Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Here's one for you, Grampa

I certainly didn't need it.

I was standing in line at the coffee shop (you know the one, I'm just ashamed to say I shop there - it's right on the way to work!) when I saw it. In the brightly lit display case of attractive, fatty treats - muffins the size of your head, cookies iced to resemble baseballs, etc. - there was a tray marked "Old-Fashioned Chocolate Doughnuts."

I had packed a yogurt to eat with my coffee; I didn't need any extra food, much less a 480-calorie doughnut (this particular conglomerate is quite proficient in providing nutritional information).


When I was much younger, my mother, brother and I spent summers in Maine, living with my mother's parents (poor Daddy had to stay home and work). My grandparents lived in Richmond, which is a teeny little town forty minutes north of Portland. Basically, the middle of nowhere, with a population of 1,864.

Every Saturday, we would drive to Boothbay so that my grandmother could get her hair done - the old-fashioned "shampoo and set" that little old ladies used to wear. She'd been going to the same woman for twenty, thirty years and nothing was going to change that.

Luckily, Boothbay Harbour is a lovely little seaside town with charm to spare. "Quaint" was invented for Boothbay Harbour. My mother would go off window shopping with my little brother, a toddler at the time, and Grandpa would take me to the coffee shop.

I don't think it exists anymore - it's been replaced by chain shops and places that call themselves general stores and boast of "Teas from Africa, Drink espresso from Italy and enjoy locally roasted drip coffee." (Yes, "teas" and "drink" are unnecessarily capitalized - who knows why?)

It was a proper coffee shop, with a counter as the only seating and each stool housing a old guy, much like my grandfather. Coffee was poured from pots to white mugs that were no longer white, so long had they been in service. Men sat around and groused, if I recall, mainly about the weather and jobs.

And they had doughnuts.

My grandfather was soon to be diagnosed with diabetes, but I don't think we were aware of that at the time. And boy, did he love his sweets - he even named one of his dogs after a favorite treat, Suzy Q's. My grandmother was constantly scolding him for sneaking dessert before dinner. And heaven forbid she try to sneak something healthy into his desserts - there's a meltdown involving grapes that is still mentioned at family gatherings.

My grandfather's favorite, and thus mine, was the glazed chocolate cake-style doughnut. For those of you who aren't connoisseurs of breakfast pastries, there are two styles of doughnut - the cakey kind and the airy, yeast-assisted risen kind (think Krispy Kreme). And any doughnut lover worth his salt falls into one camp or the other. I am a cake doughnut girl.

The men would dunk their doughnuts in their coffee and discuss local politics, and I would make do with a glass of milk, silent, the only child in the place usually, only half-listening. Mostly I was proud to be hanging out with the grownups.

This was a weekly ritual for my grandfather and I, one that I've cherished dearly. I'm sure I've bored many a friend by rhapsodizing over a chocolate cake doughnut.

I've tried to cut unnecessary fatty foods out of my diet, saving my caloric sinning for the good stuff (good chocolate, premium ice creams, etc.), and I'm pretty sure doughnuts wouldn't make the cut in anyone's idea of a healthy lifestyle.

I lost my grandfather last fall; he was 84 and had a good life. But he was my last grandparent living, and I loved him so dearly. In that pastry case, at the bland, homogenized, corporate coffee shop, I saw my childhood and a sweet memory.

So I bought it. And yeah, I ate the whole thing - all 480 calories. I dunked it in my coffee, because now, I'm the grownup.

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