S.L. Smith's long career alongside law enforcement and fire officials, while with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, inspire and inform her novels. Yearly visits to the iconic Minesota State Fair introduced her to many mysterious items featured on a stick. She combines both in her latest mystery. Learn more about S.L. and her books at her website.
When a person hears “state fair” or “county fair,” if they're like many of us, they think about the midway or food. Originally, I planned to use this post to impress (or bore) you with the principles of physics that explain the design of the rides in the midway. Unfortunately, I was approaching 25,000 words and barely had a good start.
For that reason, I changed directions and will talk about the food. The murder weapon in my third novel, Murder on a Stick, is the stick on which a Minnesota State Fair food was served. Hmm, how crazy is that? Well, it happened. Hence, I could share the recipe for a food served on a stick at the fair. In 2013, there were 104 of these items. The last four pages of Murder on a Stick lists them.
If you can eat it, it's probably served on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair. Don't believe me? How about spaghetti and meatballs on a stick? Key lime pie on a stick? Walleye pike on a stick? No, I'm not kidding.
Each year, the Minnesota State fair runs 12 days, ending on Labor Day. Come check it out. I have to warn you, be prepared for the crowds. The fair averages about 1.25 million attendees per year.
As I mentioned, the weapon in Murder on a Stick is the stick on which a food is served. I didn't want to reveal the food here or mislead you by including the recipe for the wrong food. What a conundrum!
My solution was to go in a totally different direction. Would anyone out there care to hazard a guess, regarding the number one moneymaking food at the Minnesota State Fair? Did I hear corndogs? Cheese curds? Both are popular, but not the correct answer. According to KSTP TV, the local Fox affiliate, in 2013 the answer was Sweet Martha's cookies. In fact, these cookies made nearly three times as much as the first runner-up. Now granted, we're talking about Minnesota, but the first runner up was Midwest Dairy milk. How logical. After all, the perfect accompaniment to a chocolate chip cookie is, of course, a glass of milk.
I don't have the recipe for Midwest Dairy milk, so here's the recipe for Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies:
Sweet Martha’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups cake flour minus 2 tablespoons
1-2/3 cups flour
1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar plus 2 tablespoons
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups chocolate chips
In a large mixing bowl, sift all dry ingredients together.
In a separate mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated.
Combine dry and wet ingredients. Don't over mix. Add chocolate chips.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in the fridge overnight or up to 3 days.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
To get the cookies just the right size, use a standard cookie scooper, then divide that amount in half. Place cookie dough balls evenly onto a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until barely done. You want to under-baked these cookies slightly so they turn out soft and gooey.
Murder on a Stick
You can get almost anything on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair. This year, murder is added to the list. Despite the thousands of people in close proximity to the crime scene, efforts to find a witness are futile. Family and friends construct radically different portraits of the victim, and the list of suspects keeps growing. No suspect has a corroborated alibi. Three admit being at the fair that day.
The investigation crisscrosses the Twin Cities, and travels from the fairgrounds to Rochester, Minnesota. St. Paul investigators Pete Culnane and Martin Tierney must separate fact from fiction, and determine whose lies mean what.