Funnel Cakes

Health food.

Health food.

Went to a Braves baseball game at Turner Field last week, to take in America’s pastime: Eating overpriced junk food while drinking a lot of beer.

I’m not saying that in any judgmental way – I, too, partook in the glutinous tradition. I consumed two hot dogs, three cans of beer, one bag of peanuts, and… a funnel cake.

The funnel cake is my one weakness, the reason I avoid county fairs and renaissance festivals… It is my kryptonite, the food that if I were exposed to on a regular basis would absolutely do me in. “That’s how we found him, officer,” they would say, hovering over a bloated body surrounded by powdered sugar and funnel cake remnants.

When you look at it objectively, funnel cakes are nothing anyone should want to ever eat. The process alone is off-putting:

  • Take cooking oil (that is older than your youngest child) and bring it to a boil.
  • Bring out the same yummy dough that makes doughnuts, and drizzle it in the oil like it’s a clump of starchy silly string.
  • Let the oil cook the clotting mass to a golden brown. Flip it to ensure that every millimeter of the dough is soaked in oil.
  • Remove from oil, and strain slightly.
  • Put on a thin napkin on a plastic or paper plate (paper is better, because it absorbs all that extra oil).
  • Cover with one pound of confectionary sugar (plus or minus one/half pound).
  • Serve.

Only in America could this be a culinary invention. In other countries, they do strange things with intestines and insects… gross, but still an understandable reflection of the culture and available resources. We Americans have created pastries and baked goods that are, effectively, sugar and fat delivery systems. (The height of our invention? When someone looked at that same vat of oil we used for donuts and funnel cakes and decided “Hey, we could deep fry ANYTHING!”)

Consuming a funnel cake is something you don’t do in public – you don’t want to frighten any children who happened to glance your way. So, after I received the plate full of my desired funnel cake from the surly Turner Field vendor, I skulked away to a secluded bench, and was able to watch the game as I dug in.

I remember my first funnel cake, which I had consumed as a child. I had tried to use a knife and fork – I was young, naïve. The proper way to eat a funnel cake was is and always shall be the way cro magnon man ate – tearing at the flesh of the cake, ripping chunks off and shoving it in your mouth.

This is, of course, messy. The cake, hot greasy and covered in confectionary sugar, is a mess. The challenge of the funnel cake is to eat it AND consume as much of the confectionary sugar as possible. If you have any sugar left, you have failed. Thus, you use the chunks of cooked dough to scoop up all the granules, resulting in a splay of white powder that makes you look like Al Pacino at the end of Scarface. The powder becomes a scarlet letter, marking your gluttony and displaying your shame to the world.

Halfway through I had a moment of self-awareness… what was I thinking? I really had to stop. But the moment passed, fading as I shoved the sugarcoated dough into my mouth. Bad thoughts, the funnel cake whispered to me as I chewed. Away with you!

 

So, in conclusion: Funnel cakes are awful for you, with no dietary value and filled with empty calories and artery-clogging starches and chemicals.

I do love them so.