don’t call it a doughnut

Sometimes we must ponder life’s big questions.  Today I find myself asking, what makes a doughnut a doughnut?  Is it the white flour used to make the dough? Is it the refined sugar, melted into a sweet glaze that coats the outside? Perhaps the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in which we fry the doughnut is its very essence.  Naively failing to consider such philosophical queries, I made these yesterday, brought them to a party, and called them “doughnuts.”

They look like doughnuts, right? They’re round, they have a hole in the middle and a chocolatey sheen with fun rainbow sprinkles.  You just might think I had Googled “doughnut” and followed a Paula Deen recipe.  Much to the dismay of my partygoing peers, this was not the case.  I had made dough using spelt and almond flours, baked it, and dipped the result in dark chocolate and coconut oil, creating in my own delusional health-nut mind something that could be passed off as a doughnut.  Here’s the real kicker, though: it wasn’t any of the above doughnut criteria that made my creation unacceptable, or at least unaccepted in the doughnut category.  In fact, I don’t think I revealed any ingredients before my plate of treats was given wrinkle-nosed glances.  The only words I uttered were, “These are vegan.”

That’s all it took.  Just that one label was enough for my goodies to be blacklisted (!).  I totally get that sometimes, people just want to eat junk; I want that, too.  But it wasn’t the lack of white flour or refined sugar or trans fat that turned people away- it was the lack of animal products.  What a strange requirement of a doughnut, I thought to myself!  Of all the things that make a doughnut a doughnut, I would not have guessed that eggs from a chicken and butter made from cow’s milk would be on the list.

To be fair, 5 of the 6 doughnuts did get eaten (one by me… and then the 6th also by me this morning).  I think the main contention held by my friends was that I chose to call them doughnuts, when clearly they didn’t size up to the prototype of doughnutship that they expected. But I was surprised at the stigma that came with the term “vegan.”  A few people mentioned doubts about texture; fine, maybe eggless baked goods are denser.  Does the mere possibility of that make them so much less appealing that you don’t dare even try it? Ultimately, I think it was my doughnuts’ unconventionality that garnered skepticism.  I don’t have to convince you that humans tend to reject things, ideas, people just because they’re different. It appears we’re the same way with food.

This stinks, especially with mounting evidence that animal products (along with processed, refined, and packaged crap) play a huge role in the development of the lifestyle diseases that plague our country.  I am not vegan, nor do I think everyone should be.  But I do think everyone should be taking a good look at what they put into their bodies, and more importantly, keeping an open mind about new ways of eating that could be change for the better.

In the meantime… more “doughnuts” for me!

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5 thoughts on “don’t call it a doughnut

  1. These look delicious! I have a friend who recently made the jump from vegetarian to vegan and it’s a good thing I’ve always appreciated the creativity in vegan baked goods, because we now explore what Austin has to offer a lot! We’ve also made a few vegan cakes and cookies so I’ll have to tell her about this recipe.

  2. What did YOU think of your doughnuts? Is it something that you and possibly other like-minded people would enjoy eating? There is definitely room for experimentation in the doughnut world. I think a doughnut is fried dough usually sweet and featuring a hole. Did you fry it?

    I hadn’t thought about it, but I wonder how far you’d have to go in the other direction, using wacky, savory, animal ingredients (bacon maple bar) to see at what point people would be unable to accept it as a doughnut.

    Now I will go to bed thinking about doughnuts but I don’t think I’ll eat one any time soon. Too much sugar.

  3. I agree that many have an aversion to the title vegan. The cookies that my sisters adore from TJ’s almost weren’t a part of their lives because I made the point to tell them that the cookies were vegan which might as well been telling them the they were made if poop. It took a lot if coaxing to get them to try a nibble and they were shocked that the cookies were actually delicious. They were different from the cookies they normally ate but delicious nonetheless.

    Which brings me to your doughnuts. They were a very good cakey treats but I think people were more hung up on them being called doughnuts then you stating that they were vegan. Which makes me wonder why companies that make healthier foods try to pass them off for their meaty inspirations. Soyrizo, for instance, is one of my favorite meatless foods but it is by no means anything like Chorizo. Not in color, texture and not really in flavor either. But is Soyrizo delicious? YES!! Why do meat alternative foods and dishes try so hard to be something they are not? It says a lot about the psychology of food and people’s associations with food looking a certain way. Does soy taco filling really have to be made to look like ground beef? Is that what brings a person who decides to be vegetarian comfort?

    I wonder if people would have enjoyed your doughnut more if you had called it a “doughNOT” and said it was inspired by the look of a doughnut, not the taste. I would love to see you write more about the psychology of food and people’s definition of what a type of food “should” be like.

    And for the record, if your doughnuts had been blacklisted they would not have crossed the lips of any of the partygoers. Having others eat 4 out of 6 of them is pretty dang good you silly drama goose.

  4. Great Post!

    It seems strange to me that in an “if-it-tastes-good-eat-it” culture, the lack of certain ingredients is a reason to be skeptical. The standard American diet consists of an amazing amount of ingredients that can hardly be pronounced, let alone their contents be understood (what really is in a chicken nugget, and what is dipotassium phosphate?). So why be skeptical by a lack of ingredients, or the inclusion of any ingredients for that matter? If it taste good, eat it! Right?

    I would argue that the ingredients are not at all the issue here, but culture and politics are. Not to go overboard, but the question at hand is, “How did ‘Vegan’ become a dirty/suspicious word in some circles (try promoting Veganism in Texas)?” For some reason, without any appropriate evidence, people become skeptical/suspicious at the utterance of this word. Why? What could produce such paradoxical reasoning?

    I would argue that this skepticism is rooted in the political/economic interests of the meat production industry. The industry wants “Vegan/Vegetarian” to be viewed as dirty/suspicion-inducing words. If they can link suspicion to these words, their stock doesn’t fall and they make money (of course there are the astounding linkages with to the US gov’t that make this political as well). Thus, the skepticism, in my opinion, has little to do with ingredients, and everything to do with influencing popular culture for economic interests. Folks are not scared of doughnuts without animal products. They’ve been influenced to be scared of the dirty word, “Vegan.”

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