For the Love of Funnel Cake
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because everything in moderation, including deep-fried dough doused in sugar.
A trend has emerged on the midway in recent years. Each summer, those who make their living rolling food in batter before dipping it in hot oil arrive at state fairs across the country boasting of a new deep-fried oddity. And each summer, the oddity grows more ghastly, all in an attempt to overshadow whatever Frankenfood stood out most the year before. Deep-fried Oreos, once a novel bit of fairgrounds whimsy, are now as boring as corn dogs.
But for all the innovation in this hot, oily arena, it’s still hard to do better than the funnel cake — a deep-fried confection that is little more than batter shaped into a puffy web of dough with the help of the tool that gives it its name. The funnel cake, done right, is warm and airy with a crisp edge. The dough is sweet, but not nearly as sweet as the powdered sugar scattered on top. It’s a divine treat that’s capable of something truly sinister.
If you’re lucky, your body will reject the whole thing and allow you to start anew.
The funnel cake lures me in with its aroma, and nearly repels me with its price tag. But I accept the inevitability of price gouging at state fairs and always buy one. Then I take a bite and decide I would have paid double. I rip off another piece, as quickly as the vendor snatches those bills from my hand, and inhale it. And then comes the decision that will determine the rest of day, maybe several days. Do I throw the rest of the funnel cake in the trash after only two bites, accepting the brief moment of bliss we’ve shared, or do I continue eating, fully aware of the punishment that will soon follow?
At the Kentucky State Fair last week, I kept eating. Once you’ve gone past two bites, you might as well see it through, down the whole thing and accept that you’re about to enter an oil-induced coma. You won’t be able to move as your blood turns to tar and an anchor of dough settles in your stomach.
Jason Ewoldt, a wellness dietitian with the Mayo Clinic, explains why this happens. “Frying foods simply means that it is cooked by submerging it in very hot oil and, as we know, oil is fat,” he tells me. “Fat slows gastric emptying, the time it takes food to leave the stomach. Eating a large quantity of fat at a meal, funnel cakes included, slows digestion, thus making you feel more sluggish.”
If you’re lucky, your body will reject the whole thing and allow you to start anew. But if you’re smart, you’ll stop after two bites.