Last weekend, the Orange County Fair took place in California, USA. Over 1.15 Million people attended; just stop and think for a moment. In the UK we use all sorts of units of measurement (including double-decker buses, Wales, Football stadia) but my way of seeing it is in multiples of Glastonbury Festival. The OC Fair is about the size of 7 Glastonburys in one weekend. Ginormous. So the numbers are staggering. What is even more staggering is the food that was on sale, and in particular the enterprise shown in the attached photograph. Over the weekend, over 8,000 people ate deep-fried butter. Just let that sit in your mouth for a moment – Deep. Fried. Butter. When I first read about it in the L.A Times I thought it must be a trade name for something else, but no – it is butter that is deep fried. I looked it up in Google and found a number of recipes; this isn’t just an Orange County thing, it is made and sold across the USA. For those of a nervous disposition, I suggest you pass over the next bit, in italics. For the curious – those who like to stare at car crashes – here is one of several ‘recipes’ –
Cream the butter, cream cheese, salt and pepper together with an electric mixer until smooth. Using a very small ice cream scoop, or melon baller, form 1-inch balls of butter mixture and arrange them on a parchment or waxed paper lined sheet pan. Freeze until solid. Coat the frozen balls in flour, egg, and then bread crumbs and freeze again until solid.
When ready to fry, preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.
Fry balls for 10 to 15 seconds until just light golden. Drain on paper towels before serving.
Thank god for the paper towels – without them it may have been a bit fatty, don’t you think?
Where to start on this? I guess from my perspective I want to consider the whole issue of the ‘magic’ thinking some people have about food, health and mortality. It is as if they think that it is other people who need to worry about their coronary system – they themselves are somehow immortal and are therefore not governed by the rules of nutrition and health that apply to the rest of us. There is a sort of arrogance in it, a sense that ‘they’ can’t be subject to ‘our’ rules.
It also makes me think about the whole issue of our relationship with food; I have talked lately to people who in one way or another have a troubled relationship with food and I have come to realise that I have only encountered the tip of the iceberg. I realise that my empathy, my positive regard, my willingness to engage, is not nearly enough to get near to the feel of people with an eating disorder, or those who have had one. It has been a salutary lesson for me, but it has also opened up a complete avenue for exploring the human experience. Food is something we use as a reinforcer in so many settings, human and animal, that we tend to take for granted its place in our lives. For animals there tends to be a simple relationship – the energy expended in acquiring food needs to be less than the energy gain from consuming it. Humans are different – we will eat food that has no value to us, meets none of our nutrition needs and poses real danger to our health and wellbeing, or we will actively deny ourselves the nourishment that would keep us safe. We are somehow drawn to food in so many different ways.
I have only scratched on it here, and I am not right about it all, but I would love to hear what you think, I would love to hear about the experience of food – just don’t ever ask me to eat deep fried butter.