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Doughnuts Will Always Be With Us

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Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

For those of us who work at a desk all day, it’s easy to forget that a doughnut has a real purpose.

It’s meant to fuel movement.

A few years ago, my brother-in-law and I drove to the Catskills to pick up a car I had bought. We stopped at a diner in Roscoe, N.Y., then drove the last half-hour to where the car was parked under a couple of feet of snow. It took some work — shoveling, inflating tires, unhitching and then rehitching the truck and trailer, loading the car on the trailer and tying it down — but we were soon heading back to the Berkshires, where my brother-in-law lives.

On the way home, we pulled into a gas station with a Dunkin’ Donuts. “You want a doughnut?”

“No, I’m good,” I said.

Well, when my brother-in-law, who rebuilds boat engines for a living, came back to the truck, he brought two doughnuts. “Listen,” he said, “when we get back to the house, we’re going to have to unload this thing and unload the truck. You need to have a doughnut.”

He was right, of course. It must have been 3:30 in the afternoon and dinner was miles and hours away. I can’t remember what kind of doughnut it was, but it gave me the calories I needed to finish the day’s remaining tasks, including the somewhat nervy job of backing an old car down an equipment trailer’s narrow ramps in the dark.

That’s what a doughnut is for. A 9 a.m. coffee break when work started at 6 in the winter cold. A midafternoon break from factory work or shoveling roofs or bucking firewood. Doughnuts aren’t for sitters.

A hundred years ago, or even 20 years ago, a diner patron might ask for coffee and a sinker, a quick, cheap pick-me-up, the coffee for the heat and caffeine, the dense cake doughnut to dunk in the coffee and fill the belly.

Some doughnuts, what we’d now call “old fashioned” cake doughnuts, would have a little handle, a small triangle jutting off the circle to hold onto when dipping it into the mug. The original dunkin’ donut was a cake donut with a handle. Founded in 1950 by a high-school dropout from Dorchester, Mass., Dunkie’s was for years the classic New England doughnut shop, though by no means the only one. In high school in Central Mass., my friends and I tended to patronize Honey Dew Donuts, another New England chain.

Slate reported in 2005 that the dunkin’ donut was no more, done in by changing tastes and the growing company’s desire to move up-market and toward greater ease of manufacturing. You can now get Dunkin’ Donuts in Hawaii.

I’m not a labor economist, but it seems more work has become sedentary. Still, the doughnut is everywhere, there whether we need it or not. Our doctors might frown, but it’s good to know there’s a doughnut waiting around pretty much every corner.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.