Today is National Donut Day. Officially, it is a day to honor the women who served donuts to soldiers during World War II. In practice it’s about donuts. That means to me that this holiday, like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day, seems to be a bit of a “duh” holiday. A day designed for those who need a kick in the pants to appreciate a special part of their daily life. We should appreciate our partners and our parents every day. However, our busy lives and self absorbed ways have forced us to smack a date on our calendar to remember to do this. Now, the delightful inner tube of joy is suffering a similar fate. We mindlessly pull into a Dunkin’s or Krispy Kreme, grab a donut, and consume it one-handed as we ponder today’s agenda or last nights worries. The donut has become an item of convenience. We take it for granted and, in doing so, we have lost sight of how wondrous and varied this confection is.
My husband and I are not big Valentine’s Day people. We’ve worked hard to make sure that we feel valued and appreciated in our relationship always; Hallmark can go pawn their junk elsewhere. However, in late January the bombardment of plastic hearts and bad chocolate is hard to ignore. One day after running errands, I brought up Valentine’s Day junk, this segued into a discussion of useless holidays, this segued into a discussion of undervalued items, this led, as so many conversations with my husband do, to a conversation about donuts.
My husband’s love of donuts runs deep. He is always on the search for the transcendent creme filled donut. Five years ago he initiated a donut tour to take in the donut shops of the greater Lowell area. Now our conversation got him thinking about Donut Tour Redux – More donuts! More locations! More people! He hit the internet and planned our route. Then he hit the phones and assembled a fearless group of culinary adventures. We planned a date. Visions of jelly cremes danced in our heads.
The morning of February 7, 2009, dawned bright and sunny. Our alarm awoke us at about 6:30 am. We got out of bed, got dressed, and raised our house-guests. Our friend, Cliffy, flew out from Santa Cruz, CA to join in our pilgrimage. Two other donut devotees, Will and Shannon, spent the night before with us so that we could get an early start. We jumped into the rental van and hit the road. We stopped a few exits down the highway to meet the last of our crew, Corey and Megan. Corey presented us with our uniforms, bold red t-shirts that proclaimed our mantra, “Donut go gentle into that good night.” Dylan Thomas groaned in his grave; we chuckled.
Our first stop was Donna’s Donuts in Tewksbury, Ma. Donna’s was selected, primarily, for their cheeky approach to the donut form. One can get a damn fine traditional donut at Donna’s, but why would you when Donna’s also constructs faux cheeseburgers, steak and cheese subs, and meatball subs that trick the eyes and delight the palate? What looks like melted cheese is really silky bavarian creme and the shredded “steak” is artfully deconstructed shreds of chocolate donut. We controlled our enthusiasm for the bounty before us and saved some belly room. The day was young, more donuts awaited us.
Stop number two was Ziggy’s Donuts in Salem, Ma. Ziggy’s is small and intimate. It is a family run establishment that prides itself on making a good product at a fair price. Their loyal customers are proud to show their appreciation. The proprietors of Ziggy’s are warm and welcoming. It felt like being in your gramma’s kitchen, if your gramma was a passionate baker. I wanted to spend all morning perched on a barstool nibbling and soaking up tales of yesteryear. Unfortunately, the open road and the lure of more donuts beckoned us onward.
Our third stop was the legendary Kane’s Donuts in Saugus. Kane’s had been featured on the Travel Channel and their fame is well deserved. This place is part donut joint and part community center. The owners greeted us with huge smiles that were rivaled only by the size of their massive coffee rolls. I know, strictly speaking a coffee roll is not a donut, but they are a breakfast pastry and they deserve some love too. Kane’s is bright and cheery and the donuts are delicious. Kane’s deserves all the accolades they have garnered.
We were two hours into our adventure and so far we had eaten our way into a state of donut bliss, a happy sugar coma that left us smiley and complacent. We pointed our van towards Malden to visit Sun Guang Bakery. My mother always told me that if I can’t think of anything nice to say then I should keep my mouth shut. However, on this blog we strive for honesty so I will try to stick to the facts. These donuts had an irregular shape and a greasy, fishy taste. Shocked out of our bliss, we swished water in our mouths, spit, and moved on.
Our final destination was Japonaise Bakery in Brookline. We had heard of their savory donut creations and were intrigued. They make a curry donut. It is a puffy donut filled with curried beef and vegetables. It is served heated and, though it may sound peculiar, it is absolutely delicious. It is a gourmet Hot Pocket. As I think about it, I am craving on right now.
Filled to the bursting point with donuts, we headed home. As we drove along we evaluated the day. So much of our daily lives are lived on auto pilot. We go through the motions. We interact with one another, pass through our spaces, and fill our bodies without really taking the time to appreciate the people, the places, and meals that make up our lives. Donut Tour 2010 was silly and I loved it. I spent the day with people I adore appreciating a simply delicious treat. Happy National Donut Day! Grab someone who makes you happy and go eat the yummiest donut you can find. It is so worth it.