By Brian Tracey Business Editor
msnbc.com
COMMENTARY

One ritual millions of Americans love is attending their state or county fair with all of its sensory seductions: The carousel calliope music, the twinkling lights and, of course, the smells and tastes of fatty fried foods.

Well, attention funnel-cake fans and french-fry aficionados, coming to a carnival near you: Deep-fried Coke.

The gelatinous cola-infused snack won the "most creative" title at the Texas State Fair in Dallas last month. Since then, the deep-fried phenomenon has spread to North Carolina and Arizona.

"We've been getting calls from everywhere since we introduced it," said Elizabeth Martin, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina state fair, in a recent report in the Dallas Morning News. "Everyone wants to know where they can get it."

The Texas fair has long prided itself in offering foods that would make a cardiologist faint. Beginning with now ubiquitous corndog in 1942, the Lone Star State extravaganza has seen Twinkies, cookies and even pickles stuck on a stick, dipped in batter and then deep fried.

The Dallas newspaper said Fried Coke's inventor, concessionaire Abel Gonzales Jr., is a fanatical fryer — last year he sold 20,000 fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwiches. Fried Coke appears to be an even bigger hit: He sold 16,000 cups in the first two weeks of the fair, which runs through next week.

And unlike Coca-Cola, Gonzales has also had more success modifying his formula. He reworked the recipe to make the dough more absorbent so it would soak up more of the cola syrup.

"They were good before, but they are even better now," Gonzales said.

Maybe he could offer discounts on angioplasties with each serving.

Not-so-bad ideas

  • Young entrepreneurs in Paraguay say they have a new weapon against pesky, and potentially dangerous, mosquitoes — cotton shirts soaked in lemon-scented citronella oil.

The woven, collared shirts typical of this landlocked South American nation were launched this week by the surfer-inspired Pombero brand. Citronella oil comes from a perfumed grass and acts as an insect repellent.

"This is a product aimed at people who enjoy being in the fresh air and in contact with nature, but who want to maintain a sophisticated style," said company owner Rodrigo Jacks. He added the shirts can be washed up to 40 times before losing their power to repel mosquitoes and other critters, like fleas.

Government scientists are also interested in finding out whether they could provide extra protection from ailments like malaria or dengue, an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes.

"We want to give people information about whether this is really effective," said Blanca Cousino, an entomologist at Paraguay's National Service for Malaria Eradication.

But even if they do work, at about $50 apiece the garments may be a little to pricey for many in this country, where nearly 4 in every 10 people are poor.

  • Croatia, already a popular holiday destination for sun-seekers, is now tempting tourists with the offer of dental services at less than half the prices paid in Western Europe.

Zeljko Popadic and his sister Jelena Nedeljkovic started a modest dental practice in the northern Adriatic town of Rovinj in 1997. They had only three employees and a few local patients.

Less than a decade later, their reputation has reached foreign markets as Europeans take advantage of low prices in former communist countries.

"Some 10 percent of our patients are foreigners, and we're confident the number will grow. Most of them are Italians, but there is also a rising number of queries from the United Kingdom," said Nedeljkovic.

She said their services were half the price of Italian dentistry and as little as a quarter of the cost of dental visits in England, while claiming the quality was the same.

A price list at the Popadic clinic Web site says that, for example, simple tooth extraction costs 42 euros, or $52.54.

Nedeljkovic and her brother hope the new low-cost flights from the U.K. to Croatia would further boost their business.

"It is a perfect opportunity to combine holidays and dental care," she said.

We're sorry, but that grouping sounds similar to a blend of sleeping and working.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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