The time has come for a confession. Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. A lot.
I have been advertising myself as a “gourmet”–an amateur one, at that, but still–and yet my “gourmet” status is about to become severely compromised. I wake up in the morning craving not a Bouillabaisse or a Vichyssoise. I pine not for escargot, truffles or slightly seared foie gras. When I wake up in the morning, the image I pine for glows pink and orange over my head; its letters luring me in with their incandescent splendor. Here is what I see in my fever dreams:
I have been a Dunkin’ Donuts junkie for almost five years now. It began innocently enough. I was a sophomore in college, finally permitted a car on campus. The world was my oyster, and I intended to slurp it.
My initial “haunt”–Einstein Bagels–provided an adequate carbon copy of my favorite comfort food at home: bagels. I would go there regularly; religiously. My usual was an onion bagel with smoked salmon spread, onion and tomato, and a regular-sized vanilla hazelnut coffee. This still remains a staple of my diet, but I rarely crave it as much as I crave my Dunkin’.
So how did it happen?
One day, Einstein Bagels was crowded. Way crowded. I noticed the empty parking lot across the street and the pink and orange glow of the Dunkin’ Donuts sign. My hunger grabbed the wheel and skidded us across the street. Before I knew it, I was face to face with destiny.
“An everything bagel, I suppose,” I said.
“Coffee?” asked the woman behind the counter.
She assembled my tray.
“I suppose I’ll have a donut, too,” I said.
“What kind of donut?”
“Hmmm,” I explored my options. “A coconut one, please?”
She wrapped the donut in paper.
“Are you an Emory student?”
“Yes,” I said.
“You get a discount.”
She rang me up. $3.33. I gave her $4.00 and I dropped the change in the cup.
I carried the tray over to a table and sat with my New Yorker magazine.
I bit into the bagel cautiously. Was it love at first bite?
No. Very much not. I nearly gagged.
“Blech!” I said. I forced myself to finish. The coffee, on the other hand, was good. And the donut, of course, was yummy.
I left with a firm resolve: “Never again!”
And yet, the next week, Einstein Bagels was busy once more. And I was hungry. My hunger grabbed the wheel.
“What are you doing, Hunger!” I screamed.
“Shut up,” Hunger replied. “We’re getting some grub.”
The woman behind the counter recognized me. “Ah, you’re back.”
And so it went. For weeks on end. And, at its peak, I went on a daily basis. It’s a miracle I never got fat; or that I never died of congestive heart failure. If they tried to clear my arteries, they’d find one filled with vanilla cream, one filled with jelly, and one dusted with powdered sugar. I like variety in my donuts.
Today, I have tapered off. I went on a “health kick” this summer, and weaned myself almost entirely off the Donuts. But occassionally–perhaps once every two weeks–I treat myself to my favorite morning meal.
If you are disgusted by my confession, here are some justifications for my misbehavior:
1. I am known. From that first day when the woman behind the counter assembled my tray, we have remained connected on a spiritual/cosmic level. Today, for example, when I came in she said: “Well! We were just talking about you! Wondering where you were!” Here she is preparing my coffee:
2. Consistency. Unlike Einstein’s, where a crabby counter person can spoil the assembly of your bagel, the Dunkin’ Donuts bagel, coffee and donut always tastses the same. There is comfort in reliability. To quote an Alice Walker title: “The temple of my familiar.” In fact, today’s meal was so familiar I lost control and took two bites before I even photographed it. It’s that good:
3. Medical benefits. Since the tone of this entry is full disclosure, it is time I put more cards on the table. These cards are the Queen of Blockage, the King of Constipation and the Ace of Irregularity. I suffer from a common ailment, most famously rendered by Philip Roth in “Portnoy’s Complaint”: “his kishkas were gripped by the iron hand of outrage and frustration.” And, however much you don’t want to know this, Dunkin’ Donuts relieves my kishkas. Perhaps that is its greatest virtue: my smoker friends say that smoking keeps them regular; my mother and grandma eat explosive bran cereal; and I go to Dunkin’ Donuts. [Photograph not available.]
Is all this a poor justification for an unhealthy addiction? Am I employing a defense mechanism by rationalizing my disease? Perhaps. But, God help me, those donuts are good and they keep my kishkas healthy. And if that’s not reason enough for betraying a gourmet cause, I don’t know what is.