On Sunday night I had dinner with some people and I was telling my county fair stories and someone said she’d had deep-fried butter at the San Diego County Fair. There was also talk, though nobody could absolutely confirm it, that these days some fairs featured deep-fried Coca Cola.
All this, it seems, is perfectly true. A bit of googling turns up endless examples of deep fried butter (that's one of them above), though of course it’s butter inside dough, and given dough’s insulating properties, it’s not really all that amazing. Whether you want a mouthful of butter and dough is up to you, but I know many do.
It isn’t a huge leap from deep-fried butter to deep-fried mayonnaise, though that isn’t some county fair curiosity, but rather the invention of molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne of the New York restaurant WD-50. His recipe requires both gelatin and a kind of gum called gellan, and it doesn’t use dough as such, though the mayo is encased in a coating of flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs, so it’s not a million miles away. This is it, the cube-shaped thing in the image below.
Dufresne usually serves it with pickled tongue and he says it’s an homage to his father who once owned sandwich shop. Dufresne says, “For a long time I have wanted to create a dish that would bring all the flavors of one of his sandwiches together in a new and interesting way. Ultimately, that’s what this dish is: a tongue sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onions, and mayonnaise.”
And to wash it down? Well, it turns out the deep-fried Coca Cola was a bit of a misnomer. It was invented by one Abel Gonzalez Junior for the 2006 Texas State Fair but in fact it’s actually deep-fried coca cola batter, served with coca cola syrup, whipped cream and what not. It looks like this:
Far more appealing, and truer to its name, is deep-fried beer, another Texas State Fair specialty, and it’s essentially ravioli with a beer filling, which sounds absolutely fine to me, the dough again acting as insulating material, keeping the beer and the fat apart.
But when you think about it, just how different is that conceptually from liquor chocolates? It must be at least as hard to fill a chocolate with liqueur as it does to fill a raviolo with beer.
When I was growing up, liqueur chocolates were things adults gave to us kids at Christmas to keep us quiet. Even the aunts weren’t keen on them, and the men wouldn’t touch them because they were too girly. I don’t believe the kids thought they were all that great either, but we ate them and that’s how some of us developed a very early taste for cointreau and cherry brandy. Though of course for certain other flavors it worked as a kind of aversion therapy. It would take a least a gun to my head to make me knock back Drambuie in any form.
Which inevitably brings us back to Thomas Pynchon and the fabulous scene in Gravity’s Rainbow where Tyrone Slothrop samples home made candies. I haven’t quite committed this to memory so imagine my surprise on finding these words, “He reaches in the candy bowl, comes up with a black, ribbed, licorice drop. It looks safe … at which point Slothrop is encountering this dribbling liquid center, which tastes like mayonnaise and orange peels.
‘You’ve taken the last of my Marmalade Surprises!’ cries Mrs. Quoad.”