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The Donut Named America

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

Donuts, doughnuts - however you refer to them, have been making a comeback over the past few years. Little tiny ones, cake ones, traditional ones, big ones, giant ones...all sorts of shapes and sizes and styles to suit your sweet tooth. Specialty bakeries - donut shops - have popped up everywhere it seems, and each one tries to outdo the last creating Insta-worthy concoctions that are often beyond the limits of consumption for the average person.

I went to one of these shops the other day. The display shelves teeming with tantalizing treats - the kind that make your eyes pop and fingers point and elicits sounds like "oooh!" and "whaaaaaat?". Hardy bases, larger than my palm and at least as tall as my thumb, served as foundations for confectionary constructions meant to astound you. Creams, and butters, and chocolates, heaped and layered, with candies and cereal and cookie bits...each one a diabetic disaster and a sweet-lovers ultimate fantasy. Clever names for each creation tempted you to buy them just for fun - even if the combination of flavors wasn't your particular cup of tea. And of course, there's always a deal if you buy more than one.

I fell hook, line, and sinker. I bought six. I just couldn't decide. The shop wasn't around the corner, and it was crowded and I was hungry, and I had actually put my name on a list to get IN to this place - I wasn't going to pass up anything - FOMO set it and it took everything I had to not buy dozen as I watched the throngs of customers make similar decisions.

I walked out of the shop with the pretty box that I had seen others earlier in the evening hauling along with them, keeping them horizontal as to not destroy the art inside. It bore some weight and I wondered how people found themselves schlepping that inconvenient sized box around with them the rest of evening. I found a table, grabbed some napkins and waited until others were with me to share in the unveiling.

Opening the box, music played in my head - something akin to a soaring overture as my eyes took in the glory of the sugared masterpieces. The looks of others around me - their gazes of approval, or of wonder - some tinged with envy - excited me. Which would I try first? What order would best suit me? What's the last flavor I want to walk away with? How do I even approach some of these - they won't fit in my mouth. What if I don't eat them all? Wait, how in the world could I possibly eat them all? What am I going to do with them? Where will I put them? How far back to the car do I have to walk? What did I just do???

I stared at the box. The glistening glazes sparkling in the artificial light. The wales of whipped creams begging to be bitten in to. The smells of chocolate, peanut butter, buttercream, caramel, fruit jelly, cinnamon, and sugar made me delirious and pleasantly dizzy.

I looked around me. Many others in the now same conundrum as I. I couldn't even share - as everyone around me had just as ample and some even more so portions to contend with.

I sighed. Nothing inside this box was good for me. It was pretty. It was going to be delicious - I was sure of it. Just having it in my possession sated and delighted the young girl inside me, eyes bigger than her stomach. Now what was I going to do? It wasn't inexpensive for what doesn't amount to much more than some fried dough and sugar. I couldn't just throw it away. One of them was big enough to provide the calories needed for a day for at least two people. People are starving. Kids are eating their only meals at lunchtime in school. And I have...this.

I cut a few of them in half and decided to try them. I had to. Maybe it was the sudden wave of moribund guilt, or perhaps the heaping of flavor on flavor that just canceled things out - but they were, in the end, a disappointment. Sure, the visceral sensation was there - the creaminess, the soft grit of the sugar, the crunch of some of the add-ins, but the sweet reward came up empty.

It was all too much all at once. They were beautiful. They were big. Some of them were beyond my imagination. But they tried to be too many things at the same time. More of anything, and certainly more of everything, is not necessarily better. I had been swept away in the magic of marketing and the buyer's remorse ran deep.

I wound up hauling them home and sticking them in the fridge. They traveled surprisingly well. I managed to consume another half of one of them, but now, in the light of day and the setting of reality the excess in front of me was simply grotesque and I couldn't bring myself to eat any more. The rest sat in the fridge for another week or so until I tossed them in the trash, still perfectly formed.

They'll survive for a while. They're coated in so much sugar it will take them a bit to really decompose. Not even sure if any wildlife would take to them. And then, after a long while, they'll give in to time and the elements, and dissolve into the earth, or whatever heap they wound up on.

I still love donuts - their nutritional aspect aside. Just a simple, small, glazed confection that can take you back to a happier time, or simply bring you some innocent, quiet joy for a moment. But I think that's the thing about them - they don't need all the bells and whistles - they don't need to be bigger-better-faster-more. A box of them can bring folks together; they can be used in celebration and in mourning; they can demonstrate gratitude; they can get you through the day. The humble pastry stands well on its own, a classic that has survived generation after generation, and will endure, steadfast in its ability to appeal so broadly. You can even make a healthier version of them, while still retaining the classic aspects that keep them so popular. And maybe...that's where we need to go.

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