How Not To Make Donuts
By Gerald Smith
I am no chef or culinary genius by any measure, but the story I’m about to tell should amply highlight my expertise in the field of “how not to cook.”
As a young man of about 14 or 15, I really enjoyed making food for myself, and usually managed to make something resembling an edible substance, so it was no surprise one evening when I decided that I wanted to make some of those small, sugar covered donuts that can be found at about any Chinese restaurant. Just as usual, I looked up a recipe for the donuts I desired to make then proceeded to lay out all my ingredients and mix them together. I had never really used oil to deep fry anything before, so I had no idea how hot it needed to be, this is where I made the mistake that would lead to the series of small disasters that were about to occur in my parents newly remodeled kitchen.
I poured the vegetable oil into a small pan and put it on the burner of the stove, and, not knowing what temperature to heat it to, turned the burner on high heat. While forming the dough for the donuts into balls I noticed the oil was beginning to smoke a little bit, so I turned it down and dropped in a ball of dough. Immediately the dough turned dark brown, so I pulled it out. BAM!!!!!!! The pot of hot vegetable oil caught fire. I panicked!
In grade school I had taken a fire safety class that was given to everyone by one of the local firefighters. I remember we talked about grease fires and the man had told us not to pour water on a grease fire, because it would spread (this fact is important. I didn’t know where the fire could go since it was in a pan, which is what dictated my next actions, which turned out to be a chain of not-so- great decisions).
When you’re staring at a flaming pan that’s sitting on top of a stove, threatening to possibly catch something else on fire or fill your dwelling with nasty grease smoke, you tend to feel the need to extinguish it, which is what I decided to do after watching the flaming pan for a few seconds. I reacted, sitting the pan in the sink and jerking the cold water on. The only thing I saw was a flash, I felt pain and smelled burning hair. The bright flash was what caused the pain and smell of burning hair; the pain was fire burning my hands and face, the burning hair smell, my eyebrows being removed from my face by my failed donut experiment.
My mom had seen the flash from the other room and ran into the kitchen, only to discover that I had reacted on instinct and thrown the pan onto the kitchen floor, spilling oil all over. I regained enough vision by the time mom ran in to see her slip in the oil and flop on the floor. The kitchen was a disaster – the curtains were on fire above the sink, which I walked over to and casually blew out, the newly painted ceiling was tinted a light to dark gray, due to the burning curtains and the sudden explosion of water meeting burning oil. I knew right then that my father, who had painted the ceiling just a couple days before, was going to come home and murder me. I looked at my mom and the only thing that I managed to say was, “Don’t tell dad”, to which she just kind of laughed.
Everything turned out alright despite the greasy mess- mom called dad and told him what happened (his reaction was far more mild than I had assumed- he didn’t yell or scream, he just repainted the ceiling and bought mom some new curtains). I ended up with no eyebrows for most of the summer, and a very strong dislike of donuts, but other than that I received no punishment for my cooking.
Remember, if you ever cook donuts – Check the temperature of the oil, making sure it’s the appropriate temperature, NEVER pour water on a grease fire, because it will EXPLODE not spread, and if you do happen to catch the oil/ grease on fire, either cover it with a lid and let it suffocate, use a fire extinguisher, or pour flour or baking soda on the fire.
In the end it would have been far cheaper to go buy some donuts instead of doing the Martha Stewart thing and trying to make them myself. I have not attempted to make donuts again, and probably never will, which is a good thing- I don’t want to be torched by my cooking ever again.
© Gerald Smith