Q: My wife and I have an ongoing debate regarding the corn dog “nub” that is left on the stick when you finish eating a corn dog. I think it’s the best part and tell her it wouldn’t be Texan to not eat it, while she says it is trash. Who is correct? And what is that thing really called anyway?
Aaron Haley, Austin
A: Thanks for the letter, Mr. Haley. There are few things the Texanist enjoys more than jumping into the middle of an ongoing “debate” between a couple he’s never met before. One might think that a man would be satisfied with the amount of “debate” he gets at his own home with his own spouse and would therefore want to avoid such squabbling like chigger bites. And that would probably be true of a person who doesn’t butter his bread by way of helping folks navigate disputes like this. The Texanist, though, has come to relish the opportunity to referee the occasional marital “debate”—a relishment that is amplified by the fact that, as he noted, he also gets paid to do it.
One thing that the Texanist enjoys even more than being a third wheel on a couple’s debate night is corny dogs. Is there anything better than a wiener that has been skewered with a wooden stick and then dunked in velvety cornmeal batter and deep-fried to a glistening golden brown before being slathered in zingy yellow mustard? Okay, maybe there is. In fact, maybe there are lots of things that are. But is there anything better in the world of foods on a stick? The Texanist thinks not. In short, you can rest assured that in regard to this question you have come to the right place.
As anyone who knows anything about corny dogs can tell you, the home of this culinary treasure is the State Fair of Texas, where, in 1942, brothers Neil and Carl Fletcher first unleashed their fried “invention” on the public. The Texanist will note without comment that there are others who lay claim to the corny dog’s creation. In Texas, though, it’s Fletcher’s Famous Original State Fair Corny Dogs that rule. And, by the way, the Texanist, like the folks at Fletcher’s and most all Texans, refers to them as “corny” dogs instead of just plain “corn” dogs. Just something to consider.
Anyone who’s ever eaten a corny dog knows well the crispy little ferrule that is the subject of the current discord between you and your wife. And, your better half apparently excepted, anyone who’s ever eaten a corny dog regards that golden gobbet as a sublime morsel of deep-fried goodness. Crunchy with a whispering hint of toastiness, the small band of slightly overdone batter that adheres to the stick presents a perfect cap-off to corny dog consumption, as well as a signal that it’s time for another corny dog. The Texanist, to reiterate, is with you on this one.
Yet, aware of the possibility that your wife might assume a dismissive stance when presented with the Texanist’s unfavorable ruling, the Texanist decided to get a second expert opinion for you by reaching out to Aaron Fletcher, the grandson of Fletcher’s cofounder, Neil Fletcher, and the son of the “King of Corny Dogs,” Neil “Skip” Fletcher Jr., who passed away in 2017.
Thirty-four-year-old Aaron Fletcher is, along with his siblings and other family members, carrying on the corny dog tradition in Texas. Together, they expect to sell more than half a million corny dogs at this year’s State Fair of Texas. He tells the Texanist that he’s been eating corny dogs since he had teeth and is, of course, quite familiar with that little remnant of fried batter. After relaying to the Texanist that this is the weirdest question he’s ever fielded, he affirmed your and the Texanist’s love of that little nub, explaining that it is his favorite part of the corny dog—after the initial bite. “A lot of people love that part,” he said. “Calling it ‘trash’ would be heresy.”
So there you have it. This matter, as far as the Texanist is concerned, is hereby settled, in favor of those who are in favor of your favorite part of that deeply flavored longtime favorite of the State Fair crowd.
As far as what, exactly, that little crunchy collar is officially called, the Texanist has not been able to find an authoritative answer. Even Aaron Fletcher essentially punted. “I’ve always just called it ‘the crispy,’” he said.
The Texanist, so you know, has at various junctures of his starch-laden life referred to it as “the cuff o’ corny contentment”; “the corny cornmeal coupler”; “the crustule,” which rhymes with pustule, and therefore kind of grosses the Texanist out; and “the crusty nubbin,” which, if memory serves, was also the name of the colorful manager of the 1899 Texas League champion Galveston Sand Crabs, of olden-day minor-league baseball fame. You are, of course, welcome to go with any of these, or come up with your own moniker.
Whatever you call that crunchy little crumb, the Texanist hopes you get to enjoy many of them at this year’s fair, which kicks off September 27 and runs through October 20. Perhaps the Texanist will even see you and the missus on the midway there ‘neath Big Tex. And if he does, he hopes that when that encounter happens y’all will each have a corny dog in hand and that they will be slathered in the appropriate amount of mustard. Yes, mustard. The Texanist just doesn’t understand the ketchup folks at all.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.