I have never before attempted making donuts.
They are too big a project- all those tricky steps, complicated instructions. Added to this, I have to admit: the real reason has always been that donut-making is too messy- the grease and flying fat. Yuck. And aren’t they too time consuming, don’t they have to be rolled in sugar, no less? And glazed? Ugh. Again, so many steps. So much bother. They really are just too complicated. Besides, they are the stuff of grandmothers and professionals- not a recipe for an amateur baker like myself to dabble in, a woman with more than a few projects on the go at any given time. A woman who really could be doing about thirteen other things right now- of more significance than this project, to be completely honest.
And furthermore, what’s so wrong with Oreos for dessert?
But it’s been decided: I am making donuts today if it’s the last project on the agenda for the weekend (it might well be at the rate I am going). And I am making these delectable little yummies mostly because I feel guilty.
Internal-guilty: (oh let me count the ways. I am a glutton for punishment, I am home today due to a storm- I might as well be busy, I haven’t baked in a while, I need to do something with the kids, there’s nothing to eat in this house…).
External guilty: (I just got off the phone with someone who is making baked donut-muffins; so, what do I do but feel I must go and bake too; in a friendly case of ‘one up-manship’ along with the fact that I cannot find the actual recipe I am looking for, I decide to make fried donuts, the old-fashioned way).
Guilty for the sake of feeling guilty: (it has been a loooong time since I baked anything delicious; which means I now have to over-do it and bake something delectably challenging- something as delicious as it is complicated).
Yes, I am feeling it. Guilty. Just plain old guilty. Guilt always has a curious way of motivating me to action, sad but true. But it does.
I enlist my Husband to secure me a bowl from the high cupboard. It is under a mountain of junk food. A precarious mountain that threatens to become an avalanche unless One more patient (and taller) than I takes measures to protect ‘said heap’ of treasured snacks. I have everything under the sun crammed into that pantry cupboard. I look longingly at the two granola bars I have to move out of the way first. These instant snacks are where it’s really at, so much simpler than this journey of dough and flour catastrophe I am about to initiate and embark on. I maneuver around the six bags of chips stacked on top of one another at random angles.
At which point, Husband comes to my rescue. He hands me a bowl, but it is much too small. I explain which bowl exactly and why, and he sighs. It is of course the aqua rimmed bowl at the bottom of everything. And I do mean everything. Eventually, the bowl is produced, while I find the bag of flour at ground level, behind my antique stove, where it has been preserved securely inside two grocery bags: in case mice get at it before I do. That’s how often flour gets noticed around here. By the mice.
And we are a go. I am ready to begin.
I quietly call a child to help share this journey into uncharted territories with me (because that’s really what this is all about- spending time with the children doing something productive, meaningful and memorable). Quietly I call a child over. Yes, QUIETLY. That’s because this mama can only handle one child in the kitchen with her at a time. Immediately, however, there is tension in the air as everyone hears the rattle of glassware and dishes in spite of my precautions, and they all come pouring into the kitchen wanting to help.
Just what I need to make the guilt levels ramp it up a notch. Great.
I negotiate. Distract. Plead, beg and nearly cry. And the Others not involved in the Project are finally sufficed with a promise from me that they’ll get to help next time. That is, in my next life. When I make donuts again.
We begin. I mean, really. We begin.
I set the recipe on the counter, and Daughter begins to stir melted butter and sugar. Eggs, milk and vanilla. It’s dreamy, actually- this mixture of yellow liquid froth and foam. Daughter looks almost entranced. I feel a sense of calm wash over me. Maybe this won’t be as bad as I thought.
We mix the dough. I add flour and so does she. The lard is on the stovetop and things are pretty much at that point of no return. As the Daughter who is helping is getting tired of stirring in flour, I recruit another child to take over where she left off. Actually, two others.
They pat down the dough with their fingers and make cut-outs with my donut maker. The flour puffs up in little bursts. Reminding me of steam.
Surprisingly, the atmosphere in the kitchen is one of calm and repose. It is almost cathartic, this process. And I even get Husband to help fry the dough.
We sit in to a brunch meal of eggs, sausages, toast, oranges and homemade donuts. And I decide: even though I began this process for all the wrong reasons, things have a way of working themselves around for good.
These donuts were well-worth the effort it took to make them. Well-worth the elbow grease and time. And right now, listening to quiet munching around the table, I also realize: some things in life are just better done the old-fashioned way.
(Although I could do without that little side-motivation of guilt…I’ll know better for next time).
And yes, Children: there really will be a next time. Scouts promise.
Now, where’s that bag of Oreos…