The age of the fritter is nearly upon us

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 10:35 03/11/2012

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This is the cusp. This is the edge of something great to be pulled from something dire - the age of the fritter is soon to be upon us, and it will be good.

But there is a lot to learn if you are to be ready and there is a lot to unlearn. Make no mistake there will be a lot of learning and unlearning. To begin with you must know what a fritter is and what a fritter is not.

A fritter is not a rissole, even though in many ways they are the same. But know this and remember, whereas a fritter is good, a rissole is bad. A rissole should no longer exist. It is a throwback to the 1970s when it was cooked by mothers exacting culinary revenge on the world and the gender roles still so strongly defined just a few decades ago.

Along with minced meat, beans and bread crumbs the main ingredient was spite, often served with a dry coleslaw of dissatisfaction.

Neither is a fritter a patty, although in shape and cooking fashion they are very much alike. A patty is a meat byproduct you will find in a chain store hamburger. It looks like meat, chews like meat but is actually sheep hooves and chicken beaks and one of the world's great food crimes.

It is not a fritter, can never be a fritter. But there are even fritters that are not fritters. There are false fritters which bear the fritter name to lead you astray. Tasty as it might be the whitebait fritter is a pretender. It goes against all principles of what a fritter must be, mostly because the main ingredient is gold for which you must mortgage your first born to obtain.

There is also the fish and chip shop paua fritter, the stunningly impressive example of reverse culinary alchemy that turns one of the sea's great delicacies into deep fried mud. It is an insult to fritters, an insult to ingredients.

You must also steer clear of the cafe menu corn fritter served with bacon. These are not fritters. These are minced car tyres dyed yellow, cooked by the bandaid- riddled hand of a mis-trained chef and sold to you for $17.

And do not forget the foreign pretender - the frittata. This is nothing but an exotic way of saying egg and chips to trick you into paying handsomely for that which you would not cook yourself.

A true fritter is better than all of these. A true fritter begins at home, is two eggs, flour and whatever you can dream up, whatever is left in the fridge. Grated and diced and mixed with beaten egg whites and fried into a crisp cloud in a thick finger of oil even leftover peas become a king's feast.

A true fritter is cooked just seconds before it is eaten, its crunchy edges still steaming as it's sprinkled with a twist of salt. It is a parcel of surprise, a meal of some excitement, the starter of smiles, the ender of conversations, the lubricant of the family cogs.

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And, if you do it right, this cheat meat, this pizza-like emulsification of shallow fried luxury, should only cost you about 20 cents a throw even while all around you the unprepared dissolve into tears as their meat and three veg becomes an unaffordable nostalgia. Which is, and ready or not as you may be, the main reason the age of the fritter is soon to be upon us again.

Blame whatever or whoever you want for the food inflation that will drive us back to the mixing bowl. Blame the drought in Russia that cut wheat production, the other drought in the US that did the same to corn. If that's not satisfying enough blame our animal urge to create more mouths to feed just because there's nothing on TV.

You could even don a mask, wave a placard and blame the oil industry for allowing us to grow accustomed to cheap food, or free trade that destroyed local food independence as it drove prices down. Then there are commodity traders and the artificial scarcity they love to create. Why not blame the Chinese and their increasing wealth and the appetite for meat a healthy bank account will bring.

But in the end blame will not fill your stomach and keep your wallet plump like a fritter will. Blame will not have workmates peering enviously into your lunch box as they suffer through a dry Marmite and lettuce sandwich while you smile and grin contentedly. It is a fritter that will do this.

The age of the fritter is nearly upon us. This is not a warning. This is a welcome.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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