In my new novel WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? which is set in Southeastern Pennsylvania (U.S.A.), during one of the scenes in the opening chapters, the main characters head to the local fairgrounds for the First Annual Tom Jones Festival.
There, the viewpoint character Ellie Overton and her high school friend buy a funnel cake at one of the food stands.
While standing in line, Ellie cracks this joke:
Q. “What has four teeth and eight legs?”
A. “The funnel cake line at the Pankey County Fair.”
(Yes, the more rural parts of Southeastern, PA are quite backwards.)
If you've never heard of it before, funnel cake is a simple food enjoyed at festivals and fairs in Pennsylvania and numerous other states in the Eastern U.S.
I've enjoyed funnel cake all my life. Like most PA Dutch recipes, it's not very healthy and certainly not low-calorie, but is simple to make and uses everyday ingredients. Being a foodie was never a priority within the Pennsylvania German culture.
More important to Pennsylvania Germans was having food to eat...period. Made from ingredients that can be found in any larder, funnel cake is truly a classic PA Dutch treat.
However, you don't have to wait for next fall for the county fair to roll around to enjoy this simple dessert. You can make it in your own home. And it's practically named because the PA Dutch are NOTHING if not practical, i.e., if it's called funnel cake, then you are going to need a kitchen funnel in its preparation.
2/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1. In a deep skillet, heat two cups of oil over medium-high heat until a pinch of flour sizzles into the hot oil.
2. Beat egg and milk. Mix all other ingredients in a separate bowl and slowly add to the egg mixture, beating until smooth.
3. Using a kitchen funnel, drop the batter into hot oil working from center outwards in a web pattern. (If you don't have a kitchen funnel, you can use a gallon-sized freezer bag instead. Simply pour the batter into the bag, snipping off a small corner of it, and squeeze it into the hot oil.)
4. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, remove from the oil when golden brown and crispy.
5. Sprinkle with powdered (10X or confectioner's) sugar and serve.
Best of luck with your funnel-cake making. Honesltly, it tastes a lot better than it sounds ... and looks! Must be the sugar!