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The Divisiveness of Donuts

07 Apr 2022

And other weird ingredient combinations in desserts.

As a new product manager at a San Francisco tech company, I wanted to thank the whole hiring team for giving me a wonderful welcome. So, in true Ken Norton style, I wished to send them a box of donuts to their new office (I’m based in Austin, TX). I had the foresight of asking one of my new colleagues about the local donut shop I selected (Dynamo Donuts and learned from him that it had ‘divisive’ flavors. To me, they seemed just ‘unique’. I tried to see how they would have extreme reactions but couldn’t quite place it.

What is it about food, of all things, that would make it so divisive? Divisiveness lends itself to cults, political groups and religious sects (not even the original religion). And I would start there because it tends to affect the entirety of someone’s life choices. But now, we’re divisive over completely frivolous things, like sodas, cars and mobile phones. What is strange about their longevity is basically that they’re about the means versus the end. How you reach God, which OS you use, and who will lead you somewhere. Journey vs. destination. After a point, you grow up and think, all I need is a phone that gets things done.

As I broke it down this way, I began to see it. Food is singularly about the journey, about the means. The destination is the invisible, humble stomach. That muscular pouch tirelessly creating a blend of salivated food and acid – not really a sight to behold even though that’s where the food is actually useful. With plated, culinary grade food, it’s all about the means - the tongue, the palate, the chew, the whiff and the sight. I felt I knew this, but now I’m sure – the destination isn’t even important when it comes to food (even though that quirk causes all diseases of excess, but let’s not go there now).

For the novice author of this post, except for dessert (like donuts), I’m not a diehard foodie. But still, because it’s food, I am tempted to give in to the sects and cults. Peanut butter? Yum. Bananas? Yum. Peanut butter with bananas? Meh. It’s just indifference, no worries. But behold! When I read more of the menu items on Dynamo’s page I find: rose! One of my childhood favorites! Aargh - but rose on chocolate? Rose? Rose is a wonderful, traditional Indian flavor, reserved mostly for delicious, sweet gulkand. It works wonderfully with paan, with other dessert like kaju katri, and most magically, gulkand ice cream (if you can pull it off). But chocolate? No! Those two making this journey into my stomach past my judging tongue are itself wrongly paired. I will not stand for this!

Aah! I think food will probably always have divisiveness – even when the aforementioned topics resolve their opposing viewpoints. And I think this is because when the means (or journey) is tied to your memories and physical senses, not so much your ideologies or methods or tools it’s just a lot more visceral. When you don’t even want to accept this is even a valid journey. Rose + chocolate = no go. Oh my, I wonder how bad this is for hardcore foodies!

I ended up ordering from Johnny’s Doughnuts (yes, that’s the original spelling) which was great and .. conventional! It didn’t disappoint anyone and probably didn’t make anyone ecstatic either. Maybe I’ll take a risk when I’m not so new in that office or when I visit the area. So consider this post a tribute to all of our cherished comfort foods and their smells and tastes and memories and for whose fatty, sweet goodness we’d go to war with friends.

Bon appétit!

~ Sid