It's conceivable that Charlie Boghosian is single-handedly responsible for America's growing health problems.
Known as "Chicken Charlie" to his many fans, Boghosian, a 38-year-old San Diego native, believes that everything, and he means everything, tastes better when fried.
Boghosian is so serious about his passion for all things crispy that he takes his fryer on the road for five months every year, traveling to county and state fairs all across California.
"I can deep fry just about anything," he said.
Boghosian backed up that statement this past weekend at Big Fresno Fair in Fresno, Calif. He was selling fried concoctions by the vatful, and his mother, a traditional Armenian cook, still can't get her head around it.
"My mother thinks I'm crazy," he said. "She never in her wildest dreams thought she would eat a deep-fried Oreo cookie or a deep-fried avocado."
But deep-fried Oreos and veggies are just the tip of the iceberg for this master of the double wide. To date, Chicken Charlie's arsenal of heart-attack inducing treats runs about 25 deep. Boghosian batters up everything from cheesecake, cheese balls and hot dogs to s'mores, Twinkies, and, as of last year, his famous Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich, a piece of chicken nestled between two halves of a Krispy Kreme donut.
But this year, he debuted his craziest concoctions ever -- deep-fried frog legs, deep-fried Coca-Cola, and, Elvis' favorite, deep-fried peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches.
"I love peanut butter, bananas and honey. I grew up eating that and I thought I'd just deep fry that sandwich," Boghosian said. "We're taking regular, ordinary items, mixing them together, dipping them in different types of batter and frying them for just a couple of minutes so that they 'crispen' up and then we put toppings on them which even add to the calorie count."
But those extra calories don't seem to be hurting Chicken Charlie's business. According to Boghosian, his trailer grosses approximately $1.5 million every year. By his estimates, in the last five to six years he has sold close to 100,000 Twinkies, about 200,000 Oreos, at least 10,000 Krispy Kreme chicken sandwiches since their debut two years ago, and approximately 300 to 400 of two of this year's newbies -- s'mores and peanut-butter and banana sandwiches -- every day.
With prices ranging from $1.75 per chicken wing to $11.75 for the fried frog legs, Boghosian's fare doesn't come cheap.
"We get really busy," said the deep-fried guy. "We've got seven cash registers. We sell between three and five thousand orders per day."
Despite the prices and the health hazards, these fried delicacies are "worth dropping dead for" proclaimed one Fresno fairgoer. It seems many people are willing to overlook hundreds, even thousands of calories for a quick trip to fried food heaven.
"Everything that will kill me, it's all wrapped up in one," said another fair attendee ,holding up one of the Elvis-inspired treats. "It's great!"
Chicken Charlie's is not health food. On the contrary, Boghosian prefers to think of his creations as soul food -- treats that, like the fairs he frequents, make people happy and are associated with a sense of fun and lightheartedness. Also, he added, people know what they're getting into when they order his decadent delicacies.
"They come out and they say, 'How many calories does this have?' And we joke around with them and then they say, 'Give us three,'" he said. "They could care less."
With this year's fair season drawing to a close, Chicken Charlie is already testing out new recipes to find next year's addition to his fried food roster.
"We're going to make chardonnay and Spam, dip it in batter, and deep fry it," said Boghosian, sitting down to try his very first bite. "Let's try it out. Let's see what happens.
"I'm sure there's some stuff I haven't thought of, but I love this," he said. "I'm young. I think we've got a lot of time. I'm going to be deep frying a lot more things in the future."
For now, Boghosian will keep peddling his fried Coca-Cola and peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches, day in and day out, until the hot days and bright lights of California's fairs give way to shorter days and cooler temperatures.
Maybe next year he'll figure out how to deep fry a snow cone.