Donuts

Donuts. Beignets. Sopapilla. Bread dough, deep fried and coated with sugary sweetness. There must be something universal in our tastes that has led to a treat that crosses cultures with its allure, and like everything that good, a downside. Grease, sugar and simple carbs are a path to weight and health issues that everyone with a cup of coffee looking for a partner for dunking must consider. An unsolvable conundrum? Moderation? Special occasions? It is hard to imagine a way for humanity to ignore its nature, to forego the opportunity to savor those moments of doughy delight.

My father loved donuts. Some mornings he would show up with a large box of donuts and what he always called "sticky buns", his term for dough rolled in cinnamon, brown sugar and nuts or raisins. While the older kids started doing the math on how many glazed circles we would each be allotted, my dad would sit down with the newspaper, coffee and his selection from his box of goodies. Then once the calculations were complete we could start into the serious business of overindulging.

My father hated excess pounds. He tolerated most of our growing pains and youthful experimentation, but never let him think you might have put on a pound or two around the middle. Margarine and skim milk were the family staples. The only fried foods we ever ate at home were donuts. If my mother ever sauteed anything, she did it hiding in a closet. Anyone suspected of padding out a their middles would have to live with a thumb and forefinger probing at the belt line with the his famous "Pinch an inch" or "working on your love handles". I am not sure that any of us ever felt self conscious about our weight, but I can tell you that every one of us wanted to avoid that pinch.

Imagine the glee that all of us felt when we had the chance to attack a box of donuts. Not only could we eat bakery delicacies, but we got to see my dad get out the butter so that he could add butter to the caloric splurge. Plus, we had the chance to come up behind him and return the pinch an inch. This was his weakness, and we made sure that we could return many of his words as a side dish to the donuts.

My father also loved the beach. We knew that each summer we would spend a week or two in the sand and surf. When we were younger, that meant that we would be coated with olive oil before spending a day in the sun. I am sure that I would never have tolerated smelling like an Italian deli if it had not been for the bakeries that seem to spring like mushrooms in resort towns. Piling into the car to head for the bakery to hand pick from the wonderful gooey doughs that were coming from the ovens and friers along the board walk was about as good as it got during those beach vacations. Donuts and the beach are right up there with fried dough and sugar.

As we got older, beach transportation became bicycles. At first, we had to wait for out parents to wake up and supervise the expedition. We knew we had received the keys to the city when we could go into their bedroom to get enough cash for a run to the bakery. The real trick was to get going early enough to make sure that you limited the number of people who wanted to go along. Choosing from the shapes and flavors of the donuts and buns was not a chore that we wanted to share with an unreliable sibling.

There is just something comforting about pedaling along the coast with a basket of donuts still warm from the bakery. For all of the sibling rivalry that these trips caused, knowing that when our father got up he would see the bakery bounty and his famous twinkling eyes would get just a touch brighter just made those donuts taste better. I know that over the years we put a lot of miles on those two wheelers making runs to the bakery. I also know that a donut was the only free pass we ever got on his inch pinching obsession.

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