Scene: the fish and chip shop just down the road from Timaru Boys High School, lunchtime, circa 1985-86. A cluster of sweaty, pimply, pre- and post-pubescent boys are gathered around the grimy formica counter, waiting for their orders, when the thick-spectacled, helmet-haired Northern English proprietor barks out the following;
"Potater fritter, spring roll, rasp sup, half a scoop..."
Now, any self-respecting 14-year-old boy knows a potato fritter (and a spring roll, for that matter) from a sausage roll. But what, pray tell, might a "rasp sup" be?
I consult one of my worldlier chubby chums. A "rasp sup", he informs me, is a "raspberry surprise". Which leads, obviously, to the next question; just what, exactly, is a raspberry surprise?
A raspberry surprise, as it turned out, was a raspberry jam sandwich, on white bread, cut on the diagonal... and then battered, and deep-fried. Yikes, huh?!
I don't recall ever actually eating this curiosity/delicacy, but I do remember it being popular. Thankfully I haven't encountered it since. Or I might be tempted to see what I missed out on...
When I was having my existential crisis about whether pies or soup were my preferred winter comfort food, someone brought to my attention the deep fried pie! Could I eat this? Would I dare? Sheesh. I dunno.
The Scots, of course, were renowned for the deep-fried Mars Bar. And, indeed, deep-fried haggis. I would totally eat the deep-fried haggis - the Mars Bar, I would like to think, I would be able to resist.
And then, last week, a friend sent me this picture - yup, that's right, folks, deep-fried butter. Quickly someone pondered what the butter would be deep-fried in. Probably oil, huh? Or maybe lard.
And some things need to be deep-fried. Fish and chips. Potato chips. Samosas. Most of these things could also be baked, or shallow fried, but that's sort of missing the point - deep-fried stuff is fried. In oil. That is deep.
Deep-fried dessert-y things and sweets are also, clearly, fabulous. Take, for instance, the fabulous Mexican churros - deep-fried tubes of batter, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and best served dipped in a piping hot cup of chilli hot chocolate. Or even donuts; it still brings a smile to my face when I think of the "Jeremy Taylor Donut" that my buddy Agnes made - a fresh donut, with a slathering of dark chocolate icing, and a topping of potato chips (in reference to my observation that potato chips seemed to be turning up in everything). It was awesome (pictured, above).
I have even seen, on foofy cooking shows, a chef do a deep-fried ice-cream. This, I reckon, would be ace - creamy, soft ice-cream, set within a crispy, light, crunchy batter.
Then there is the Elvis sandwich - a hollowed out whole loaf of bread, stuffed with cheese, peanut butter and bacon, and deep-fried. Quite disgusting (kinda curious, though).
The worst deep-fried thing I have ever tasted was in Apia, Samoa. Concealed within sodden, soggy, fat-soaked batter was something brown and unidentifiable - was it meat? Was it gravy? Was it edible? I certainly didn't think so - straight in the bin.
One other thing: I will never deep-fry anything at home. I will never own a deep fryer, and I will never fry anything in a pan of deep, scalding hot oil. I reckon it is way too dangerous for someone with my capacity for dropping and breaking things. It is a treat that I reserve for eating out, and for being prepared by people who know what they are doing. And I think I only want to eat deep-fried things that actually require deep-frying to work: donuts, churros, spring rolls, fish and chips, samosas - yes; Mars bars, pies, butter, and of course, the "raspberry surprise"? Perhaps not.
Where do you draw the line on the deep-fried foodstuff? Deep-fried butter/pies etc - would you? And any confirmed sightings of the "rasp sup" since Timaru in the mid 80s?
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Photo courtesy of Agnes Maria Almeida - gracias!