In all honesty, I don’t think that you are doing yourself a disfavor by going out and grabbing an occasional dozen donuts. I buy these 12 little guys to share, not to binge on, mind you. I am not referring to those monstrous delights boasting fried chicken, gummy snakes, and the like found at Gourdough’s, you Austinites. I am talking about a 7AM run to your local donut shop, often run by Korean individuals.
“What the heck do you mean by ‘donuts are not bad?’” Well, let’s just compare the ingredients in a simple donut recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/glazed-yeast-doughnuts/ . There are—count them—12 ingredients, none of them which are more foreign or unrecognizable than dry yeast. Really, sugar, oil, and flour, the base of the fried delicacies, are nothing different than what your (assumedly) healthier grandparents may have eaten. Many of you nutrition junkies understand that eating a balanced diet may allow for the occasional donut. Alas, there is growing concern on mysterious ingredients within our truly processed foods. Sure, donuts may not be anything close to “nutritionally dense”, but let us compare that to a common “healthy” breakfast bar:
CRUST: WHOLE GRAIN OATS, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), SUGAR, SOYBEAN OIL WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS, SOLUBLE CORN FIBER, WHEAT BRAN, CALCIUM CARBONATE, DEXTROSE, SALT, CELLULOSE, POTASSIUM BICARBONATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), ALPHA TOCOPHEROL ACETATE (VITAMIN E), SOY LECITHIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, WHEAT GLUTEN, CORNSTARCH, NONFAT MILK, NIACINAMIDE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CARRAGEENAN, ZINC OXIDE, REDUCED IRON, GUAR GUM, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID). FILLING: INVERT SUGAR, CORN SYRUP, WATER, GLYCERIN, CHERRY PUREE CONCENTRATE, SUGAR, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, POMEGRANATE JUICE CONCENTRATE, SODIUM ALGINATE, SODIUM CITRATE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, MALIC ACID, CITRIC ACID, METHYLCELLULOSE, DICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, CARAMEL COLOR, RED #40.
Any guesses? Kelloggs® Nutri-Grain® Fruit Fusion™ with Antioxidants Flavored Cereal Bars Cherry Pomegranate. Wow. Now, you can get antioxidants with your 50+ ingredient grab-n-go bar! 20+ ingredient filling, included!
Are you seeing my point? Yes, 2 bars could equal 1 medium donut, but is eating all those chemicals going to fix your sweet tooth? Go ahead, grab that donut. Now, aside from that rant on how much crap you are running towards when trying to shop healthy, let us consider the pure joy that comes from indulging in a good ol’ holed piece of starch cooked in an abundance of oil.
I am a momma’s boy and can recall when I would wake up with this sort of eerie sense that my mother went out to buy donuts for me. I would awake, and alas, that oily, starchy smell would perfume the air. Donuts, indeed, were on the breakfast table. I was not a milk drinker, but I sure loved OJ. OJ and donuts are grounds for a tart mouth, but I often enjoyed breaking up that overly sweet nuance of a donut with extreme tanginess that can only come from OJ. Of course, back then, I would put down 3 or 4 of those little guys flanked by a half dozen donut holes (yes, the less indulgent pieces of deep-fried goodness). Now, I have somewhat of a discerning discipline, but in all honestly, not much for a nutrition major. My fondest memory was when my friend and I went to a church all-night laser tag function; it lasted ‘til the wee hours of the morning. My friend and I passed out for a couple of hours. When we awoke, there was a box of donuts on the counter. I was so disoriented from the all-nighter jam-packed with laser-taggin’ goodness that I ate 8 whole donuts. Yikes. I fell back asleep, this time probably due to a sugar crash, for a good 6 hours. The flavor profile is pretty standard, whether you get a chocolate sprinkle, a blueberry cake, or apple fritter donut. The taste of yeast, sugar, and oil just combine to make this glorious flavor in your mouth that lasts all day, or until you brush your teeth or eat another meal.
I want to shed light on one more valuable aspect I see in the old fashioned donut that is so intrinsic in America’s culture, which appears to be lost in many a progressive city. They are almost always family run, often by the likes of individuals of Korean descent. They are always giving you the best of hospitality and throwing in extra donut holes. Just a little tip for those of you who are late risers: go near closing time (maybe 1PM or so) and they will often just pass off free ones, so not to waste. For early birds, the drive you make out to your local “Donut King” or “Crown Donut” or “Donut Palace” will be rewarded with an early entrance into the world of just-fried pieces of donut batter. Lastly, I don’t know how the heck it happens, but the recipe almost always tastes the same no matter where you get them. I have this theory that all local donut shops in the United States share some sort of cult underground recipe book. The benefit of having a standardized process, apparently intrinsic in all donut entrepreneurs, is that you always know what you are going to get. The roughly $5 you pay per dozen does not hurt, to boot. Has this post got you drooling for want of these cheap, sweet, and diet-killing pieces of assorted ingredients fried in the cheapest of fat?
I hope this post has got you thinking a little more about the donut culture, aside from all the hip little institutions that have just opened or have long run the town, specifically Austin. There is Gourdough’s, Ken’s, and even Mrs. Johnson’s, but you should not even dare overlook the simple little neighborhood shop. Austin, being a health centric city, doesn’t have much of a market for generic donut shops, but they are such a treat! Utilize the internet to find the closest one to you, and you will be rewarded. To close, I just wanted to you see that anything you eat in America has a longstanding history. Heck, just take a beloved childhood treat and see if you can trace it back for the nostalgic value, if anything else. Analyze a little into your own food history, and it will open doors for memories and random thoughts galore.