First of all, how do you even spell doughnut? That’s one thing we need to address. It’s like “Hanukkah” in that there are a million approved variations, or two (doughnut/donut) if we’re being less dramatic.
The other question I have, or had when I started all of this, is what actually constitutes a doughnut? Is it fried dough? That feels a bit too inclusive of churros or funnel cakes. Is it the icing? The glaze? The shape? If it’s the shape, then does that include bagels? Does that include Cheerios? Is it fried dough plus shape? And what would that mean for a classic jelly-stuffed, hole-less doughnut? For a woman who likes rules and straightforward answers, this Doughnut Diet was the goddamn Wild West.
The Doughnut Diet was pitched to celebrate one of the few fake holidays anyone outside of the internet actually seems to care about: National Donut Day, spelled as such. I knew it wouldn’t be glamorous like the Gwyneth Diet, or nipply like the Jennifer Aniston one, but someone has to do the hard lifting around here and besides, I’m gluten tolerant. Its stipulations were simple: eat as many doughnuts as possible until there’s enough experience to write about, but that lingering query would haunt me throughout: What even is a doughnut?
My Doughnut Journey began, like all good journeys do, on a long Memorial Day Weekend car trip that required a pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts to use the restroom and buy a box of Munchkins. No one who buys a box of munchkins “to share with the car” is in her right mind. It’s a trap because they’re so cute, like those EOS lip balms or babies in general. Everyone eats them too fast. They’re gone before you know it and all you’re left with is a rogue, plain Munchkin no one wanted. Still, the sampling piqued my appetite.
I returned to work Tuesday eager and ready to eat a real doughnut. Doughnut Plant felt like a good place to start because it currently offers the very trendy rose-shaped doughnut that exists only because Instagram does.
Turns out it also tastes like rose, which tastes like soap to me, but I know some people are into soap sweets. From the same bakery, I also tried a vegan banana doughnut — not my weirdest life decision ever, if you can believe that — a Manhattan cream (like a Boston cream sans divisive baseball team) and a savory samosa doughnut. Manhattan Cream was the best. Vegan banana didn’t ruin my day, but it’s nothing I ever need again, and the samosa reminded me of being babysat. My mom used to have my babysitters heat samosas up for me rather than order pizza — not a bad memory by any means, somewhere in line with fish stick-and-oven fry nostalgia.
Because of the impending holiday, doughnut houses were getting SO excited and sending out press releases as though Kendall Jenner wore their dress to the Grammys or something, but I don’t blame them. Doughnuts rule. The kind souls at Underwest Donuts sent us a whole box of absolute beauts (see photo above) in a range of flavors from Cereal Milk to Caramel Corn. I tried them all, then shared the rest. Caramel Corn was the unanimous winner at Man Repeller and I was about as popular as I’ve ever been or will ever be.
When they aren’t free, doughnuts are really expensive in NYC. I thought my dad was just being dramatic that time I asked him to buy me a cinnamon-sugar doughnut from this fancy coffee shop in my neighborhood and he went literally ballistic: “FOUR FIFTY FOR A DOUGHNUT?! DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY DOUGHNUTS YOU CAN GET AT DUNKIN’ FOR THAT PRICE?!” But anyway, he was right. That rose number, for example, put me out five bucks.
Speaking of expensive and unnecessary food products, I spent $20 on a glazed doughnut-bun burger from Buns Burger (comes with bacon, cheese and a fried egg) that our poor visuals intern Ana Tellez picked up for me. It was so heavy I’m not sure if her arms will ever recover, but more than anything I regret to inform you that it was delicious. If you come across a similar menu item and you’re brave, one bite is enough. Split it with 20 friends to live longer than someone who eats a whole one, maybe.
What is a doughnut rang in my ears the loudest on Wednesday as I bit into a sushi doughnut from Pokéteria. The creation is something they only offer on the weekends, but were kind enough to send over gratis mid-week for the sake of my personal gluttony. A sushi doughnut is a beautiful, O-shaped sushi roll, basically, each mouthful a far more simple experience than you’d imagine given its complex, photogenic whole. It tasted as good as it looks; I am as shocked as anyone.
I’m also shocked that I didn’t get sick ONCE during this whole week! Thought about it, though.
Thursday was a real doozy of a doughnut day. It was dough-nuts, you could say, which I did. MR’s own Elizabeth hooked it up with vegan matcha doughnuts from Loosie’s Cafe (a true standout of the whole week, ironic given that I’m more of a, “Hi, what’s the least vegan thing on this menu” kind of person). She also worked with Pop Pasta of the original spaghetti doughnut to send us — yes, a spaghetti doughnut…and a mac-and-cheese doughnut, AND A CARBONARA DOUGHNUT.
I took one heavenly bite of each (like eating baked ziti, but less cheesy) and then had no choice but to call it a day if I wanted to make it to tomorrow ever again.
The diet ended unceremoniously — I was no less close to understanding what is or isn’t a doughnut than when I started. What I did learn is that it doesn’t really matter. Doughnuts, donuts and otherwise regular foods in the shape of a circle with a hole are delicious. Call it what you want and just eat the damn thing.
Slideshow images by Edith Young; doughnut diet documentation by Amelia Diamond.