Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Donuts, the staff of life

I love donuts and that's all there is to it. I also have high cholesterol but I'm on medication for it, and even if I weren't, I'd probably still eat donuts because, well, why bother living? Having said that, I'm actually a fairly picky donut eater. I like cake donuts with icing and sprinkles, and occasionally a jelly-filled donut, and that's about it. If I walk into Kroger's and go back to the bakery section and they don't have iced cake donuts, I don't buy any. (That's a little white lie; I might stop by the Hostess display to look for powered Donette Gems, and perhaps, a cou0le of times a year, I'll settle for some Entenmann's crumb donuts.)

My donuts of preference, in reverse order:

5) Hostess Donette Gems (I ate a package of 6 of those every single morning of my 5-year-plus graduate school stay)

4) Kroger or Giant Eagle cake donuts.

3) Tim Horton's Strawberry Vanilla (a jelly donut)

2) Donut Kitchen's stick donuts, which look nothing like sticks of anything, but instead like crescents of sugary lusciousness.

1) Dutch crumb donuts from Honey Dip Donuts: huge cake donuts with big crumbs on the outside; any more attempt at description would just be blasphemy against what I call God's Own Donut.

I am slightly overweight for my height (155 lbs, 5'7") but given my donut consumption, I feel lucky that I'm not a lumbering "overfed, leaping gnome" (in the words of Eric Burdon's "Spill the Wine"). My mornings MUST begin with coffee, and since coffee without some kind of solid food gives me a stomach ache, I MUST have a donut or two (yes, honestly, usually 2). I've been trying to alternate donuts with high-fiber oatmeal, and have actually been doing a fairly good job of that, but some mornings, only donuts will suffice.

So it was with some small amount of joy that I started reading Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut by Paul R. Mullins. It's a study of the donut (I will not spell it "doughnut") written by an anthropologist and published by a university press, so it's rather academic in nature, therefore not the book to read if you want the author to go off on whimsical flights of dreamy prose about the donut. Instead, he uses words like "consumption" and "foodways" and writes sentences like this one: "When we talk about doughnuts, that discussion reveals our politics, class, and culture and illuminates complicated underlying sentiments toward consumer culture, global capitalism, and body discipline." When I discuss donuts, my discussion, much like that of Homer Simpson's, reveals how much I'm wanting to have another donut right now.

Speaking of Homer Simpson, I must give the author credit for devoting a fair amount of space to Homer and his legendary love of donuts. Mullins also does a nice job exploring the issues of class embedded in donut lore (the stereotypes of the chummy working-class gatherings at donut shops and the policemen who supposedly gather there in droves). I was a little disappointed in the "history" part, however; he spends a great deal of time talking about the big donut store chains, such as Krispy Kreme, but the actual history of the confection itself seems to be lost in the mists of time. He also talks quite a bit the cultural load the donut carries, symbolizing everything about bad food habits in general, but notes more than once that there are lots worse things for you than donuts in moderation. The book is OK, but frankly, I'd like one with more pictures (I'm serious) and more about the actual piece of heaven that is the donut.


  1. Krispy Kreme has made it to England. Sign of the Age of Aquarius or of the Apocalypse? The book sounds really fascinating. Myself, I'm partial to a good, cream (NOT custard) -filled long john. But a fresh cake donut, I agree, is a thing of beauty.

  2. Actually, the book begins with a brief discussion about the fact that Krispy Kreme is now inside Harrod's (I think) and how shocking that is to some people. But really, even the stiff-upper-lip types have to give in to the Donut Empire!