Almost as long as there has been coffee in the world there has been donuts to go with it.
Washington Irving in the "History of New York" published in 1809 gives us one of the earliest occurrence of the word (doughnut). And, interestingly, he defines donuts as "balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat". These dough balls fried to a deep golden brown looked to Irving like an oversized walnut, or pecan and hence the name dough nut. So the name didn't come from its present form that resembles the nut of a bolt.
Fascinating stuff don't you think? Well, there's more! The donuts we now know took their present shape due to a problem inherent in the balls of dough, namely their uncooked centers. Removing the centers ensured that the doughnuts would be cooked throughout. And the little balls of dough taken from the centers became known as doughnut holes, or "Timbits" if you're a Canuck like me.
Now the problem in finding the perfect donut shop isn't in locating one. Nowadays there are plenty of donut shops to choose from; Country Style Donuts, Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme, LaMar's Donuts, Robin's Donuts, Tim Horton's and Winchell's Donuts just to name a few of the more popular franchises. These shops are located all around most towns and are as plentiful as 7-11's or other convenient stores.
Nor is the problem found in finding a donut that suits your fancy. Some shops offer a variety of over 70 different types of donuts such as; a freshly baked original glazed, crullers, cinnamon twists, apple fritters and my personal favourite Bear Paws. And of course all donut shops offer coffee, most of which is made from fine arabica beans.
The problem in finding the perfect donut shop is in the combination of the two.
The perfect cup of Joe to accompany the perfect donut, or vice versa.
Take a company like Krispy Kreme for example. They've got a great product going on with their straight from the oven, glazed donut. You'd be hard pressed to find a better tasting donut than theirs, but the coffee they serve is terrible.
Tim Horton's on the other hand makes an awesome cup of coffee. Their motto is "Always Fresh" and in all the years I've gone there I've had one cup that wasn't. I'm afraid however that the "always fresh" motto doesn't apply to their donuts. Everybody who moves outside of an area that doesn't have a Tim Horton's misses their coffee, and not their donuts. It's a crying shame that there has never been a decent marriage between the two.
Once a year Tim Horton's has a fund raising day where the sale of each coffee goes to send under privileged kids to one of their many summer camps. On these "Camp Days" they ask local celebrities to work behind the counters and serve the customers. I was asked this past year to help out and on that particular day I experienced, for a few brief minutes, the Shangri-La of donut shops.
It was during a brief lull in the waves of customers pouring in that the manger took me into the back to where the donuts were made to meet some of the other staff. He gave me a large double – double (two crèmes and two sugars) to drink as I did the meet and greet and a glazed donut hole (Timbit) that had just been baked.
Let me tell you people that once I popped that baby into my mouth I was hooked. I had to have more, but not the ones out front that were already cold, I wanted more like the one I had just eaten. It was warm, with a crispy outer shell and a moist melt in your mouth inner.
I was probably drooling as I asked politely for another and then again for one more, and if it wasn't for stand on proper etiquette I would have scarfed down the whole tray of them right then and there!
The manager obviously noticed my brief moment of ecstasy and laughingly said, "They're really good aren't they? This is one of our secrets."
I didn't think of it at the time but now it seems to me that something that good shouldn't be kept a secret. Make ALL the donuts hot and fresh, just like the coffee! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out, heck, I even did!
Anyway until the day arrives that corporations find the obvious solution, that being "giving the customers what they want" we will have to endure the dilemma of the mismatched pair. Thankfully, I've never been that picky about how my fries taste with my burger. If I did, then I'd really have a problem on my hands.