks were created with the intention of giving popcorn an interesting twist. In 1893, the creators, Frederick and Louis Rueckheim, mixed popcorn with molasses and peanuts. They came up with a super-secret solution to make sure everything didn’t glob together. The treat got its name after an early taster exclaimed it was “crackerjack.??? That’s old school slang for awesome. Cracker Jacks became so popular it got a mention in the classic song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Concession Food Today
If you follow fair food trends (everybody does right?) then you already know fried is the en vogue cooking method. Many of the newest, most mouth-watering options are revealed at the State Fair Food Awards. Bet you didn’t realize that competition existed.
It happens every year at the Texas State Fair; easily one of the biggest events of its kind in the country. Last fall we got a taste of some inventive concession foods that could be common treats in the years to come. Not surprisingly, the 2015 State Fair Food finalists were mainly fried.
The Fried Beer-Battered Buffalo is probably the finalist with the best chance of catching on around the country. Buffalo is commonly consumed in Texas, but the lean meat is relatively unknown in many areas of the country. Chunks of buffalo meat are rolled in crushed Corn Nuts before being dipped in a batter made with Shiner Bock beer. The whole thing is then deep fried to perfection.
A few other fun foods from last year’s state fairs include:
- Donut burgers
- Deep fried apple pie wontons
- Bacon cinnamon rolls
- Grilled alligator legs
- Pizza funnel cake
- The Ultimate Bacon Explosion (skewered brisket wrapped in bacon then covered in jalapeno sauce)
- Mac and cheese cupcakes
- Deep fried Starbucks donut balls
- Pulled pork parfait
- Deep fried beer ravioli
- Chocolate covered scorpions
- Chicken fried bacon
As you can see concession stand chefs are getting really creative with their recipes. In addition to frying food, bacon is definitely the most popular ingredient. If you can put it in a ball-form or on a stick that’s even better.
Why wait for the next fair to roll into town when you can make delicious concession stand food right at home? While it may be impossible to make cotton candy without specialized equipment, you can easily make stuffed jalapeno poppers, nachos, popcorn and hundreds of hot dog recipes in your kitchen. I’m thinking why not make Burgers with a twist. Since eating healthier is the trend these days for few, a Vegan Burger Concession stand should do pretty well. There’s so much you can do with vegetables, and it would be a little different from the regular stands too.
Here’s an unusual ingredient you’d never expect see in a Burger, but let me assure you it is utterly delicious. Its one of most favourite vegetables, The Lotus Root. Combined with all things healthy – Beetroot & Tofu, it is no doubt that everyone is going to love it.
Makes 10 Burger Patties
For the burger
- 400 gms Lotus Root ( peeled and cut into thick slices )
- 345 gms Beetroots
- 200 gms Firm Tofu
- 140 gms Breadcrumbs ( for vegan option omit breadcrumbs, add 2-3 tbsp of gluten free flour )
- 10 cloves Garlic ( for vegan option omit garlic )
- 2 inch piece Ginger
- 2 Green Chillis
- 1 tsp Red Chilli Flakes
- 2 tbsp chopped Parsley
- 3 tsp Cumin Powder
- Salt to taste
- 150 gms Semolina ( for coating )
- Olive oil for pan frying
- 200 gms Plain Thick Greek Yogurt
- 2 tbsp chopped Mint
- Salt + Pepper
- Alfa Alfa Sprouts
- Cucumber slices
- Burger Buns
For Vegan Option, serve the Burger Patty, just as is, with some Tomato Chutney.
For the burger Pattis, begin with the Beets. Cut into cubes and boil for 10 mins. Don’t over boil them, they should be just right. Drain and set aside.
Simultaneously cut the Lotus Root stems diagonally in ½ inch slices. Pressure cook them for 15 mins till cooked through. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, boil them for about 20 mins or till completely boiled. Set aside.
In a chopper, put together the beets, lotus roots, ginger, garlic, green chillis, paprika, parsley, cumin, salt and give it a good whizz till it all mixes through and comes together. Taste and adjust seasonings. The flavor should be a bit strong, as you will be using it in the burger with bread and other toppings.
Remove this mixture in a working bowl, and crumble in the Tofu, mixing it evenly with a fork.
Sprinkle some Semolina on a working board and then form burger patties and coat them with the semolina. Chill the burgers until ready to use. The semolina makes the burger crunchy and avoids extra oil absorption.
To fry them, shallow fry in olive oil, till crispy and golden brown on both sides..
The toppings are really your preference.
Lightly dress the Alfa alfa sprouts with salt and lime
Chop Mint finely and add to the Greek yogurt along with salt. Whip together.
When ready to assemble, take the bottom slice of the bread and top with the Greek Yogurt. Place the cucumbers over them and then the burger patty. Top with the sprouts and the top of the burger bun. Serve immediately with some pickles and hot sauce.