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Backstory: If you can think of it, he can deep fry it

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"The callers completely backed me up on this one," he says. (Customers backed him up, too, with $27,000 in sales in the first three weeks he offered the sandwich.)

If you haven't yet run from the room, you may be wondering, where could this phenomenon possibly have begun?

Deep-frying, it turns out, dates back to ancient Rome, like most cultural achievements of Western civilization, with the possible exception of space travel. There's a deep-fry recipe for chicken in a collection by Apicius – the Emeril Lagasse of his day. As near as experts can figure, he lived around the time of Jesus, which, had they met, could have had quite some impact on the Last Supper, to say nothing of "The Da Vinci Code." The name of the recipe sounds more like a Harry Potter spell, Pullum Frontonianum, as do some of the ingredients – liquamen, saturei, and defritum. Even if I could tell you what they were, I'll bet you'd be hard-pressed to find them at your local Whole Foods.

"And you should be glad of it," laughs Lynn Olver, editor of the website Food Timeline. She describes liquamen as a "nasty smelling" sauce made of boiled fish guts.

Doughnuts, hush puppies, and funnel cakes date back to the Middle Ages and form "the cornerstones" of deep-fried food, Ms. Olver continues. (It hadn't occurred to me that deep-fried food could have cornerstones.) She also attributes the relatively recent rise in the popularity of deep-fried foods to kitchen luminary – and possibly the tidiest deep-fryer in the world – Martha Stewart.

"She popularized an old Cajun recipe, deep-fried turkey," says Olver, "which sparked something of a cottage industry at well-heeled cookware shops in deep fryers."

Tony kitchens the likes of Ms. Stewart's are generally not, however, the hot spot of deep-fried action. Actually, the locus is fairs – state and county ones – where people are seeking a thrill, even in their snack food.

"Some things you just never eat in any other venue," says Olver, pointing out that a deep-fried Twinkie ora "Texas donut," that beloved confection up-sized to the circumference of a steering wheel, probably wouldn't do well in a restaurant. Probably not.

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