15 June 2008
My uncle came to visit a few months ago, just for a quick weekend trip- I was a bit disorganized at the time but we managed to entertain ourselves. As we wandered around D.C. he kindly offered to buy me something, and for the life of me I couldn't think of anything I wanted (and have subsequently thought of about ten things I should have asked for). But as we browsed a housewares shop, a little counter-top deep fryer struck my fancy, and that was what I picked out.
In retrospect, this weekend which would have been remarkably average, I will always remember as the weekend before. The weekend before the diagnosis, before the brain tumor, the last time I saw my uncle before screws were drilled in his skull, before surgery and staples and medications and oh-so-many bumps along the road. They say that memories are not of events, memories are of the stories we tell ourselves about events. The ultimate unremarkability of that weekend will always be colored by what came afterwards, the luxury of doing something as normal as buying a fryer without having to worry about putting on a hat to cover the scars.
The deep-fryer has sat on the top kitchen shelf neglected for the past two months, still in its cardboard box. At lunch one day, I mentioned my neglected fryer to my friend Johanna, who immediately hatched a plan for sopapillas. As Texan as any Texan I know, Johanna in fact hatched a plan for a whole Texan-themed lunch, complete with excellent enchiladas verde and queso and refried beans. The day before, we had a sopapilla practice session: armed with a trusty recipe from Homesick Texan, we made the simplest yeasted dough, rolled it out and cut it into triangles which were fried, rolled in cinnamon sugar, and drizzled with honey.
At this point, my uncle would probably like to chime in and say he's doing quite well thank you, and no one is more steadfastly positive than he is. But I can also say that sometimes, sometimes you think you're getting along perfectly fine, and then you do something as simple as cook for a bunch of people, and the fierce happiness you get from it makes you realize otherwise. That day, I don't think I ate a single sopapilla, I just rolled the dough and cut it, and watched as they puffed magically in the oil, and watched as people gathered around the counter, drizzling them with honey and eating one after another, and the whole time I couldn't wait to call my uncle and tell him all about it. And when I did, I was already planning what I could fry next...
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon of butter, melted
1 tablespoon of sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1. Mix the yeast with the warm water and let it sit for five minutes. Combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and sugar to the yeast/water mixture and then slowly add to the flour and salt. Knead for two minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.
2. Rise in a covered, greased bowl for one hour or until dough is doubled in size.
3. After dough has risen, punch it down, and on a floured surface, roll it out into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle.
4. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut out 3 inch squares, and then cut squares on the diagonal into triangles.
5. Heat up three inches of oil in a big pot to 375 degrees. Fry triangles of dough in the oil for one minute on each side. The dough should puff when it hits the oil. Drain, and then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Serve hot with honey.