I’ll take ‘Foods With Holes’ for $500, Alex.” “This fried yeast bread pastry is heavily glazed with sugar and is likely to put you to sleep after eating just one, if you are over the age of 50.”
“What is a doughnut? I’ll take ‘Foods With Holes’ for $1,000, Alex”
“This versatile New York delicatessen staple is sometimes served with smoked salmon, onion, capers, and cream cheese.”
“What is a biscuit?”
“No, I’m sorry. We were looking for, ‘what is a bagel?’”
That scenario is actually not too far off. A bagel shop opened in my hometown of Hattiesburg in the mid-1990s, and I overheard the conversation of one man attempting to explain a bagel to another man. He said, “It ain’t nothin’ but a chewy biscuit with a hole in it.”
I like foods with holes. Unfortunately, most foods that have holes are unhealthy.
Swiss cheese, the holiest of holey cheeses, is tasty and has a mild, nut-like flavor but packs over 50 percent of its calories from fat. Lifesavers candies have holes, but they also have a lot of sugar. Onion rings are fried, as is calamari, though an order of calamari has holes in half of it, as the tentacles make up the other half of the order. Angel food cake is low in fat but high in sugar, again not a healthy choice.
Pretzels have three holes and aren’t too bad in the nutritional category. Cheerios might be the healthiest “hole food” out there, but they are still made with corn and sugar.
Since January I have been switching between two dietary lifestyles – low-glycemic, which cuts out sugar and most foods that convert to sugar once eaten, and gluten-free, which eliminates all wheat-based foods. doughnuts would be the evil villain and main offender in both of those dietary lifestyles.
I dream of doughnuts. Even though I never really ate doughnuts before this diet. Something about not being able to eat a doughnut makes me want to eat one even more. It’s the forbidden fruit, except that it’s not even a fruit, it’s the most unhealthy food item on the planet – enriched white flour, deep fried, and then dipped in a vat of liquefied sugar. Doughnuts are bad, bad, bad for you, and I would eat a dozen right now while I am typing this column and not worry about getting this keyboard sticky.
My go-to doughnut doesn’t have a hole. It’s a Bavarian crème-filled doughnut. Technically, I guess it has a hole on the end where they inject the crème filling into the doughnut, but that doesn’t count in my book. The Bavarian crème-filled doughnut easily makes my top 10 list of culinary guilty pleasures.
Doughnuts are universal. While travelling in Europe I stopped at Autogrill stores to fill the car with gas and to get my doughnut-crème fix. An Autogrill is similar to what we would call a truck stop except they are immaculately clean and sell fine wine, gourmet cheeses, high-end food products and espresso served in porcelain demitasse cups.
In the Italian Autogrills they offer bombolini, which are small Italian doughnuts – slightly larger than our doughnut holes – filled with chocolate or custard. I always opted for the custard.
These days, doughnuts are a “cheat day” treat. My lifelong friend Laura and I meet for breakfast every few months and catch up over Bavarian crème-filled doughnuts and a cinnamon twist. She is on a very strict diet and looks forward to doughnut day even more than I.
I’ve been a doughnut eater all of my life. My childhood church always served doughnuts in the Fellowship Hall every Sunday morning. They still do. Sometimes there were doughnuts left over on Sunday evening for our youth group meetings. Doughnuts are like slices of pizza or pieces of fried chicken – they’re still good cold.
There are many foods with holes, some are good, and others are not so good. None are as tasty – or as unhealthy – as a doughnut, even a chewy biscuit with a hole in it.
Robert St. John is a restaurateur, chef and author of numerous books.