Calgary

Snackerator spits out midway-inspired foods worth a chuckle, if not a taste

Some of these fictitious culinary creations are right on the mark, and some even midway vendors wouldn't dream of trying to make people pay to eat.

Anyone up for a supersized tamari kombucha-gasm?

From left: A pho-rito, a kangaroo-stuffed burger, a cricket caramel apple and deep fried wine and cheese. These were just some of the novel menu items introduced at the 2018 Calgary Stampede midway. (Calgary Stampede)

This is the time of year when the Calgary Stampede typically releases its list of mind-boggling, mouth-watering and sometimes indigestion-inducing midway treats.

But COVID-19 has robbed us of the opportunity to actually partake in those culinary delicacies this year at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, and so there won't be a big reveal to tantalize (or horrify) would-be patrons.

Promising to be equal parts gooey and crunchy, this cricket sandwich from 2018 was served on a thick Texas-style toast with a blend of four cheeses. (Calgary Stampede)

There is, however, a hilarious substitute that's been devised by two Calgarians in the spirit of all things midway.

But one could argue that even Stampede vendors wouldn't dream of trying to make people pay to eat "house-made upside-down elk dipped in chocolate," or "dairy-free light dumplings sprayed from a can," or "golden banana bread offal in a rodeo clown shoe."

Each of those fantastical items is a product of the Snackerator, an online generator created by Julia Williams and Mason Hastie to spit out sometimes ridiculous and other times perfect-for-the-midway foods, like a golden spicy cheese foot-long.

This Snackerator suggestion is probably not something anyone would try to sell you, even at the midway, but it's worth a good laugh, and that's what the creators behind the online generator are aiming for. (Snackerator.com)

"We stole a lot of words from the midway foods, just to keep it accurate," said Williams, who grew up in Calgary. 

Williams has attended the Stampede many times, through many different stages of life, and said she's developed a real affection for what the annual event means to the city and to Calgarians.

But she recognizes that a snack like "triple-cooked ground bone broth with a smear of SPF 60" is a touch off the mark.

"Some of them you could never come up with. We could only do a pale imitation of what's actually the reality of midway food," she said.

The Snackerator was actually a just-for-giggles project that she and her co-worker Hastie birthed back in 2014. 

"We would go for walks at lunchtime, and we'd just find ways to make ourselves laugh. And this was one of them."

After the Calgary Stampede announced the cancellation of the 2020 event, the pair decided to revive their pet project. 

The Snackerator's recipe 

Williams' husband, Dan, is the software developer who wrote the original JavaScript that cooks up what the Snackerator dishes out. 

Behind the scenes, there are four columns of potential descriptors. The code pulls one item from each column at random and sticks the four elements together to come up with each food.

The first column contains different styles of cooking, the second is comprised of adjectives, the third is a noun-like food and the fourth is a way it could be served — for example, "fired out of a T-shirt cannon."

If you play long enough, you might even come across the local legend Turk, the beloved Ramsay turkey.

Now, Williams isn't suggesting anyone actually try to eat Turk.

"He's amazing," she said.

But she does hope that finding his name among the potential Snackerator results is worth at least a chuckle, especially in these times.

With files from Danielle Nerman

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