DALLAS -- Fried, battered, smothered, or dipped. With food at the State Fair of Texas, anything goes.
We haven't seen anyone put a hot dog in Jell-O like Alvin (of Alvin and the Chipmunks fame) did in a 1950's commercial, but he wasn't too far off if he wanted to be competitive at this year's Big Tex Choice Awards.
When the announcement came down from the judges Sunday, the winner for 'Best Tasting' was...fried Jell-O?
82-year-old Ruth Hauntz wiggled her way into being one of eight foodie finalists, and her fried cherry Jell-O jiggled all the way to the title.
But what exactly is fried Jell-O?
“I really don’t know what that thing is that holds it together," Hauntz laughed. "But then it’s frozen and tucked away inside the pastry, and deep fried to a golden crisp."
She may not know what special ingredient her Smokey John's partners Juan and Brent Reaves put in the batter to keep the Jell-O from melting, but the 29 year State Fair of Texas veteran was certainly crying real tears when she was announced as the winner. She started serving in Fair Park in 1987 (at the same spot where she will be for this year's fair), known for "the best tamales this side of the border," and this win is her crowning glory.
“Winning the award is like winning a gold medal!" she said, comparing herself to Spring, Texas, native and Olympic star Simone Biles.
Her State Fair dreams didn't start in the 1980's, though. Miss Ruth's love of all things Big Tex goes all the way back to childhood. She talked about how her school (south of Corsicana) would spend one day in Fair Park each year, and they'd walk until she had to take off her new sneakers because they hurt too much.
Would that younger Ruth believe the older version would someday be a State Fair celebrity?
“Nobody would ever believe it," she said. "That’s just like saying you’re gonna be First Lady."
In all that time, there was never fried Jell-O, and Miss Ruth isn't about to reveal her secret.
Guess you'll just have to try it for yourself!
The State Fair of Texas runs September 30-October 23 at Fair Park.