Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Donut That Ate Boston

Off-Topic Warning: Boston color follows.

According to Da Dunk, there are over 6,100 Dunkin' Donuts shops in over 30 countries. The United States has over 4,400 of them.

In our house, we have a mixed marriage (a phrase inevitably followed by a strained attempt at humor). My wife likes Krispy Kreme donuts and I don't consider them food. In fairness, she has emotional ties. Her Brownie Scout buddy was drum major in the school band, which sold KK products and delivered them to homes on Saturday afternoon for Sunday breakfast.

Southerners have quite the habit of breakfast sweets. Yankees pretend they don't by grabbing their donuts on the way to work.

My maternal grandmother made real doughnuts, and doughnut holes. She had her own recipe for a buttery, not too cakey, dough, which she kept in her dinged, once-yellow tin box. She rolled them by hand, cut them with a red-handled doughnut cutter and fried them. My favorites were not sweet and were dusted with cinnamon. They did not remotely resemble fried white cake crusted with paint-like sugar. When Mable was making doughnuts, the neighbors smelled and appeared.

Anyway, about Dunkin', it has eaten Boston.

It wasn't in one gulp, but I immediately think of three snacks -- the two Doughboy Donuts and the Milton's HoJo's. Of course, Dunk's corporation could do a Corleone -- "It's not personal. It's strictly business." These were good locations on busy corners. They could as easily been a florist or drycleaner.

However, at the Doughboy in my Jamaica Plain neighborhood, we are a little lesser for it. Cop-and-donut jokes aside, you could always find a police officer there, 24X7. Doughboy was a jolly place, open all night, as I believe the one at Edward Everett Square was. Detectives who needed to drink after hours had their place a mile down the Hyde Park Avenue, but on-duty officers could and would swing in for a coffee, pastry and conversation.

Doughboy surely deterred crime. I have to wonder how much of the increased nighttime drug trafficking at the nearby Forest Hills Station is due to the lack of patrol cars at the corner of Walk Hill.

The DDs that replaced these shops are not community centers. They have the single advantage of commodities, like Budweiser -- you know exactly what you're getting. One serving is the same as the previous and next. How boring.

The ingestion of the Doughboys is noteworthy in JP, but not widely. New Englanders love their donuts and their ice cream so much that they make huge allowances for differences, so long as these staples are close by. Doughboy's goods were better, but, hey, Dunkin' is still a donut shop.

Over at the Daley Blog, J.J. Daley did have a religious experience, sort of, with one Doughboy:
For a long time there was a photo on the wall at Doughboy Donuts of the Pope traveling through Edward Everett Square that day. Getting a coffee, I always stopped to look at it and for years afterwards, when I read about his accomplishments around the world, I thought of that photo and the connection we had to him here in our town.

Then there's the orange roof. In Milton, DD ate one of our last Howard Johnson's restaurants. When I bike or drive down 138, right before 128 is a Dunkin' Donuts and a sports bar on that spot.

This not so odd couple -- cable sports, beer and donuts; it's a lifestyle! -- share the old building.

Ironically, both the first Howard Johnson's sit-down restaurant (1929) and the first Dunkin' Donuts (1950) started in Quincy, Massachusetts. DD is just young enough to be HoJo's kid, and in a cheesy modern version of mythology, the child usurped the parent.

HoJo's has become another inexpensive hotel chain, owned by the Wyndam folk. The 28 flavors used to ring the Boston area. Now instead you can eat a sugar and fat thingummy from the ubiquitous Dunkin' Donuts. You know what it's going to taste like.

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