What exactly IS a fritter?

Interesting you should ask that since there’s quite a lot of confusion on the matter. What shape should authenitc fritters be? Should they be more doughy or more crispy? Sweet or savory? Fruit or vegetable? Unfortunately there is no authoritative answer to any of those questions, since a fritter is literally just a “fried thing”. The word comes from the Old French friture, which has its roots in the Latin frigere which, unsurprisingly, means “fried”.

There are two basic types of fritters: those that are made from dough, and hence are more closely related to doughnuts and funnel cakes, and those that are made by dipping something (just about anything) in batter. Of the two, it’s hard to say which came first. Apple fritters are some of the oldest fritters known and they’re batter-dipped. On the other, hand fried dough pieces date back to at least ancient Rome in the West and well before that in the Middle East and India.

Here in the States we enjoy both styles, as evidenced by the near equal popularity of the aforementioned dipped apple fritter and it’s dough-based Southern cousin, the corn fritter. Of course one is sweet, the other savory, one dipped, the other made from dough, one made from a fruit, the other from a vegetable (really a grain), one is ball-shaped and the other is flat. Yet we call them the same thing. Why? I dunno. They’re both fried finger food. Get that quizzical look off your face and eat.

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