As a child, I could always count on one thing to happen whenever we traveled to my grandma’s house. It usually happened an hour or two after dinner, and it always seemed to happen as if by magic. We might be in the living room, watching TV. Or we might be seated around a table, talking.
And then they’d start to appear.
Plates piled high with fried dough and covered with powdered sugar. One plate would appear. And then another. And then another, until everyone had their own.
When I was young, I didn’t know what these were. I just knew that they were delicious and the only other place I had seen them was at a fair. I later learned that these twisted shapes of dough with powdered sugar had a name: funnel cakes. I also learned that these treats didn’t just suddenly appear. My grandma patiently made them.
Many years later, I had returned home after living in South America for some time. Living outside the country introduced me to a new culture, which included new food. I was excited to return home and try recipes that had been passed down from generation to generation in the families I met. But living in another culture also made me curious about what recipes my own family might have.
I soon found there were several, but a childhood memory made me curious about one in particular: the funnel cakes. When I returned to my grandma’s house, I asked her if she’d teach me how to make them.
A few hours later on that summer evening, I was in her kitchen. She took out of her cupboards pots and pans and powders and liquids, like an alchemist preparing to turn lead into gold.
We mixed the flour, baking soda, and salt together in one bowl. In a separate bowl, we mixed the milk and eggs. We poured the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mixing them together until the ingredients from the two bowls had become one.
We poured canola oil into the fryer, and poured the mixture from the two bowls into a small ceramic pitcher. We then made a circular shape as the mixture fell onto the oil, where it began to bubble. As we poured out a little from one side of that shape to the other, we formed lines that crisscrossed and connected.
As we formed the lines that went back and forth and connected them, it reminded me of what was happening at that moment. My grandmother was sharing with me a skill, a skill that I will now share with future generations.
As a child, I had thought funnel cakes appeared as if by magic, but learning how to make them from my grandma was the real magic.
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