By Ann Thelen
In conjunction with this year’s Iowa State Fair, we’ve developed an exciting new cookbook, which will be available to fairgoers who visit our larger-than-life display in the South Atrium of the Varied Industries Building during the Fair (August 10-20).
The Iowa Food & Family Project's Iowa State Fare Cookbook serves up tried and true recipes from our friend, farmer and Iowa State Fair aficionado Cristen Clark! Enjoy a taste of your top Fair foods all year long with this collection of meals and desserts the whole family will enjoy.
As Iowans – and visitors to this annual event – know, the Iowa State Fair is the ultimate intersection of Iowa farmers, history and, of course, food! The Iowa Food & Family Project celebrates our state’s deep agricultural roots and the faces and families — like the Clarks — who grow our food — from fruits and veggies to soybeans, cows, poultry, pigs, cattle, turkeys and eggs all year long. Iowa farmers like Cristen take their job seriously and continually strive to do better each day — for their animals, environment and family.
Outside of farming, Cristen’s family likely looks a lot like yours, too: balancing children’s school functions and ball practice while lending a helping hand in the community. Despite the hustle and bustle of everyday life, a constant priority is family meal time — the opportunity to unwind, reconnect, share laughs and make longstanding memories.
We sat down with Cristen to ask her a few questions about the cookbook:
Tell us more about the cookbook and what inspired some of the recipes?
This cookbook is a compilation of Iowa State Fair-inspired recipes that can be made at home! The recipes include some of my family’s favorites, such as Italian Grinder Sandwiches and Old-Fashioned Lemonades!
What is the most surprising thing you learned while creating the book?
The number of Iowa products that are sold throughout the Fair are astonishing! Did you know that more than 75,000 pork chops annually at the Iowa Pork Tent? And, 28,000 pounds of beef are turned out at Cattlemen's Beef Quarters? If you swing by the ag building you can receive one of the 160,000 eggs on a stick that are handed out each year! It takes a lot of Iowa grown corn and soybeans to raise the livestock it takes to fuel the Fair!
How did you select the food vendors to feature in the book?
In college, I was an intern at the Fair, and then my first job out of college was spent working daily at the Fair. In those years, I really developed a fondness for the food vendors. It was so fun to interview two families that are involved with the tradition of the Iowa State Fair, the Beattie and the Campbell families. You can tell how dedicated and passionate these families are when you step up to their food stands at the Fair. It was interesting to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it would be like to operate a major entity on the fairgrounds. As great as the food is at these establishments, even better are the people! These families are the true definition of hard-working, salt-of-the-Earth Iowans, and I'm proud to know them.
How did you figure out what recipes to use?
I rounded up favorites of friends and family and grabbed a fellow corn and soybean farmer Melissa Eshelman (who works with Joni Bell at The Rib Shack during the Fair), and we tested all of the recipes in one day (talk about being full!). Luckily, it had rained, and we were able to take a break from working in the field and taste some great food.
What's your favorite recipe?
My favorite recipe in the book is the recipe for the Giant Cinnamon Roll. This was the first blue ribbon recipe I entered in the baking contests at the Iowa State Fair. I can assure you there were many trials and nearly an entire pants size devoted to making this recipe perfect! I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does. This recipe is nearly the backbone to my entire blog, Food & Swine. With the money that I won from the Cinnamon Roll contest, I purchased a Duroc gilt named "Cinnamon." People thought I was delusional by using baking contests as a way to grow our hobby show pig herd, but it worked for us and helped me create an avenue to promote the food and diverse agriculture in Iowa that I love.
Cristen Clark will be signing cookbooks at the Iowa Food & Family Project booth from 1-3 p.m. most days of the Iowa State Fair.