A Recipe to Repeat

September 13, 2015  - by 

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.

Sparks 1
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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  1. I too was fortunate to have been allowed to spend 8 summers with my great grandfather’s 3rd wife, she was younger and therefore able to teach me literally everything about homemaking, gardening, and the pleasure of spending time with my elderly relatives. When great grandma Hazel passed away, she left her long metal recipe box in my care.

    Two years ago I started writing a community newsletter column every month, which I titled Recipes & Reminences. I would pull out a well used recipe card from her file and undoubtedly I would have a grand memory to go with it. The column got rave reviews, and I was thrilled to have had the chance to not only remember those wonderful stories but to also have had the opportunity to put them on paper for my posterity.

    1. Lana,

      What an incredible experience to have had eight summers to learn those skills, and what a treasure that metal box of recipes must be! Your experience is a great reminder to learn as much as we can from our living relatives. I love the title of your column, and I’m sure your descendants will not only appreciate such a vast collection of recipes, but also the stories that go along with them.

  2. Geri,

    Thanks for reading! Below is the funnel cake recipe my grandma shared with me. I find these are fun to make with family, and they’re even more fun to make and then take to people’s houses as a surprise. No one expects to receive a funnel cake!

    2 eggs

    1.5 cups milk

    2 cups flour

    1 tsp baking powder

    1/2 tsp salt

    powdered sugar

    About one inch of canola oil in a fryer, heated to 425 degrees

    1. Pour the canola oil into the fryer, and then turn the temperature to 425. While it’s heating, move on to the next steps, but be careful not to bump the fryer by accident. It gets hot!

    2. Mix eggs and milk in one bowl

    3. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in other bowl

    4. Then, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones. Mix well (about a minute mixing by hand)

    5. Pour that mixture into a pitcher, and then slowly pour it onto the heated canola oil, making sure the temperature has reached 425.

    6. As you slowly pour mixture onto the oil, start by making a wide circle shape. It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle. The idea is to create a wide basic shape, and then just start pouring from one end of the circle to the other, connecting the lines by going side to side and up and down.

    7. Using tongs, carefully flip the shape so that the other side can cook. The first side will probably take about 30 seconds, and the second side will take even less. I just check them by lifting them up with the tongs a bit. If they’re golden brown, then it’s time to flip if it’s the first side or time to remove it if it’s the second side!

    8. Using the tongs, place the funnel cake onto a plate with a paper towel underneath. Using another paper towel, press down gently to soak up some of the oil.

    9. Sprinkle powdered sugar, and then you’re good to go! I find adding fresh cut strawberries makes this even better!

    *Depending on how big you make them, this recipe makes about 4-6 funnel cakes.

    1. Thank you so very much for sharing. I remember these at the fairs , years ago. Good munching. have company comeing soon, so will make and share. keep recipes coming if you would like. ;))))))))))) Geri

      1. Geri,
        Sounds great, I’m so excited that you’re making them! Let me know how it goes, and I’ll keep posting more family recipes 🙂

        1. been awhile, but i made them again this past week end. really good. i like to sprinkle cinnamon/sugar on them also. ;)))))))0 yummy

  3. Looking through Great Grandma’s recipes again today. Found the perfect one for the season. It’s title, ‘Cooking Dandalions.’ To cook dandelion greens; Select tender, young greens. Wash them well with cold water. Add a fourth of a tespoon of salt for each cup of water added. Allow the greens to boil gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Drain and serve them with salt, pepper and a little vinegar.
    Great Grandma Hazel introduced me to a lot of green stuff as a little girl, I wonder if one of those things I spit out was dandalion greens?