With food, there are stories. Stories as you eat, stories about what you ate, stories about what happened to you on your way to getting to where you were going to eat. Food is tied tightly to narrative.
My first Krispy Kreme donut has a story too.
It was my second year at university, a large mass of a school just south enough to be considered the South, tucked in the mountains so that you could easily believe nothing else existed beyond the sea of sloping hills that contained it.
I met Dodge at a photography opening in front of a picture of a scrawny kid holding a chicken leg called “Kentucky Fried.” I liked him right away. He was slight with slow gestures and reminded me of what a willowy Spanish poet might look like if there were such young men in the go-go 80s. He had his black hair in a page-boy and spoke in hushed tones. You had to lean in a bit to hear him.
As is often the case when you’re 19, you meet fast, plan quickly, and decide immediately. Ten hours after our night at the gallery, Dodge was picking me up in his Spider convertible for a road trip to Winston-Salem. He had an appointment with his banking agent at the local Wachovia there, which was when I realized that Dodge was the kind of kid who had a banking agent. Turned out he was also the kind of kid who had a trust fund. It’s what let him quit architecture school later that winter to move to Paris where he eventually got a job with Philippe Starck.
As we drove the winding mountain roads towards Winston-Salem, Dodge had the AM radio tuned to a station that played the old Sam Spade radio shows. All the way down, Dodge and I smoked Black Russian Sobranies he had picked up in London and talked to each other as if we had just stepped out from the hard boiled pages of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. I played the Brigid O’Shaughnessey part (I haven’t lived a good life. I’ve been bad, worse than you could know) and he played Sam Spade (That’s good, because if you actually were as innocent as you pretend to be, we’d never get anywhere). And so it went until we finally got there four hours later.
When Dodge was done with his business at Wachovia, he asked if I wanted to get donuts. I told him I didn’t care either way. Then he told me I must never have had a Krispy Kreme donut if I didn’t care either way. I told him he was right.
We drove to downtown Winston-Salem where Krispy Kreme had its flagship factory and shop. You could smell donuts coming off the line before you even went into the place and the smell that hit you was magic. But when I looked at the pale puffy pieces coming out of the fryer and making their way through the glazer, I thought they were decidedly plain looking and disappointing. Dodge ordered a dozen glazed and two coffees to go.
When we were back in the car I was going to say something about how he had bought too many donuts, that I wasn’t going to be able to eat more than one, but he held his hand up for me to stop talking. Then he passed me an original glazed, sat back, and watched. That’s when I turned into a Krispy Kreme Kliché, going into demonstrations of rapture usually reserved for religious conversions and epiphanies.
We drove back to the college with the same Sam Spade radio show, the same route through the mountains, the same Sobranie cigarettes. But now, it was all entirely different. I had experienced the sublime. I had known transcendence. And there’s been no other donut for me ever since.
Happy birthday, Krispy Kreme. Happy, happy 75.