Years ago I returned home to my wife and her kids were in town. I took a small vacation to Oregon and was nervous about looking through the fridge to see what she’d been feeding them. I put lots of care and attention into food being a cook and foodie for years. It means alot to me to give the kids food that’s hopefully not only nutritious but something they’ll remember when they’re older. Food is nurturing and it’s one of the ways I take care of people.
I pulled open a drawer and found (do you hear the ominous music?)…beef weenies. There were probably 4 packages of the cheap beef weenies kids will pull straight out of the package and eat. I remember using them as catfish bait when Iwould go fishing as a kid.
I rubbed my head, pondered my situation and being the kitchen thrift I am had to figure out a way to make the best out of a completely all American processed lips and buttholes. I considered chili dogs which I’m not averse to but I just wasn’t feeling it. I thought about pigs in a blanket, which would add another cheap component of crecent rolls in a can. Nah, no go.
Then, I searched deep into the recesses of my mind and remembered, didn’t Alton Brown do a corndog recipe on Good Eats? Corndogs. I’ve never had homeade corndogs. Visions of this place in the mall, where my mom stopped and got me a corndog and lemonade as a child, danced in my head. It’s a cornmeal batter fried weenie on a stick. It’s America. It’s patriotic. There’s a sense of duty in there somewhere.
I got all the ingredients together and made a buttermilk batter with some jalapeno bits. There’s a mix of flour and cornmeal and it makes a thick batter. I had the kids place the weenies on the sticks as part of their contribution to the meal. I bought oil. I almost never buy cooking oil, I don’t fry things often. Only on occasion.
My large stock pot was ¾ full and the temp of the oil got to around 350F. We’re about to launch. So I dip the weenie in cornstarch, then the batter, then the oil. It bubbles gently and fries to a good solid crisp and then I retrieved them after about 4 minutes. I placed them on a plate with papertowels to catch any additional oil. I only had say 80 more to go.
I fried them in batches of 5 so the oil temp didn’t drop too low and the slow steady pace meant that thirty minutes or so in I was about half done. I decided it was time for the cooks snack and reached over and sniffed, glanced at and pondered..a corndog. I’d made honey mustard to dip them in and after a small dip took a bite. My god, corndogs are amazing homeade. I realize why they’re popular at county fairs and such. It’s easy, quick, portable fried meat and carbs on a stick.
I’d had the kids help prep lemonade from scratch and I’d also made home fries in the oven. For those we just wedged some yukon gold potatos and tossed them in extra virgin olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. Thirty minutes on a sheet pan in the oven and they’ve got a good crisp on one side and cook through.
Not a bad meal. Corndogs, fries and lemonade. It’s not what I consider the healthiest of fare but it’s also a meal made for a large group of 6 or so people and young kids who eat food like Viking hoardes on a pillage. Everyone oohed and aaahed at the table. I was as blown away as they were. I used to eat corndogs out of a package as a kid. We’d microwave them and they were horrible in retrospect. They had none of the flavor and texture of these. These were dare I say, near…gourmet.
As we sat down to eat I usually wax philosophic on some subject that mildly annoys the children. It’s like getting your hair done, you’re not going anywhere while someone with sheets of foil is dealing with you mid hilight. This dinner was good enough that they wouldn’t run away.
I asked Jamie, the youngest, what the hot dogs were made of. He said beef. I told him they were made of beef, chicken and pork. What did those animals eat? He said corn. Ah, our old friend corn. So the hot dogs are really made of corn. All of the animals that went into these weenies were treated poorly, fed a diet high in corn and to top it off, what is the batter made of Jamie? Corn. He’s correct.
Jamie that soda you’re drinking, what is it made of? Corn. He’d gotten used to this conversation as I’d had it with him no less than 5 times to the amusement and embarassment of the rest of the family. I had him read the ingredient label on the hot dogs and the children reminded me how old and fat I am since I can’t read the label, the print is too small for me these days without reading glasses.
High fructose corn syrup was even an ingredient in the dogs.
What’s the buttermilk made of Jamie? Milk. Where does milk come from? Cows. What do cows eat? Well in this case they eat…you guessed it.
I won’t go off on a tirade here but read The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It’s probably the most important book on food written in the last 50 years. He has an extensive discussion of the ins and outs and let’s just say we think we know why America has problems with obesity. It’s being sold to you in everything. It’s corn and the federal government subsidizes its production.
The one thing we did do with this meal is follow one of Michael Pollans food rules. It’s #39:
Eat all the junk food you want but make it yourself.
This is where the meal came together for me. I’m constantly trying to find the line of moderation in central TX. I’m a yoga teacher who eats barebecue but yoga enthusiasts tell me I’m supposed to be a vegetarian. I simply find it nearly impossible to live in modern America without occasionally eating a cheeseburger. My food intake and my weight fluctuate and I’ve no wish to emulate those I see on tv. Body image issues loom large.
You are what you eat. I hear this again and again.
“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man”–Matthew 15:11
I also ponder this Bible verse. Years ago I read that Timothy Leary was asked what was the one thing that made communal living nearly impossible. His reply was, “hell hath no fury like a macrobiotic scorned.” Food is open. I have my judgement, just ask me about raw foods sometime. Overall I keep an open mind and try to keep balance. All things in moderation, including excess. I’ll be eating a corn dog and practicing bikram yoga till I’m old and grey.
**The real purpose of this article is an excuse to post photos of the children who have announced that I, at 34 years of age, am now…old and fat. Back at cha kids.
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