Every year, you wait for the taste of your favorite fair food.
You may have tried to re-create the same food at home.
The vendors who make the food welcome you to try, but they aren’t going to offer up their secret recipes.
Food vendors are always looking for an edge. Location, marketing and pricing are all important, but the biggest advantage is having the best product. And that means being protective of ingredients and recipes.
Trini McKee, a Greenwood resident who operates the Oriental Cooking stand at the fair, joked that sharing her kebab recipe would come with a heavy price.
“I could tell you,” she said. “But then I would have to kill you.”
She has operated her food stand, grill and an adjoining dining area, at the same spot on the south end of the midway, for nearly 30 years, McKee said, and people ask for her recipe all the time.
“I won’t give you the recipe, but I can tell you that I cook everything here,” she said. “My fried rice is very much in demand. I couldn’t keep up for a while, so I have an extra rice steamer and extra rice cookers and woks now.”
For some, recipes have been passed down for years.
Vonda Lahey, of the Beech Grove area, owns Memories Concessions, specializing in elephant ears, which she sells on the midway.
“I make my dough from scratch. I have a secret recipe. I can’t tell you what is in it,” she said. “I do it the old school way, hand spread it, fry it and serve it.”
Lahey was taught the recipe as a student by former Franklin Community High School food science teacher Richard Brown.
“He was my teacher when he created it; and when he gave it to me he told me to never, ever, give it to anyone,” Lahey said. “My workers don’t have the recipe. My own husband doesn’t even know.”
Larry Light, who has been grilling with the Indian Creek FFA for more than a decade, shared a little bit about the process of making their pork chop dinners. But he needs to protect some secrets, he said.
“I can’t tell you what goes into our barbecue sauce,” Light said. “It’s too good, and I don’t want anyone else to have it.”
Browning the precooked pork chops and grilling pork burgers has to be done by experienced hands. The chops have the group’s special barbecue sauce, basted in on the grill, which is set at 165 degrees.
“People tell us they melt in their mouths,” Light said. “They ask us for the recipe on the sauce, but we don’t give it out.”
Some other popular concessions view complete transparency as good as they compete for the business of hungry fair visitors.
At the sirloin tips stand on the midway, which was cited as one of the fair’s most popular, a highly visible preparation process may be part of its appeal.
“You can see us make it through the glass at the front of the trailer,” said Jamie Frazier, a New Paris, Ohio, resident who is operating the stand this week. “Each order is prepared individually. It’s a steak dinner with top-grade sirloin. We brown it on a char-broiler and then cube it up in front of them. After that we let the cast iron do the magic work.”
When the steak is ready, items such as onions, peppers, wine, butter and garlic are added, along with an option of sauteed mushrooms and a side order of red potatoes.
At Big Lindsey’s concessions, which features lemon shake-ups and snow cones, which she labels “Sno Balls,” customers can watch from the booth window as sweet treats are made.
Lindsey Hartman, 25, of Greenwood, owns the stand and wants customers to know she isn’t cutting corners.
“I use hand-squeezed lemons and add real sugar,” she said. “I don’t use some kind of powder or mix. I make Orange Shake-Ups the same way, with real oranges. Why make something bad for our body when we have plenty of that already? This is the way I was taught.”