I’m not sure how the best days got started. Looking back I’d like to know: Did I wake up and have breakfast, or get dressed first? Did I play in my room? I can’t remember the details of how they began, but they all ended up at the same place: our local mall in Oklahoma City.
A large orange structure stood in front of the main entrance. In my mind, it looked like huge orange sticks on top of each other. Perhaps to a more trained eye, it would have come across as an inspired piece of art, but alas, the orange sticks were in front of a windowed entrance to the mall. In the years to come, the orange sticks were torn down, replaced by a movie theater. No longer could you see the comings and goings at the front of the mall, the people being dropped off and waiting to be picked up. The best was when you noticed someone you knew and you could watch him or her discreetly from the safety of your place at the food court, which was directly behind the windows. The people who come to the mall now wouldn’t even know what they were missing, but I do.
For no particular reason, my mom and I would end up at the mall—maybe buying a shirt or shorts we didn’t need and getting some lunch. As a mom myself now, I realize you need an excuse to get out of the house. Usually my mom and I would go to the food court, where I would get the same thing every time: cheese-on-a-stick and a lemonade. As I got older, I earned the privilege to stand in line by myself and get my own cheese-on-a-stick, while my mom got a slice of pizza. Then we would meet up and, without discussing it, choose a table seemingly simultaneously. As the years went on, things changed. The cheese-on-a-stick store was replaced with a Subway. Boo.
These days, if I want cheese-on-a-stick, I have to wait for the fair to come to town. I have to make plans, park a mile away, pay to get in, and battle the lines. But the moment I bite into the melty fried American cheese, I can see out of the windows at the mall. I’m sitting at the old school table across from my mom. Maybe we aren’t even talking, we’re just being. Together.
And I’m having cheese-on-a-stick. It’s the best of times.
Natalie Bross lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and three daughters. She works in the field of adoption and writes in her free time.
Cheese On A Stick
(adapted from The Pioneer Woman)
6 c. Krusteaz pancake mix
2 c. yellow cornmeal
2 eggs, slightly beaten
4 - 6 c. water (more if needed to thin batter)
cheese (American or your favorite) cut Into 1/2-in. x 3 in. sticks
**USE CAUTION WHEN FRYING WITH OIL. KEEP POT ON THE BACK BURNER TO PROTECT SMALL KIDDOS**
In a large bowl, combine pancake mix and cornmeal.
Stir in eggs and water, starting with 4 cups, adding more water as needed for batter to become slightly thick (but not overly gloppy.)
Insert cheese onto chopsticks so that they're 2/3 of the way through.
Heat canola oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat.
Drop in a bit of batter, which should immediately start to sizzle but should not brown or burn.
Dip the cheese sticks into the batter and allow excess to drip off for a couple of seconds.
Carefully drop each stick into the oil (stick and all), using tongs or a spoon to make sure it doesn't hit the bottom of the pan.
Flip occasionally to ensure even browning.
Remove from oil when the outside is deep golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve with spicy mustard.