Fifth grade is the fifty states. The boy chose Iowa, the state people forget when challenging each other to name all the states from memory. Iowa, sweetheart? Now, the “Fifty States Luncheon” loomed. Try googling “cuisine of Iowa” and see where it gets you.
The boy, in typical family fashion, meandered through Iowan food facts: acreage, pounds of fertilizer the state’s farmers use, acreage for silage, number of hogs, on and on and on. But the websites would not admit to a quintessential Iowan food.
Deciding that corn might be a cheaper alternative than pork for feeding the unwashed fifth grade masses, we tried again. When “corn fritters” popped up, we grabbed it, unaware of the gooey challenge that was fritter.
Deep-fat frying isn’t my thing, though I have a fine appreciation of the products of deep-fat frying. I suspected the oil wasn’t going to be hot enough, because the thought of boiling oil created a deeply atavistic fear in me that burning pain would be part of this cooking project. It made me sidle up to the stove top with a timidity usually reserved for approaching cobras or hormonal teenagers.
The boy stirred up the batter, which looked too runny to form any sort of mass. My dear child lost interest as soon as the batter swallowed a spoon or two and its resemblance to quicksand lost its novelty. He wandered from the room, out of harm’s way, leaving me all alone, the little twit, with the damn fritters.
The fritter batter struggled harder than quicksand would have, exerting itself more like an intelligent alien goo fighting for its life. I’d call it a draw: me covered in pin point oil burns and coated in corn batter, the fritters laying like dead things with a pall of paper towels soaking up the worst excesses of their oily demise. The damage done to them meant each fritter’s color ranged from the palest Iowan corn to the black of Hell’s deeper reaches. Not a pretty or dignified end for Iowa’s best.
But since the fritters involved fat, carbohydrate, and liberal splashes of syrup, the fifth grade gobbled them up. Iowa can rest assured that fifth grade Californians have the highest regard for its cuisine.
(The boy herein referred to is now sixteen. His way of doing things has not changed. I still fall for it.)