The Truth Behind Fried Sugar Balls

Recently, the legend of Fried Sugar Balls has resurfaced online. The time has come for me to reveal all for the record. Some details, such as dates, are hazy, but I will endeavor to be as complete as possible in my recounting of

The Story of Fried Sugar Balls!

In 1990, I was reading the local paper in my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, when I came across the “Recipe of the Week.” Now, I don’t remember the recipe precisely, but in my reconstructed memory, it was something like “Potato Chip Casserole,” which combined various substances like marshmallows, Fruit Loops, and shredded carrots to create a 1950s-style dinner of no nutritional value. At the end, the author claimed that even people who didn’t like carrots would love this dish.

Potato Chip Casserole, or possibly “Jello Pot Pie,” inspired me to write & send in my own submission for Recipe of the Week. I called them Fried Sugar Balls and used the pseudonym Selma Small. The ingredients were margarine, sugar, lard, and more sugar. At the end, I wrote that even people who say they don’t like lard will love this dish.

I remember exactly where I was when I first realized that my recipe had been chosen as Recipe of the Week. I was standing in line at the local co-op grocery store & the people near me were talking about a bizarre recipe they saw in the paper. After an angry person who had tried to make the recipe complained to the newspaper and demanded her money back, the buzz started spreading about Fried Sugar Balls. The New Yorker Magazine reproduced the recipe in their May 7, 1990 issue, apparently as an example of how idiotic people in Indiana were. But of course, the joke was on them. I also heard that an ad agency in Chicago had made the recipe into a poster.

Now, Bloomington is a small enough town that I was pretty sure the editor of the paper had figured out who had written the recipe. I thought that he may be angry, but I also thought that he just might go for a regular column by Selma Small. Each week, Selma would write about a subject of interest and include a lard recipe. I actually wrote the first article, but I never submitted it. It struck me that I might be making fun of rednecks. I should point out that I was at the age where my pre-frontal cortex had just fully developed, giving me enough of a grasp on right and wrong to stop myself from something I would have gone ahead with at, say, age 22. Damn that pre-frontal cortex!

Several years later, when I was running a downtown art gallery with Rachel Whang, I overheard a couple talking about Fried Sugar Balls during an art opening. I told them that I had authored the recipe, and they revealed that one of them had kept the recipe in his wallet to that day. I am so glad that a little margarine boiled in lard was able to enrich the lives of so many.

So here is a link to the original recipe, which someone (I have no idea who) posted on line (the parenthetical funny line at the end was added by the New Yorker):

Fried Sugar Balls Recipe *

*Looks like that page no longer exists, but some folks pasted references to the recipe here.

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