All Aboard the Doughnut Train

By Katiedid Langrock

September 13, 2014 5 min read

O cursed coveted confectionary, why do you taunt me so?

While traipsing around the East Coast last week, I was reunited with all the sweet treats of my childhood — candy bars, cakes, chips and drinks that exist solely along the regional line from New York City to Washington, D.C. Tastykakes and Old Bay potato chips called my name, but none yelled more loudly than the local doughnut shops.

Perhaps it was the season — with Labor Day weekend bringing summer to a close, anointing the era of autumn with apple fritters, apple cider doughnuts and maple glaze, sending those sweet, sugary smells into the atmosphere and challenging me to taste the difference between the pumpkin-flavored doughnuts and the pumpkin pie-flavored doughnuts. Naturally, my instinct was to buy all fall flavors. How else would we know which cake reigns supreme? This is important information that must be documented. Somebody has to do it.

Or perhaps it was the reason for my trip, the wedding of my beloved cousin, that made me so nostalgic for childhood snacks. Giving hugs to long-lost relatives whom I had most recently seen riding on the handlebars of my bike. Clinking glasses with cousins and dancing with their children whom I had just met. It was fun and beautiful and sad and complicated. And let's be honest; nothing satiates a weekend of family quite like stuffing your face with a fistful of doughnut holes.

My visit back east was a whirlwind, three cities in one week, a local doughnut shack greeting me at every train stop along the way. Never having the time to stop what I was doing and purchase one, I obsessed over the options, circling the circular snacks in my mind. As each day passed, the longing grew stronger. What to choose? What to choose?

This obsession had a familiar taste.

In elementary school, we briefly studied Colonial times and were treated at the end of the study cycle with doughnuts that we made in the classroom. I rolled dough and mixed different sugar, salt and cinnamon combinations in brown paper bags. Delicious aromas filled the air. My stomach gnawed, and it took all my young willpower to stop from reaching into the pots of bubbling oil and pulling out a hot, floating ball of deliciousness all for myself. But I was victorious over the gut growling. I fought the urge and waited patiently as the names of my classmates were called to pick up their delicious homemade delectable doughnuts. I waited. And waited. And waited. As the names of all my classmates were called. Every name. Except mine.

My teacher didn't like me very much.

Now, 20 years later, being banned from bingeing at bakeries fed off the pain of the past and made my doughnutless existence nearly unbearable. I was screaming on the inside. You cannot keep me away! I can have strawberry icing and rainbow sprinkles anytime I want! I am an adult!

Heading toward the last leg of my trip, I finally had the chance to indulge. I walked into the doughnut shop, sized up my options. The classics. The seasonal. The specialties. Weighing which was worth the weight gain. Ultimately, I landed on my old childhood staple: blueberry. It was the favorite from my preteen days, when I had grown past the sprinkles but had not yet morphed into the minimalist glazed doughnut of my teen years. It was a nostalgic choice, from back when I got a doughnut after soccer practice, not before an exam with a cup of coffee. Back when life was simple.

No bag necessary, I insisted, nearly manhandling the treat out of the cashier's hands. Stepping outside, I took a moment to breathe deeply and appreciate this sacred moment I'd waited so long for. Then ... the bite.


When do we get too old for the things we love?

For years, I blamed new recipes or ingredients, but the truth is that my taste buds have changed. I simply cannot handle the sweets of my youth anymore. The blueberry doughnut had gone the direction of Cadbury eggs, Fun Dip and Double Bubble.

Is growing up past the taste for Pixy Stix a metaphor for life? Nothing gold can stay?

I walked back into the shop, threw my doughnut into the garbage bin and ordered a coffee.

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