Gimme A Smile: What does your perfect doughnut look like?

Doughnuts in orange juice is an acquired taste.

By Peggy McKee Barnhill

I love donuts. Am I allowed to say that? I could tell you that I love chickpeas and kale with a side of wheatgrass, but we’d all know I was lying. Give me a donut and I’m happy.

I credit donuts for my freshman 10 at college. The dining hall had a donut machine, which would crank out warm, fresh donuts every weekday and twice on Sundays. Those luscious nuggets of fried dough rolled in powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar were an integral part of my collegiate diet. Mmm, I can taste them now!

Donuts are such a versatile food. They’re a breakfast staple, guaranteed to start your day off right when paired with a hot cup of coffee. My favorite kind of coffee is “Donut Shop Collection,” by the way. Put “donut” in the name, and I’m sold.

But donuts aren’t limited to breakfast. Coffee and donuts can be enjoyed as an afternoon snack, a pit stop while patrolling the neighborhood, or a treat to break up the office monotony. Just be aware of the dreaded Donut Dilemma.

Bringing donuts to the office carries with it a great deal of responsibility. The happiness of your coworkers lies in your hands. What kind of donuts should you choose for the collection? Therein lies the Donut Dilemma. Which is better, frosted or filled? How many varieties should you provide? Should you go with sprinkles, given the risk that they might end up on an unsuitable donut? Can you choose chocolate frosted donuts during Lent? Can you afford to include donut holes, given the fact that people will eat at least three apiece to make up for their smaller size? And most importantly of all, do you dare provide the maple bacon donut? Your social standing in the office depends on your answers to these pivotal questions.

I’ll help you out, if you’re including me in a donut collection. My idea of the perfect donut is the swirly cinnamon kind with a light glaze on top. No sprinkles, chocolate, or filling for me — just sweet and cinnamony delight.

The next question is: to dunk or not to dunk. Not all donuts are made for dunking. The best dunkers are the old-fashioned donuts with nice big holes, the better to rip them in half and dunk away. Jelly-filled donuts dusted with powdered sugar, not so much. Coffee is the usual beverage for dunking, although milk can hold up in a pinch. I wouldn’t advise orange juice, however. Sweet donut dunked in tangy orange juice is definitely an acquired taste.

[Gimme a Smile: Then and Now]

So, when writing about donuts, I cannot avoid the spelling controversy. There are two accepted spellings for this sweet treat: “donut,” as used above, and “doughnut.” A quick internet search reveals that “doughnut” is the original spelling, preferred by purists, while “donut” is an acceptable variant that has been around since the olden days of the 20th century. You might think that “doughnut” better describes the makeup of the pastry, as in fried dough, but that brings up an even more important question: Why don’t donuts contain nuts? It’s right there in the name. If you were an alien experiencing Earth delicacies for the very first time and someone handed you a donut, wouldn’t you expect to taste both dough and nuts in your first bite? Alas, that’s not going to happen. Have you ever had a nutty donut? I’m not talking about a few walnuts sprinkled on top of some frosting—have you ever had a donut where nuts were baked into the dough? It just doesn’t work that way. Sorry, aliens.

Back to Earth, and the spelling question. Obviously, I’ve chosen the simplified spelling, “donut,” for my essay. It looks cleaner, takes less keystrokes, and also gives me additional food for thought. Watch this — if you change one letter in the word “donut” you get “donot.” Add a random space, and you end up with “do not.” What? If you think a little letter manipulation will work as a deterrent to eating donuts, forget it. As a diet plan, this is bound to fail.

My mantra has always been “moderation in all things,” so I will continue to enjoy donuts, undeterred. I could use one right now, as a bedtime snack. But I’ll wait until tomorrow, when I can pair my lightly glazed swirly cinnamon donut with a steaming cup of coffee for a sweet bit of donut delight. Perfect.

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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