A day so nice we celebrate it twice. I felt this day had a familiar feeling about it and after checking back in the archives, it looks like National Doughnut Day was also celebrated back on Day 97 on November 5th. Two days to celebrate the world’s greatest pastry – I’m down with that. Back in November, I went to a gourmet doughnut shop in Providence that I had been hearing a lot about. We had flavors like Cereal Milk and Salted Maple Pecan. They were ok, but it made me miss the taste of a good old fashioned doughnut – I mean a traditional doughnut and not the specific “old fashioned doughnut” served at Dunkin’ Donuts. Today’s celebration wasn’t going to involve the gourmet side of anything. Today was about enjoying the old school way and to be honest, my celebration came about quite organically.
It started in the morning when I decided to stop for a cup of coffee on my way to work. Nothing unusual there, I do this quite often. America runs on Dunkin’ and so do I. The Dunkin’ Donuts closest to my office is actually in the shared space of a gas station. There’s no drive-thru, so you have to go inside and while you wait, you queue up down the snack aisle through the middle of the gas station convenience store. It gets pretty busy there and today was no exception. When I ordered my coffee, a medium hot latte with skim milk, the clerk who was bustling around let me know it was National Doughnut Day and I could get a free doughnut. I felt honored. Clearly this person recognized me for my 300 plus days of celebration of holidays and she felt I deserved a doughnut on this special day. This quest is paying off! But apparently I’m not that big of a deal. It seems like everyone was getting a free doughnut with the purchase of a beverage for National Doughnut Day. So I may not be the honoree, but I will tip my cap for a pretty good promotion from the folks at Dunks to take advantage of their special day. I went with my favorite: the glazed stick.
When I was growing up, every once and a while for Sunday morning breakfast we would get doughnuts from the deli that was around the corner from my house. It’s a tiny place but serves the needs of the neighborhood. It was where we would get deli meats, milk or eggs (if we happened to run out), fresh Italian bread and even fresh doughnuts (plus it was my source for baseball cards if I had the eleven cents to spare for a pack). They didn’t make the doughnuts there. They were delivered from some bakery. I have no idea where and until this moment, I never thought to ask. I had two favorites: the glazed (round, fluffy and covered in sugar) and the cruller (long, cake like doughnut which was braided together to give the treat a twist-like appearance.) That was Sunday morning to me – the special treat of these sweet delights. It’s probably where I first started enjoying doughnuts (which is kind of like an addict recalling their first taste of meth). Dunkin’ used to sell a cruller too, which is kind of a New England tradition. They abandoned it in 2003 opting instead for the “stick” doughnut which is a cruller wannabe. The stick doughnut can be made by a machine while the cruller needs to be hand-braided so that’s why it disappeared – another victim of labor costs. Still, of all the doughnuts at DD, the glazed stick is my favorite. It’s got the glaze I like, the dense texture and the right flavor.
I feel bad for the employees of Dunkin’ Donuts. Today they were working double-time as people were coming out to enjoy the free doughnut offer. That meant that they had to make more drinks and just have an especially busy day, and their days are already busy. I feel bad for them because they keep having more and more responsibilities added onto their workload. 20 years ago, someone working at Dunkin’ just needed to know how to pour a hot cup of coffee, how to count doughnuts and recite how many you had left in your dozen and how to microwave an egg for a poorly crafted egg sandwich. Today they have to do about a thousand different things. Lattes, ice coffees, smoothies, flavored coffees – they have to make it all. DD research and development even make up foods that they have to figure out how to produce – what the hell is a coolatta? Then there’s the food side. It’s no longer just bagels and doughnuts. It’s sandwiches and wraps and hash browns and burritos and even pizza. The products keep coming and the employees just have more and more on their work plate. It’s insane. Let’s not forget how pleasant most Dunkin’ Donut customers are too, especially before they’ve had their coffee. I really feel that the folks at DD are the true heroes of our community for having to deal with the collection of people that go through their take out window or walk-in line. And somehow, they all stay relatively cheerful. The team at the Dunks near our house is particularly cheery. They have their regular guests and always greet them with a kind hello. They are always nice, no matter how big the line gets. I guess I just wanted to say thanks to all the hard working Dunkers out there. We see you, and we appreciate you.
When I got to work, I wiped off the collection of doughnut crumbs that had amassed on the front of my shirt in the five minutes it took me to drive from the Dunkin’ Donuts to the office in which I scarfed down the glazed stick. Looking presentable now, I walked in and I was told immediately that someone had left some doughnuts in the kitchen for National Doughnut Day. When I started this quest, I said one of my rules would be that if ever the item I was celebrating should present itself in any form on the day of celebration, I was obligated to indulge. It was time to evoke that rule. The doughnuts were from Dunkin’ as well and after perusing the limited selections, I went with the blueberry cake. For the record, blueberry cake is Lola’s favorite doughnut from Dunks. It’s a good sweet doughnut with nice blueberry flavor and it is enrobed in a nice sweet glaze. It’s pretty tasty and more flavorful than you expect from a DD doughnut. I brought it back to my desk and enjoyed it alongside the still hot coffee that I started with. A nice way to start your Friday.
Later at night we were heading into Newport for a wake and I had tentative plans to stop on our way home for my current favorite doughnut: the marble cruller at Ma’s in Middletown. They are open 24 hours, so I knew it wouldn’t matter what time we stopped. Ma’s is an institution and I am surprised they are not more widely recognized for their excellence. Their doughnuts are always baked on premise and the marble cruller takes a chocolate doughnut and a plain doughnut and twists them together. Then, to top it off, it’s dunked in a glaze until the outside is almost shiny white. It’s the best. So filling too. It would have been a nice end to Doughnut Day, but by the time we got back, we weren’t much in a doughnut mood. I figured two doughnuts in a day was good enough. But for the record, the Ma’s doughnut will now be on my mind as a craving that I may need to satisfy soon.
If any food deserves two days of celebration, it’s the doughnut. It’s been the pastry that has changed the face of America, almost literally if you consider how many Dunkin’ Donuts are on the main streets of Everytown, USA. There’s just something about doughnuts that bring joy. They make people happy. They are also the perfect food for groups and why they end up on the table of so many break rooms and meetings. A quick and easy burst of fresh baked flavor that goes great with a nice cup of coffee. Doughnuts are about the experience. The combination of flavors. The joy of finding your favorite. The dunk in the coffee. There’s not much I can say about doughnuts that you don’t already know and enjoy, but I will say that I look forward to enjoying more. I am looking forward to a trip to Ma’s, maybe even Allie’s (another RI legend). Plus there’s always the Dunk, on every corner, with their variety of flavors served with a smile from an overworked staff. I appreciate that today and I raise my glazed stick to your honor.
Next up: National Egg Day