We were drinking our coffee in the morning as we usually do. Poured from a 4-cup ceramic French press that is completely impractical for boat living (yet somehow hasn’t broken yet) and sipped as we each write about the previous day’s events, emotions, expectations. We don’t talk as we do this. At least that’s the unspoken agreed upon rule. If you have something to say, you wait until the other is finished writing, doesn’t matter if it’s five minutes or an hour. This isn’t a long-standing tradition by the way, it’s newly adopted. Part new year’s resolution, part living on this thing that floats, new lifestyle resolution. We journal. Every morning.
After what felt like a particularly long time spent banging around on my keyboard – unwilling as I am to journal the traditional way with a pen and paper – I set my laptop aside. A sigh slipped out, a long audible one, the kind that he reads as anxiety or pent up stress but that escapes me entirely. “You should cook today. Do your thing.” He was talking about recipe-based work. Development, styling, photography, testing, writing. This blog.
It’s been five weeks since I’ve posted here. In many ways, some time to slow down has been necessary. This little Boat that we live on has required more tune-ups than I even knew was possible. And when the floor is flooding – from a busted potable water tank, from a broken hot water heater, from your 35-gallon (waste) holding tank (ew) – you do not worry about cooking. You do not think about your blog. You rip the floor boards up as quickly as your fingers allow, make sure that bilge pump is going at full power, and solve the problem. Often, with a surplus of latex gloves, a sweater pulled taught over your nose, and a lot of four-letter words.
Even more than all of that, though, I’ve felt spiritless both on here and in the kitchen. Disillusioned. Hopeless. Anxious. I worry that in leaving for this year spent cruising the Caribbean, I’m abandoning the country I’ve called home in perhaps its greatest time of need (at least in my lifetime). I worry that I’ll be so separated while we’re at sea that I’ll lose touch with the reality of what’s happening here–the reality that thousands upon thousands of good people are being hurt and harmed by the stroke of a pen. I worry that whether I’m spending a day cooking, or a year at sea, it will be taking away from all of the other more important things I should be doing or feeling.
But on that particular day, I cooked anyway.
That morning and on into the afternoon, I recipe tested three things that had been on the backburner and photographed two of them in my mom’s kitchen. One, a dinner recipe that is going to knock your socks off next week, the other this funnel cake here. Colorful with Mardi Gras’ traditional purple, green, and gold. Easier than your typical Mardi Gras King Cake. Celebratory enough for my 3 year blogiversary and 30th birthday, which, incidentally, both occur this very week. And with the sun setting and with powdered sugar smeared into the crevices of my camera body, I laughed a little as we argued over who got to eat the rogue, unphotogenic piece of barely burnt funnel cake with the extra glop of refined sugar.
The next morning, I opened my laptop and wrote a short single-paragraph entry. It began with an exclamatory sentence about recipe testing and ended with “Damn, that felt good.” And in that moment it did.
- Canola oil, for frying
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups and 3 tablespoons of whole milk, divided
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 2-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
- ¼ granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt or ½ teaspoon of regular table salt
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, divided
- ¼ cup of unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Purple, green, and gold-dyed granulated sugar, about ½ cup of each
- Heat 3-4 inches of canola oil in a large dutch oven or fryer until oil reaches about 350 degrees F.
- Whisk together the eggs, 2 cups of milk, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Combine the liquid mixture to the flour mixture. Fold in melted butter.
- Add ¼ cup of batter to a funnel with a ½-inch opening and place your finger over the bottom hole of the funnel to plug it up. Move your funnel directly over the hot oil and allow batter to drop into hot oil. The batter should first sink to the bottom, then fairly quickly float to the surface. Without breaking the line of batter, gently move your hands in circles and spirals to create the characteristic textured pattern of a funnel cake until all ¼-cup of the batter has emptied the funnel. Fry for 1-2 minutes until golden brown on the bottom, then flip and fry another 1-2 minutes. Funnel cakes should be just golden brown and puffed up. Set aside on paper towels to drain while you finish the rest of the cakes.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons of milk with the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 cup of confectioners sugar. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle over funnel cakes and then sprnkle each with a pattern of purple, green, and gold sugar.