My favorite “food writer” story is a donut story. I’d been trying and failing for months to stay away from sugar and gluten. Then, finally, one special week, I managed it. That week stretched to two. Then three. I’d been going on 24 days without gluten or sugar when I showed up at Sidecar Donuts in Costa Mesa, California, to write a story about their donuts. Or rather, one donut: browned butter and sea salt.
As I arrived, the Sidecar crew took a whole rack of donuts out of the fryer, added glaze and salt, and brought them to me. A full dozen just for me. I remember taking one bite and feeling the world compress and expand, like that Spongebob meme. I started to sweat. My skin prickled. As someone who has plenty of experience to draw from: Eating a donut straight from the fryer after the better part of a month without gluten or sugar was like a drug.
My deadline for profiling the taste of this donut was just an hour from when I took my first bite. So I sat down, flipped open my laptop and started writing, while still literally shaking from the increase in blood sugar that comes when you break a gluten and sugar-free diet with a rack of fried gluten, coated in sugar.
In this haze, I decided “I’ll analogize the donut to an orgasm, but like… slyly.” I wrote the piece and filed it, thinking it was subtle and clever. The next month I saw the magazine I was writing for on a rack and grabbed a copy.
My article wasn’t subtle. Or clever. It was… orgasmy. Waaaaaay too orgasmy. I called my editor, cringing, “My article about the donut… was it a little — ”
“Orgasmy? she asked. “Yes, it was. But we didn’t have time to change it.”
My cringe worsened. So I called a woman at the donut shop, who I’d gone on a few dates with. “That article,” I said, “was it a little orgasmy?”
“That’s the word for it!” she said. “Orgasmy! Exactly. Yes, it was. That’s why the owners didn’t hang it on the wall.”
At this point, I was just one giant sentient cringe. My head was pulled into my chest cavity like a turtle. Then she said something that made me brighten up.
“But an old woman came in with the magazine during my shift yesterday. She pointed to the article and said, ‘I’ll have what he’s having.’ Then she winked.”
Now maybe that woman was making a Harry met Sally reference and maybe she wasn’t. Maybe the article had conjured sex for her and maybe it hadn’t. But I choose to believe she knew exactly what she was doing. And it doesn’t get better than the idea that an old woman went to get a donut you raved about to replicate the experience of an orgasm.
Obviously, Sidecar Donuts is my pick for best donut in the nation. But we asked a few of our other writers to offer their choices too.