AZ. For one brief shining moment, the world's largest frybread
sizzled triumphantly in its giant custom-made pan.
The hundred or so people gathered round it last Friday with
rumbling stomachs witnessed history in the making.
Alas, the rest of the world will never know.
The 18 pages of rules sent to Diné College by the Guinness
Book of World Records clearly stated the frybread would have to
remain intact until it was eaten, and such was not the case. As
the cheering studentbody officers watched their creation brown seductively,
their faces started to fall.
One by one, it occurred to them: No one had thought of how to
remove the six-foot-in-diameter monster -- their attempt at the
first-ever world's largest frybread -- from the pan of sizzling
Eventually a daring plan was concocted: One brave student would
hold the behemoth bread in place with a piece of plywood while the
others tilted the pan and poured off the 150 gallons of cooling
Fortunately this was accomplished with no injuries. But when
it came time to slide the giant disk onto another piece of plywood,
disaster struck. As the crowd let out a collective gasp, the 150-pound
monster, no stronger than your average bread, slumped into a mass
of about 600 average-sized pieces of frybread.
The record was lost. But the famished crowd, some of whom had
been there for hours, ate their fill. It was actually pretty good
bread, in spite of the fact that no Bluebird flour was used.
"We couldn't afford it," explained Associated Students of Diné
College President Robin McGee, who organized the effort.
McGee, covered in flour and sporting some minor splatter-burns,
appeared unscathed by the failure.
"It was fun," she shrugged. "It was so weird!"
"I don't feel disappointed at all," echoed ASDC Treasurer Earlson
Manson, who said the attempt set the club back about $1,100 in spite
of dozens of donations. "It's just the first attempt. Next year
they'll know better."
The crowd of well-wishers, meanwhile, could only marvel at the
"All the teamwork!" gushed English professor Debbie Robinson.
"The students, the cafeteria staff, maintenance, our chief financial
officer, even the art department (art professor Don Whitesinger
had run to get a huge piece of canvas to slide the dough on to move
it to the pan) all working together! It just shows you what we can
accomplish when we all work as a team here."
Unfortunately, Diné College has no engineering department,
and that was probably the missing piece of the team. But no matter.
At least now the people at Guinness know what frybread is. And if
some other Native college wants to make a stab at it, the groundwork
is laid for a world-record frybread.
"When I called Guinness to ask them about it, their first reaction
was, "What?'" recalled McGee. "I had to explain to them about frybread."
The record people then came up with a recipe to follow as well
as an exhaustive list of regulations from their "giant foods" category.
McGee, who graduates this year, first conceived the idea of
creating, and then going for, a frybread record two years ago.
"I thought, "How could we get student unity?'" she recalled.
"'What could we do that the whole campus could get behind?'"
Frybread, apparently, was that thing.
"It's something not just Navajo, it's something all Natives
have," said McGee, who is a Stockbridge-Munsee from Wisconsin.
They ended up using a Navajo-style recipe, however.
"I was like, "Where are we going to get the powdered milk?'"
McGee said. "The Navajos were like, "Powdered milk?'"
When the question of how to turn the bread came up, a student
from Utah volunteered that in Utah, they deep-fry the dough, eliminating
the need for turning.
The rules stated that the giant food has to be prepared identically
to the normal-sized version, so doing it "Utah-style" was the ticket.
But how to fry the beast? The group checked into having a welding
company make a giant fry pan, but the cost was prohibitive.
Then ASDC Secretary Amanda Means, whose mother works for Chinle
Unified School District, hit on the idea of asking Chinle High School's
Career and Technical Education Department for help.
Welding instructor JR Wagner caught the vision right away. "He
was so helpful," said McGee.
By the time the date to attempt the record rolled around, the
students had a beautiful, round seven-foot pan at their disposal,
courtesy of their younger cousins at Chinle High.
Someone donated a load of firewood to heat it up.
Food Services Director Franco Lee offered the giant mixer in
the college's kitchen, but even it was too small É the dough
had to be mixed in three separate 50-pound batches, then kneaded
Starting at 4 p.m., it took a good four hours to mix the dough,
shape it and fry it. Of course there were many frybread experts
in the crowd hollering advice.
"It's too thick. They should whack it with a shovel," murmured
"Should have used Bluebird," clucked another.
There's always next year
The sizzling dough was held down in the oil and kept from popping
with special implements created by the Chinle welding class, large
disks on the end of curving poles.
It smelled divine, and everyone who watched the attempt missed
dinner. You could actually hear people's stomachs growling.
Although the volunteers who worked on the project looked completely
spent by the end of the day, there was already talk of trying again
next year. Unfortunately, most of the crew will be graduating, so
the next batch of record-attempters will have to review this year's
attempt so they don't end up reinventing the wheel.
That won't be hard. Since Guinness required the whole process
to be minutely documented, there are four hours of mouth-watering
Their toughest competition may be whichever college McGee ends
up going to to finish her four-year degree in Native American studies
and behavioral science.
"I may just take this with me," she said.