American Donut Choices

Which donut do you think of when you hear that word?

Yeast-raised or cake?  Ring or rectangle?  Glazed or chocolate-iced?  Sprinkles or chopped nuts?  Jelly-filled covered in powdered sugar or a cinnamon flavored twisty-braid?  Maybe you picture a white paper bag full of warm donut holes or a cardboard box of coconut-dusted flattened spheres.

So many donut-related choices.

And what about the pressure of ordering an entire dozen?  Ever buy donuts before work or school?  There’s always a line, and when it’s your turn, you best know which exact dozen you want.  And how to subtract.

“May I help you?”

“Let’s start with two chocolate crullers and two glazed.  How many more?”

“You have eight more.”

“One of the pink-frosted cake and two of the Boston Éclairs.  How many more?”

“Five more.”

“Are you sure?”

Come on, man, don’t question the donut lady’s math.  She’s been up since 4:00 a.m. making eighty-nine different varieties of fried dough for you.  She subtracts from twelve for a living, pal, you gotta trust her numbers or we’ll be here all morning.

Who sells the best donuts?

Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim Hortons, local Mom and Pop?  Where I live, there are about four different donut shops, and each one has their own way of making them.   Some are crispier, some are doughier, and one place has icing that melts too easily.  When I lived in Los Angeles, everybody ate Krispy Kreme donuts.  They’re like warm, doughy crack, and I’ve watched grown men and women eat their entire dozen in the parking lot before they even pull away.

Hey, no judgment here.

My guy is the yeast-raised, chocolate-iced ring.  It’s a classic that’s available at most locations.  The best version of it I’ve had is from Biagio’s Donuts on the east side of Cleveland.  Warm, doughy, tasty firm icing, always fresh.  My family of six grew up eating two Biagio’s donuts apiece after Sunday mass.  It’s the first place I take my mom when I visit.

Buying donuts for others makes you a hero.

Show up anywhere with a dozen donuts – your office, a meeting, any gathering of friends – and you own the moment.  You’re the boss while they last.  Just show up and utter the sweet, magical words of the donut bringer:

“Help yourselves, everybody.”

There’s always a mad dash to be the first one in the box.  First choice is golden. You get to pick the best of the bunch, but it’s not necessarily easy to do.  With the way they pack them all in sideways, it’s hard to tell which is what.

Unless you’re a pro.

If it’s not your first donut rodeo, you only need a second to terminator-scan and recognize what’s in the box.  My eyes can spot my yeast-raised, chocolate-iced ring in a box of sideways strangers as quickly as I can find my wife in a roomful of women.

I know what I like when I see it.

My problem is when someone else bought the donuts but didn’t include my favorite.  Now I’m forced to consider second- and third-tier choices.  Yeast-raised glazed is an acceptable alternative to my chocolate-iced guy, but after that the choices start thinning out.  Jelly-filled?  Too messy for me.  Maple icing?  Too flavor-specific.  Frosted and sprinkled cake donuts?   Why would you even buy those?

Unless it’s the last donut.

Then I feel lucky just to be involved.  Whatever is left, as long as it hasn’t been poked or fingered, is at least a donut.  And as it’s true for sex and tacos, any type of donut is better than no donut at all.

Today is donut Friday in the Lukas household.

If our kids wake up and get to school on time all week, they are rewarded with a donut when they get home on Friday.  It’s what they look forward to and what motivates them to start their days.  If I don’t get the donuts before noon, though, I’ve discovered that our favorite shops close down by then.  I’ve bought grocery store donuts when that’s happened, but I might as well have brought home frosted Brussels sprouts the way my kids one-bit our bakery section’s finest.

So many donut-related choices in America.

We must be doing something right.

  • Mike Lukas


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