I leave for work at six in the “what-in-god’s-name-am-I-doing-at-this-time-in-theˮ morning. It’s not a choice I make freely. If I wait any longer than that, my 35 minute commute expands exponentially as the morning drags on.
At the end of my drive, about a mile away from my workplace, sits an unobtrusive plaza, with an unobtrusive donut shop. The shop is so unobtrusive, that it took me several months to even notice it existed, and several more before I thought that it might be in my interest to see what wares they sell.
Donuts and other related pastries such as apple fritters, bear claws and cruellers are odd beasts. Much like cheese, sausage and a plethora of other examples, the tradition and taste of donuts has been blasphemed by the likes of Hostess, the bakeries of Safeway, Kroger’s and the countless other companies who feel the urge to wrap donuts in cellophane and allow them to sit in vending machines for months on end.
Located in a vending machine not 30 steps from my office is a package containing a “cinnamon roll”. It has been there since the new vending machine was put in place in late April. I can tell you, without opening this package, how it will taste. The icing, with its solid stark white color, will be overly sweet, designed to cover-up the fact that the pastry portion of the roll will be dense, dry and taste of styrofoam. Each bite taken from the roll will be a chore, with it taking up to 3 or 4 minutes to fully masticate the pastry to the point where I can even get it down my throat. Afterwards, each bite will sit like a stone deep within the recess of my stomach, painfully reminding me for the rest of the day that I had made an unwise eating decision.
I can make this guess on how this pastry will taste because 99% of every donut, maple bar, cinnamon roll, crueller, bear claw, danish or apple fritter made to sit upon a shelf for a period longer than two days tastes this way. A dense, stale donut is a bad donut.
The donut has earned its place in pop culture history. It’s iconic. Police are supposed to love them. Homer Simpson eats several a day. In the Route 66 of my imagination, I see one or two donut shops with 30 foot donuts placed above, alerting travelers on where to get their sugar buzz.
I have no evidence to prove this, but I think that this icon has seen better days. I don’t see as many donut shops as I used to. Outside of a business meeting or two I don’t hear of people eating donuts much anymore. Long ago, I can recall of special Saturday mornings where a dozen or so were brought home, now a donut is something that is purchased singluarly, along side the CaffÃ¨ Latte.
Ah yes, coffee – the second reason of the donut’s downfall. Twenty years ago, if a person wanted a good cup of coffee, the donut shop was seen as the keeper of the bean. If a trucker needed a caffeine fix, the 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts was the prime location.
Then Starbucks entered the equation. Starbucks, whose selection of scones, cakes and yes, even donuts can best be described with the phrase “(Sigh). Well…at least they tried”. Here in Seattle, Starbucks provides one or two selections made by the dependable Top Pot doughnuts, where they get equal billing with the “too-dry” scones and the “what-were-they-thinking”? cinnamon sticks. Outside of Seattle? *shrugs* It’s not a priority for them – at least not while they’re pimping their Banana Coconut FrappuccinoÂ® Blended Coffee.
Banana and Coconut? In a coffee?
I notice the sign above the entrance – “Sunrise Donuts”. Clearly here was a shop who knew what was going on with their donuts. Their sign was telling the world when the best time was for picking up their product.
And here was I, at their doorstep at six thirty in the “what-in-god’s-name-am-I-doing-at-this-time-in-the” morning. I am a lucky person at times, because early morning is the best time to get great donuts. The reason? Early morning is when most donuts get made.
Krispy Kreme understands something that no one else seems to be able to grasp. Donuts (and bear claws, apple fritters and maple bars) are best within 30 minutes out of the oil. Their neon lights flashing “FRESH NOW” have clued people in world wide of the proper moment of donut bliss. Glazed or not glazed, a fresh donut from Krispy Kreme is a great donut. Too bad they don’t know how to balance their checkbook.
I leave “Sunrise Donuts” with a white bag containing an apple fritter and a donut glazed so fine that I swear I could see my reflection in it. I scurry on towards my workplace and set up a makeshift breakfast nook upon my workdesk. Along with a simple cup of drip coffee (with a bit of cream), I indulge in the fresh pastries. The Apple fritter is first up, and it tears easily into my mouth. The pastry is light and fluffy, and the glaze gives it an almost imperceptible crunch as it sweetens the homemade apple filling. Beneath all of this is the subtle hint of oil, which reminds me that this is a treat and not an everyday indulgence.
While eating the glazed donut, my mind concocts various punishments for the atrocities that Hostess and Little Debbie have foisted upon us. I decide upon having to force their various board of directors watch people enjoy freshly made donuts while all they have is their meager products. Oh, and if they put down their donut, we get to chuck it at them. I believe that’d be proper penance.