Today’s push for healthy eating would be the total antithesis of fried foods in the 50’s. We owned an old-fashioned deep fryer with a slightly twisted metal basket, which fit into the deep interior of the rectangular shaped device. It had a thick, striped cloth covering the electrical cord, which was slightly frayed, signifying the many years of its existence. This portable, electric device was the precursor to the Fry Daddy of the late 70s, but, oh-so much better. Mother had inherited this deep fryer from her mother. She stored it in a lower cabinet in the kitchen and it only came out of its hiding place for certain gastronomical delights-cinnamon sugar donuts, fried oysters, fried ochre and corn dogs. Fried chicken was cooked on the stove in a cast iron skillet, just in case you are wondering. I didn’t like fried oysters or ochre so I only paid attention when she made donuts or corn dogs.
Usually, we ate fried bologna sandwiches, PB & J or peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch,but as a special treat on a rainy day, Mother treated us to deep-fried corn dogs. When she announced the choice for the day’s lunch, we happily pulled out the deep fryer with the weathered wire basket and volunteered to help. Our mouths watered at the mere mention of crisp fried meat on a stick-our version of the all-American hot dog.
Mother fixed the batter with egg, milk and cornmeal, while Sissy and I dug deep into the kitchen drawers to find the used Popsicle sticks we needed to insert into the dogs. We speared the meat with the sticks and rolled the raw hot dogs in the batter until they were completely covered in thick meal. Carefully leaning over the fryer, Mother supervised our efforts warning us not to get too close to the popping, hot grease as we placed our uncooked dogs into the basket. We watched as Mother dipped the basket into the boiling oil. As the wet batter mingled with the grease, loud popping noises filled the air as bubbling grease filled the space within the basket. After several minutes, the yellow corn meal turned brown. Mother carefully pulled the basket from the grease and allowed the excess grease to drip onto a plate set out specifically for that reason. After waiting for the corn dogs to cool, she collected them from the basket and served them on our plates. We waited patiently for the sticks to cool so we could pick up the corn dogs to first roll them in catsup or mustard, and then eat them. Satisfied and full after only one corn dog, we returned our unused Popsicle sticks to the drawer and returned the fryer to its rightful place.
Today, I don’t usually eat fried foods, except perhaps when I go to the ballpark and think about eating a corn dog. I walk around the large stadium scouring the selection of vendors and their respective menus until I find one that sells corn dogs. Regardless of the price or the length of the line, I stand there waiting to place my order. The corn dog of today looks no different from how it looked in the fifties-meat on a stick, covered in crispy, fried cornmeal. It comes served by itself in a paper container. As I make my way over to the condiment stand, my mouth begins to water. I cover one corner of the container in catsup and I return to my seat to enjoy my treat of deep-fried and delicious.
Since 1992, there has been a National Corn Dog Day. It is celebrated on the first Saturday of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship, and along with corn dogs, Tater Tots and American beer are honored. What more could a girl from Indiana want-basketball and corn dogs? I wonder where the event is being held next year. Surely one more corn dog won’t clog my arteries.