Last week's news contained a small tale about a fellow who was running contraband across the Minnesota-Iowa border. Was he trafficking:
Guns? Drugs? Ivory? Guns made of ivory that shoot drugs? No.
Krispy Kreme doughnuts
A go-getter was buying KK doughnuts and reselling them to grateful Minnesotans. The KK company cracked down on the entrepreneur and tried to ban him. You have to wonder how that happened — someone called the regional manager, said, "Yeah, there's this guy who comes in and buys, like, a lot of doughnuts."
"He does? Well, we can't have that. Put a tail on him."
The company later said it was to ensure quality, as if people willing to pay for doughnuts sold from a car trunk would be peeved that they weren't glistening with freshly melted glaze. I think people factored in the interstate aspect. The company eventually realized this was a good thing, inasmuch as it suggested consumer loyalty, and relented. Happy ending!
Except ... Krispy Kreme was upset Minnesotans wanted their doughnuts? Do they not remember how this all unfolded? They dumped us. They came in like saviors, promising a brave new doughnut paradigm, built stores everywhere, put up red lights that flashed when the doughnuts were rolling out of the oven. That light had a Pavlovian power: "Light is on. Must. Have. Doughnuts."
And we'd drive up and walk in and go straight to the counter, salivary glands pumping like North Dakota oil wells:
"Please I would like to insert a round ration of dough and sugar into my mouth right now because the light is on. Also a cup of scalding stimulant. Hurry! The light is on! "
Then you'd sit there and eat your doughnut and feel slightly ashamed, because there's something about stopping for a doughnut that makes you realize that this is just bread-candy, and maybe you didn't need bread-candy right now. It's all context.
Example: In the morning, if you're at a diner and it's the East Coast, sure, a doughnut dipped in coffee is good, if it is 1943. At the office, if someone brings out doughnuts at 10 a.m., it's a nice break, and you can tell yourself it's breakfast food, even though the breakfast menu never has "doughnuts and eggs."
If someone left out pancakes with maple syrup at 10 a.m. at the office, it would be odd. But if they were maple-flavored doughnuts, it would be awesome. If you flattened the doughnut until it was thin as a pancake, you would be weird. If you rolled the pancakes into balls and called them doughnut holes, it would be OK.
Here's what I'm saying: Perhaps Minnesotans have a conflicted relationship with doughnuts. When Tim Hortons announced plans to expand here, we thought, "Great!" And then we realized the phrase "Canadian doughnuts" doesn't sound that special.
Now we have Dunkin' Donuts, and grizzled vets of the doughnut wars take a pull on their heater and peer into the wind:
"Seen 'em all. Egekvist, Mister Donut, Krispy, Tim, Dunkin' — it's always the same. We get excited, and then we get ashamed."
Maybe that's why the smuggled doughnuts were so popular. They had the tang of something forbidden. Besides, people probably thought, "I can stop anytime." And, being good Minnesotans, they would, if there was one left in the box. Or the trunk.