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Fried Red Velvet Cake and Pterodactyl Wings: Over-the-Top Eating at the Rodeo

"That looks like a pterodactyl wing," laughed Harry Miller, a committeeman on the Commercial Exhibits Committee, as he regarded a giant slab of unidentifiable meat that was making its way to a judging table. Miller emcees the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo's Gold Buckle Foodie Awards competition each year, and he's very nearly seen it all in the four years of the annual food contest.

Deep-fried Moon Pies, meat sundaes, chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick...and this year, a slew of entries each more over-the-top than the last. The pterodactyl wing in question was a slab of reconstructed beef, pieces plastered on top of each other and held together with barbecue sauce on a giant bone: meat on a stick in its most primal -- yet unappealing -- sense.

It did not go over well with the judges, me among them. But neither had many of the entries that day. The fried cherry Kool-Aid was perhaps the worst, a ball of cake dough soaked in what tasted like straight cherry-flavored syrup and then fried to a greasy, powdered sugar-topped mess.

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Katharine Shilcutt