Thursday, April 9, 2020

DOUGHNUTS: Guest Post by Emily Arsenault


About three or four weeks ago, Janet Rudolph generously volunteered to post blog pieces by the authors of new book releases whose promotional travel has been cancelled by the COVID-19 crisis. I jumped at this opportunity and told her I would write about doughnuts. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was not considering how rapidly things would change in 48 hours, or how difficult it might be, in a global pandemic crisis, to think or write about doughnuts. Or to procure doughnuts for an accompanying photo.

I really love doughnuts. Or at least the idea of doughnuts. I love to see displays of doughnuts—the variety, the icing, the sprinkles. There is a simple, childlike joy in getting to select a doughnut from colorful, decadent rows in a shop. All but one of my eight suspense books have scenes with doughnuts in them—sometimes rather significant scenes. Clearly, I have a very simple, Homer Simpson-like Id (Mmmmm sprinkles . . .). I didn’t realize that I was inadvertently depositing doughnuts into my manuscripts until my fourth or fifth book. My seventh book, The Last Thing I Told You, was my first book that contained zero doughnuts.

So maybe I was bursting with pent-up doughnut energy when I started writing my eighth book, All the Pretty Things. It is my dough-nuttiest book yet. It’s a YA suspense book about a girl named Ivy Cork—whose wildly narcissistic father owns an amusement park and a doughnut empire. And the critical final scene happens in the shadow of a giant doughnut that Mr. Cork had his employees make as a publicity stunt. Some characters in the book were inspired by public figures in whom I once found dark humor. Now there’s only terror and disgust. But the publication process is long; I wrote the book two years ago.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been figuring out how to homeschool my kid and manage panic attacks at the same time—a relatively simple roster of tasks, given what many are dealing with right now. But still, the simple pleasure of the sprinkle doughnut feels illusory to me now. Naturally, I long for a day when I can waltz back into Adams Donuts in Greenfield, Massachusetts, order a Boston Cream, sip on a coffee, and eavesdrop on the retired folks gathered there while my daughter takes 10-plus minutes to make a doughnut selection. But this isn’t even among the first 100 things I long for. (Turns out doughnuts are lower on my hierarchy of needs than I thought.) I hope the people who I used to see there at Adams—whose names I don’t know, but who were mostly elderly and whom I assumed went to the shop more for human connection than the delicious donuts—are okay.

A few days ago, when I took up this piece again, I thought I might share my simplest-ever doughnut recipe as a possible quarantine project—the one my closest childhood friend and I used to use when we were twelve: Buy a roll of Pillsbury biscuits, cut holes in them, fry them in a deep pot of vegetable oil, sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar and eat them until you’re clutching your stomach with deep regret.

But we’re all supposed to be eating well and boosting our immune systems right now. Nobody needs to be deep-fat frying, clogging their arteries, potentially starting grease fires and diverting first-responders’ attention away from those who need it more than us. So, scrap that.

I called my mother this morning—for the dozenth time with nothing to say except that I would like her to consider not going to the grocery store anymore. She asked if I thought it would be okay for her to still go through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru. I said no.

“Make a coffee at home and drive around with it, if you need to recreate the experience somehow,” I said, knowing full well that this suggestion would be an insult to a lifelong New England Dunkin enthusiast.

And then I mentioned that I was supposed to be writing about doughnuts but having great difficulty. To this, my mother confessed to me that when she was pregnant with me, she had a doughnut every single morning on her way to work. I had not known that before; it explains so much.

“Maybe you could put that in,” she said.

In conclusion: Don’t start any grease fires right now. Keep up your immune system. Call your mother—or, more broadly, your elders. They might be bored enough right now to tell you a few long held-secrets.

Stay safe and be well.

Emily Arsenault is the author of several mysteries, most recently All The Pretty Things, a YA suspense novel released on March 17 from Delacorte.


jmreadsandwrites said...

Wonderful! thanks for sharing.

jmreadsandwrites said...

Wonderful! Thanks for sharing.