Friday, January 18, 2008

Sweet Memories, Sweet Realities

I've always loved donuts and didn't complain when Dunkin' Donuts got some competition from Mister Donut. There was room for both companies in the market and I had my favorites at both places. They were big free standing shops, stools and counter plus a few tables in the front of the big display of fresh donuts. In the back they made the donuts, and there was a constant good smell coming from those big deep fryers.

They were open 24 hours a day and there were always people sitting around, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, reading the paper or chatting with one another. Smoking was legal and a cigarette vending machine was plainly marked that it was illegal to buy cigarettes if you were under 16. Thirty-five cents a pack and the honor system.

The early seventies saw the country go on a health kick. Fried foods would kill you, sweet stuff would make you fat, all that stuff. A few years later it was smoking would kill not only you but everybody else within sight. Coffee vacillated from bad to good for you. Right now it's on the good list, but don't use real sugar or don't use the artificial stuff depending on which expert is talking, and use low fat milk, never half and half. The powdered artificial stuff? Never!

All of which took its toll on the donut shops. Last year I couldn't find one open after ten PM, and the others were all out of business. Suddenly it seems like every strip mall has sprouted a Dunkin' Donut shop. They're not stand alone stores, they're tiny by 1970 standards, the donut selection is smaller, but the Dunkin' Donut coffee is as rich and smooth as ever, and they're pushing it big time! But it lacks that "bite" of Starbucks blends. They're trying to outStarbucks Starbucks for the coffee market, with the donuts as a bonus. Starbucks' paltry selection of half stale pastries is a major failing of the chain. Me? I'm a cherry picker, stopping first at the Dunkin' Donut down the street and then downing my Dunkin's at Starbucks as I enjoy some real coffee.

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