doughnuts herb

Freshly glazed doughnuts are prepared in the back of Smith's Bakeries in this 2018 file photo. There are few things better than the sweet joy of a doughnut, writes columnist Herb Benham.

I missed the day but it got me thinking.

Friday was National Doughnut Day. Dumb, I know, these days for everything but if you’re going to have a national day for anything, doughnuts deserve a moment in the sun, our lives and in our memories.

Is there a happier sight than a white bag rustling with doughnuts? Blood pressure goes down, smiles go up and peace settles over the valley.

A friend who grew up in Bakersfield emailed Friday. Doughnuts have a surprising appeal. People will cross picket lines, state lines and party lines for doughnuts. Doughnuts can bring people together and friendships can be sealed with a cold glass of milk.

“I used to walk to the Smith’s in the Hillcrest Shopping Center next to Horace Mann Elementary School,” Al wrote.

“The gals who worked there wore starched white uniforms, hairnets and were unabashedly healthy.

“Over the years I’ve grown to favor a chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate frosting chased by a cinnamon crumb.

“My mom used to get six doughnuts from Smith’s Bakery every Saturday morning. The milk was in bottles delivered from Wayne’s Dairy.”

The man is playing me like a Stradivarius. Ice-cold morning milk from Wayne’s Dairy in the glass bottles is fitting of a national day itself. Milk that has never been colder and tasted better since.

Where do you start with doughnut memories? It’s like a climbing wall with a million handholds. You could choose this one or that one but whichever one you choose, they all lead to higher ground.

A Wayne’s Dairy delivery is a good place to start. Early morning, before the kids were up but not their moms, there was a four-bottle pack on the doorstep garnished with a package of chocolate doughnuts. If the milk was from heavenly cows, the doughnuts were from a heavenly bakery.

Later on, doughnuts became a Saturday morning treat. The promise of doughnuts was a reason for children to behave during the week: Do your homework, make your bed, be a peacemaker among siblings who may have been running amok.

The message from upper management was: “Behave and we might have doughnuts on Saturday. Really behave, as well as rake the leaves or help with the lawns, and Saturday morning doughnuts could lead to Saturday afternoon crispy tacos from Taco Bell.”

Saturday morning doughnuts are what most kids remember about their childhoods. If there is one tradition they will take forward with their own children, and certainly it is not the sage advice that their parents gave them, it is the Saturday morning doughnut one.

The only thing better than introducing your own children to doughnuts is doing the same for grandchildren. The look on their faces after that first bite is priceless. No one can get older and leave this earth with that kind of pleasure in the world.

Everybody has their favorites. Maple sticks, glazed, but I liked the lemon custard, powdered sugar gems chased by a cinnamon crumb doughnut. There is your first doughnut and then your second and it behooves you to choose wisely.

Doughnuts only got better with Randy’s Donuts and the big doughnut in the sky off the Manchester exit on the 405 freeway. It’s hard, but perhaps not impossible, to find anything better than their cinnamon crumb cake doughnut, butter crumb or roasted coconut doughnut.

Rivaling Randy’s is VG Donut & Bakery in Encinitas. A line out of the door is usually a good sign, and it’s a sign that these doughnuts may be worth waiting for even if the line includes a bunch of stoned surfers.

One of my favorite doughnut memories is when Krispy Kreme first came to town in 2000. The day before it opened, people were lined up around the block. The first man in line was in a wheelchair and on oxygen. If he was going to go, he wanted to go after one of those light, warm, glazed doughnuts.

I’m not sure we’ve ever needed doughnuts more. If not doughnuts, the promise the simple pleasure doughnuts can deliver. Doughnuts could bring us to normal, and if not normal, home.

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

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