Learning to share the funnel cake

Funnel cake

I see you over there, eyeballin’ my funnel cake.

It looks fantastic, right? The ultimate in fried pleasure. Perfectly golden on the outside, crispy on the edges, but still doughy in the center.

Warm from the fryer, the grease soaking through my paper plate.

Covered in powdered sugar, which is just beginning to form the most finger-licking crust.

Few things in life provide as much joy as a really good funnel cake — and they’re not all created equal, friends. The ones at our local baseball stadium? Lackluster. The creations at our county fair? AMAZING.

I know I should share one with my sister, a fellow funnel cake lover, or my husband — but, you know, I’m greedy. I can’t help myself. Though I have no problem stealing food off others’ plates (rude, I know), I don’t like to share dessert.

Ever.

As I continue seeking healthy eating and try to keep the weight off, though, I’m in the habit of avoiding sugar . . . until I get to an event. It’s harder to say no when deep-fried goodness is all around you, perfuming the air, and everyone has a corn dog or fried Oreo or funnel cake in their messy hands. I’m pretty strong, but I’m not that strong.

Where once I would have hogged a funnel cake all to myself, though, I keep working on balance — and know devouring an entire one alone is probably not wise.

So I shared. I shared on Sunday.

Spencer and I split one while my sister and brother-in-law had another, and the results? Pretty great. Successful. I ate my fill of fried goodness while feeling (somewhat) less guilty, and we all left feeling coated in powdered sugar in the best possible way.

The key to staying on track — with Weight Watchers, yes, but in general — is not to restrict yourself completely from foods you love. As our mothers always told us, All things in moderation. This has been the lasting strategy that keeps me from returning to old, unhealthy habits, and is one I plan to continue indefinitely.

Some goodies are “trigger foods,” though — and a year ago? I would not have had the funnel cake. At all. It’s a gateway food, and it would have been too easy for me to return to bad habits and eating whatever struck my fancy as often as I liked — a routine that brought me to my heaviest weight ever with health troubles that kicked off my mission to drop the pounds.

But I’m no dieting saint. I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that, for me, the occasional half of a funnel cake has to be okay — and as along as I wake up tomorrow still staying the course and choosing health, I’m doing all right.

For me, food once brought guilt: guilt of eating too much; eating “bad things”; snacking too much or too little; making the “wrong choices” and not doing anything about it.

I feel farther removed from the woman I once was 35 pounds ago, but I’m concentrating on not falling into habits that brought me there in the first place. Weight loss is great, sure, but how I live now is really about living. Reaching a sustainable level. Getting into habits that will serve me well for the rest of my life.

Even if I haven’t been tracking as religiously as I used to, I can see the fruits of that discipline in everything I do. Fresh produce, smaller portions, lean protein — and far less sweets.

Aside from the occasional funnel cake, of course.

It’s really not optional.


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Off to the fair

I like to pretend that I hate the annual county fair — that it’s silly, and muddy, and just a little bit too “country” — but I have to admit, perhaps for the first time, that it’s actually pretty fun.

Despite the fact that it was nearly 95 degrees in mid-September, my mom, sister and our boyfriends Eric and Palmer (respectively) trudged over to the fairgrounds in the afternoon to check out the funnel cakes, ice cream, rides and games. Mom entered one of her lovely sunset photos in the photography competition and, though she did not win, it was nice to see her work on display.

As with any event I attend, my focus is usually on what sort of delicious edible things are around. In this case, of course, we’re talking fair food — not quite as exciting as baseball food, but still pretty awesome. Funnel cake was a main source of enjoyment, as was Palmer’s peanut butter-coated chocolate ice cream cone. Peanuts, cheese steaks, kettle corn and roasted almonds were other classic choices. I behaved myself and merely indulged in a little of Katie and Eric’s funnel cake — which I managed to avoid getting all over my pants this go ’round.

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Blue Crabs and stadium eating

We got to our third Blue Crabs game of the season last night — and it was a great night for baseball! I made the smart choice of wearing long sleeves, even though I’m wary to give up my flip-flops and crop pants so soon. Along that vein, though, I already had to wear my black dress pants to work this morning — it’s freezing cold in here, and the overcast day isn’t helping.

I like going to baseball games for, well, the baseball — but what do I love about going to baseball games?

The food, of course!

Last night was a lovely quest in stadium eating, including both funnel cake and ice cream. I managed to successfully drench myself in powdered sugar from neck to knee. And the choice of a black shirt was definitely smooth on my part. When it seemed like I didn’t really get quite as messy as I could have, Dad was happy to oblige. Hey, at least it wasn’t windy.

When I’m not enjoying all of the food at baseball games, I’m participating in the random songs they like to pipe through the PA system. My favorite is, of course, “Sweet Caroline” — all because of one of my favorite movies, Fever Pitch. It never gets old! Especially when she gets smacked in the face with the baseball . . . We had one close call with baseballs raining from the ceiling last night, but overall we escaped bodily harm.

Back to the food, though — why is it just so delicious? Part of the issue is probably that, sitting in a smaller stadium, the lovely aroma of hot dogs, popcorn, funnel cake and fries drapes over your seats like an ever-present blanket. You can’t get away from it. And when you like to eat and you have even an inkling of wanting said fries or hot dogs or funnel cakes, you can’t get that thought out of your head. So you sit and wait, watch the game, shift awkwardly in your seat. Until you just can’t take it anymore. You’re up and running over between innings, frantically pulling a wrinkled bill from your pocket, shoving it at the unsuspecting folks manning the concession stands. And when you’re finally seated once more with that delicious food in your lap, the pay-off is outstanding.

This was our last Blue Crabs (and baseball) game of the season — and I’ll miss baseball until its triumphant return next year. But the memory of that funnel cake will keep me warm through the winter!