Food & Drink » The Dish

Parable of the Doughnut

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Back in the 1960s, a trip to Nashville was a venture to the "big city" for this small town girl. Approaching the Cumberland River, the L&C (Life & Casualty) tower marked the middle of downtown. A few blocks west, after Broadway had turned to West End Avenue, stood the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop.

A glamorous "aunt," actually a family friend, lived across West End in the high-rise Continental apartment building -- the tallest building I'd ever entered. Even more thrilling than riding the elevator up to Aunt Sue's apartment, where we sipped Cokes from cut crystal glasses and consulted the Ouija Board, was crossing all six lanes of West End to get a doughnut at the Krispy Kreme.

The store smelled like cigarettes, day-old coffee, wet linoleum and damp overcoats, overlaid with the scent of caramelized sugar. A chocolate-glazed cream-filled cost a quarter and was so sweet it gave you a toothache. A dozen hot glazed lasted about three minutes back at Aunt Sue's.

Fast-forward 40 years to Colorado Springs, May 2002. The big news of the week is the opening of a Krispy Kreme franchise in a parking lot adjacent to the Citadel Mall. The big attraction is the 24-hour drive through.

The doughnuts taste exactly as they did in 1964 -- yeasty, chewy, slightly greasy and thick with sugary syrup. Divine.

A see-through glass wall exposes the inner workings of the doughnut-making machinery -- steel platforms rising up and descending, suspended by bicycle chains, where the little blobs of dough sit and rise until they are dropped into the frying vat then moved along a conveyor belt to the glazing bath. It reminds me of Homer Price's uncle's famous doughnut machine in the Robert McCloskey children's book where the doughnuts keep coming out until they fill Homer's uncle's diner, spilling out the door.

I plop down $10.99 for two-dozen Krispy Kremes and head home, wondering if Homer Price is still in print.

A search on the Internet brings up Homer Price immediately. Yes, children still read it, but as part of an "Economics and Children's Literature" curriculum designed to illustrate the law of supply and demand. The lesson: Too many doughnuts are not a good thing because they exceed the demand and thus don't make money.

I think of all the happy folks in Homer's town rushing into the doughnut shop to carry away bags of free doughnuts, of the tired men chomping on cigarette butts, leaning across the Krispy Kreme counter in Nashville, and the shiny SUVs crawling through the parking lot next to the Citadel.

Things change. Only the doughnut remains the same.

-- Kathryn Eastburn

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