Of all the trips I’ve taken or will take in my self-appointed role as a doughnut ethnographer, Detroit may not be the most touristy destination or have the most exotic-sounding treats, but I’d say visiting Hamtramck to explore the larger-than-life world of Polish pączki (“poonch-key”) had me drooling the most. For one, I love jelly doughnuts. For two, pączki are unlike typical jelly doughnuts and they can even be enjoyed spiked with a shot on what others call Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras but in the Upper Midwest everyone knows it as Pączki Day, which I got to write about for TheTakeout. Take that, other immigrant doughnut styles.
“Tommy” Chang was born and raised in Santa Barbara, but often visited his family in South Korea, where rice cakes are a traditional staple. Whether here or there, “with each visit and gathering, there would always be rice cakes and mochi for everyone to snack on,” explained Chang. “And during the holidays, my mom would typically make mochi squares laced with seasonal fruits and nuts.” Inspired by those experiences, Chang threw himself headlong into making his own mochi treats for the greater Santa Barbara community. His Mōr Donuts weren’t the first mochi doughnuts I’d had, but in short order they grew to be the best, though the name has since been changed to Kin Bakeshop.
It wasn’t one singular inspiration but a handful that were all blended together to form one delicious idea: exploring the world and its peoples through their sweetened, fried doughs. These aren’t delicacies that are referred to as doughnuts, but I challenge you to explain why they are not such. To workshop these stories, I get to contribute to The Takeout–a culinary website from the same publisher as the seriously-funny innovators of “fake news,” The Onion.
First up: Navajo fry bread. Yes, the Indian food staple is now part of most tribe’s cookbooks or maybe you think it’s just fry-dough or a carnival staple, the elephant ear. Here’s where the yummy treat originated.
In the immortal words of JFK, translated from the original German (and with an assist from Eddie Izzard): “I am a doughnut.”
As such, ich bin ein berliner writer: I am a doughnut writer.
This past June, in what turned out to be one of the final stories ever published by All About Beer (I’m still in mourning), I merged my two beloveds by writing up the breweries and doughnuteries of Butler County, Ohio.
But one doughnut story does not a doughnut writer make. How many published doughnut stories are required to be deemed a doughnut writer? Two.
Ever since moving to Santa Barbara, there aren’t many new breweries to write about (although my next story for the Independent IS on a brand new* brewery in SB. *Sorta.), but I did get to write up the American Riviera’s newest purveyor of gourmet doughnuts, Hook & Press Donuts. Voila.