A livestock show culinary treasure: Funnel cakes

dfwnewsa | March 19, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

A livestock show culinary treasure: Funnel cakes

MERCEDES — There’s just something about them.

Those squiggly golden lines snaking across the plate with their white sugar and chocolate and raspberry and all things good in the world have a magical power that no one can resist.

Those funnel cakes at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo have become as much of a tradition as the show itself.

Away from the barns and the arenas where the kids move with their lambs and their goats and their hogs and steers and heifers, the show grounds are filled with a smorgasbord of delights. The kids shriek with the thrill of spinning through the air on the carnival rides, a man creates caricatures, a clown chats up children and grateful parents, and an aging cowboy walks around in a cattle suit and poses for pictures.

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The air itself is filled with a medley of flavors, of turkey legs and nachos and pizza and pork ka–bob. A man enjoys a plate of curly fries, kettle corn pops and snaps as it cooks, and vendors advertise crazy apples and spiropapas. A long line of people wait for suicide tacos and fajita fries.

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And then there are the funnel cakes with their almost blinding white sugar and their intoxicating invitation to have one, at least one, at the livestock show. In fact, some people will insist that you can’t go to the livestock show without having a funnel cake.

“I always get one when I go to the livestock show,” said Ezy Rivera, 17, of Weslaco.

So important is this tradition to Ezy he was now introducing it to his girlfriend Jasmine Alvarado, 17.

“This is my first time trying one,” she said with a playful laugh.

Ezy Rivera, left, prepares to enjoy a funnel cake from a stand at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo last week. (Travis M. Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

Rivera had just purchased his funnel cake from a stand operated by Jeremy Westmoreland Concessions from Hughes Springs. Earlier in the week Diego Martinez of La Feria moved about the small enclosure to prepare one of these delicious beds of flavors. The process was surprisingly simple considering the visual complexity of it.

He filled a small pitcher with the batter and then poured it in curly lines into a fryer where it sizzled and fried and turned a golden brown. Once it had cooked to the desired color and consistency he lifted it from the fryer and put it on a plate. Now came the sugar, a thick and white and delightful sugar, and a red raspberry topping.

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The result was a fine confection of flavors that exploded into the mouth and created a carnival of the culinary senses which could easily become a hopeless addiction. The only recourse to avoid giving in to such a powerful seduction is remembering that funnel cakes are very much a guilty pleasure. They are loaded with calories and can bestow a blast of a sugar rush, but one funnel cake, or even two, is an innocent guilt and an almost mandatory tradition at livestock shows.

So commanding is its presence that it can even penetrate the smell of manure and sweat and sod of the livestock arenas. Michelle Alonso and her husband Jaime enjoyed one together as the students sold their projects Saturday at the Sale of Champions.

“I have been craving one all week,” said Michelle, 31, of San Juan.

“It’s a tradition,” added Jaime, 38.

His wife now smiled at the alluring culinary treasure as it cast its spell upon her. The seduction was complete, and she pinched off small pieces and chewed slowly to enjoy the nuances of the flavors.

“I like it because it’s crunchy, it has a smoothness on the inside,” she said.

As with all things fine and glorious in the world of flavors and passions and innovations, every funnel cake has its own rendition.

At Jeremy Westmoreland Concessions, the mix of the batter is a secret recipe passed through the generations of the Westmoreland family.

“We have our own mix, and we just add cold water,” said Harley Moore, 20, an employee.

It was early in the week when she spoke of this and the showgrounds had just begun to stir, with people slowly moving in and gazing upon the glorious happenings of the week. Vendors had only a little business, but by Friday the funnel cake vendors had enjoyed a fine week.

“It’s been great,” Harley said. “It’s picked up a lot since the beginning.

Cooper’s Concessions doesn’t have its own family recipe for funnel cakes, but nevertheless they’ve had many compliments.

“We have many people tell us they are the best at the fair,” said an employee who identified herself as K-K.

A stand employee prepares a funnel cake at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo. (Travis M. Whitehead | Valley Morning Star

“We make ours fluffier and we make it loose so they can take small bites,” she said.

While the sale of funnel cakes is slow earlier in the day, it picks up around 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m.

“They have them after dinner when people want their sweets,” K-K said.

And let’s not forget all the flavors beyond the first flavor. At Jeremy Westmorelands Concessions, customers could choose not only a raspberry topping but also chocolate, caramel, Bavarian cream and cinnamon, and crunched up Oreo. At Cooper’s Concessions they could enhance the experience with raspberry, caramel, caramel pecan and chocolate.

Both vendors said customers most often chose raspberry, but funnel cakes with extra toppings had no visual presence Friday or Saturday. Perhaps the layering of toppings and the flavors of those toppings could occur to some people as a distraction rather than an enhancement.

Perhaps the real flavor lies in the very beginning of things, with the dough and the flavor and the mix, and a little sugar to give it a kick start to the starving palate.

The post A livestock show culinary treasure: Funnel cakes appeared first on MyRGV.com.

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