By Keith Whamond
Special to The Lunch Break Chronicles
This weekend, I took a trip with my wife and some friends up to The Big E in Springfield, Massachusetts, New England’s yearly celebration of all things barnyard/fried/Juggalo.
I had never been before, despite being a life-long Connecticutian (Side note: I prefer the term “nutmegger”). In fact, I hadn’t even heard of The Big E before last year, which gives some credence to my theory that Fairfield County residents aren’t real New Englanders. Anyway, when offered a seat on a ride up by Brett Mickelson, I took him up on it.
The Big E was, in a word, exhausting. Physically, emotionally, gastronomically. Sometimes all three at once.
I was told by Brett that the original purpose of The Big E was some kind of a “My cow is bigger than your cow” expo, with early 20th century farmers from across New England bringing their farm animals to compete, somehow, against each other. They still have a lot of cows — and sheep, alpacas, pigs, and so on — but there isn’t much active competition these days. Unless you consider “I bet you can’t fry this” a true competition, which I’m not sure I do.
We sampled a bunch of fried foods: Cheese curds (yep, they’re exactly what they sound like), mini doughnuts (pictured right, which were hot, slightly crunchy and delicious), and the Maine baked potato. In this case, “Maine” is being used in the “take a normal baked potato, smother it in butter, cheese, sour cream, bacon and chives” sense of the word.
All three were delicious and flagrantly unhealthy. But these were the bush leagues of unholy food mistakes compared to The Craz-E Burger.
And there she is. As you might be able to tell from the photo, The Craz-E Burger is a hamburger patty, topped with cheese and bacon, and sandwiched between two slices of a Krispy Kreme doughnut, lightly grilled.
In the interest of Journalism (capital J), I paid the bargain price of $6 for one of these to photograph, eat, and share my experiences of a genuine Craz-E Burger.
The taste is overwhelmingly bad. I admit, part of me was looking forward to tasting this — again, for Journalism, mind you. I mean, sure, it’s disgusting, but how could it taste bad? It’s a doughnut, which is great, and a burger, which is also great, mixed together. Eaters have been mixing savory and sweet for centuries. What could go wrong?
In reality, nearly everything. I’m not sure how, but the taste is almost not sweet enough. If you’re going to successfully mix savory and sweet, like prosciutto and melon, the sweet needs to be just as powerful as the savory. I don’t know if it’s the grilling process or what, but the doughnut became nothing but a soggy, semi-sweet bun, losing some of the cake quality. It almost needed ketchup, to make it more sweet, or mustard, to make it less so.
Of course, the idea of actually adding ketchup or mustard to this thing makes it even more gross, so I didn’t.
We passed on some of the more avant garde fried foods, like fried butter balls (yes, these are a real thing) and fried Oreos, which I’m sure are delicious.
Oh well. There’s always next year.
The Big E is open until Oct. 3 in Springfield, Massachusetts. From Fairfield County, it’s an easy hour and forty-five minute drive up Interstate 91. Be prepared for some traffic near Springfield. Drivers can park for as much as $20 at local businesses and homes near the entrance gates, or can park in the gigantic public lots for $10. Tickets $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for kids. Keith Whamond’s diet starts Monday.