Speaking of funnel cakes, maybe there are just some things you shouldn’t attempt to DIY. Like croquembouche, or perhaps grain alcohol.

Or funnel cakes. At least not if you happen to be 11 years old. The combination of boiling oil and childhood can be a recipe for disaster. Luckily for T. Susan Chang, who tells the story of her and her sister’s adventures in funnel cakes on NPR’s Kitchen Window, the disasters are all of the comic variety.

Even the stove is malevolent in Chang’s engaging memoir:

Most daunting of all was the waiting stove, with the numbers worn off its knobs and the dangerous-looking grates. It looked as though it was entering into a battle of wits with two unarmed girls, and you could tell it knew who would win.

Things begin going wrong when the pot they washed especially for the project (but didn’t dry) becomes a sputtering cauldron, spraying them with scalding drops of oil. Next come flaming paper towels, charred dough, and saddened girls.

Afterward, we got a shovel and buried the funnel cake in the backyard — where, in a rare burst of good judgment, we figured no one would think to look for it. I went back three times to check it, feeling sure some sort of spiral-shaped bare patch would bear witness to our ignominy in future years.

If, after this, you still feel like making your own funnel cakes, Chang provides a recipe, along with some apparently hard-won tips for success.

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