Elizabeth Zimmerman saves the (deep fried) day

Today was the inauguration of my new deep fryer, a Christmas present from the boyfriend’s grandmother. My friend Jenny and I share a deep love of fried and otherwise ridiculously unhealthy foods, so we hit the grocery store and settled in for some serious caloric overkill with Julia, as we dubbed the sleek little machine — named, of course, for the dear departed Julia Child, whom I love for her habit of peeking over the shoulders of the guests on her cooking show as they worked and constantly sneaking bites of the food at every opportunity, regardless of whether it was ready or even cooked yet.

    Things we covered in batter and then deep fried and ate as we consumed a steady stream of Newcastles:

  1. Zucchini
  2. Mozzarella cubes
  3. One Snickers bar
  4. Twinkies
  5. One Ding-Dong

There were, as you can see, two main courses: savory and dessert. There was an uncomfortably long intermission between them when the deep fryer suddenly turned itself off and refused to switch back on. We panicked at the threat of ending our deep-frying adventures early and dessertless, fried a couple more pieces of zucchini in the still-hot oil to fortify ourselves with, and consulted the manual. After unplugging and re-plugging everything we could, we determined that the incredibly safety-conscious designers of the deep fryer had calibrated the fryer to switch itself off at a temperature only slightly above the highest setting — the most important one, since it is the one used to make French fries — and turning it back on meant resetting the safety switch.

The switch lived at the bottom of a narrow, half-inch-deep hole in the back of the fryer. After gingerly turning the little tank of boiling hot oil around, I poked at the little recess with a ballpoint pen, just like the manual said. Problem: a pen wouldn’t fit in the hole. The long, narrow reset button could only be pressed with something flat, since anything pointy (like, for example, the recommended ballpoint pen) would slip right off it.

After various pens, a pencil, a thermometer and everything else in the kitchen failed to reach the switch, I searched the whole house for something not-pointy, narrow and long enough to hit the damn switch, and I kept coming up with nothing. As I went from room to room, nothing jumped out at me, until I saw the jar full of old Susan Bates plastic knitting needles on my desk. Something kicked in the back of my head and I remembered a brief reference in “Knitting Without Tears” to fixing a broken outboard motor with an aluminum knitting needle. Of course!

I tried a #5, but it was too big. So was the #3. I took down my big roll of needles, dug out a pair of weird old German steel needles I found for a dollar at Saver’s, and returned to the kitchen. I poked the switch with the head of the needle and Jenny and I glowed as we heard a gentle but definite click. Success! Elizabeth Zimmerman had saved the calorie-saturated, Twinkie-laden day!

“A #6 aluminum needle has been known to furnish an excellent emergency shearpin for an outboard motor. It once saved us seven miles of paddling. Then I had to spend hours re-pointing the needle on rocks, having nobly, but foolishly, offered the business end instead of the knob end for sacrifice.”
— Elizabeth Zimmerman, “Knitting Without Tears”

And if you were wondering, a deep-fried Twinkie tastes as amazing as it sounds disgusting. Promise me you’ll try it at least once in your life.