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Andrew Galarneau: Our unhealthy obsession with doughnuts

It’s not the doughnut, it’s the whole.

The whole package, I mean. Sweetness and death, the yin and yang of life itself, only with jimmies.

That’s what people bewildered by Western New York’s fascination with doughnuts don’t get. Going doughnut-crazy is not particular to Buffalo, but doughnuts are certainly a first-ballot candidate for our Hunger Hall of Fame. Wednesday’s news that Paula’s Donuts is opening a Southtowns location, in West Seneca’s Southgate Plaza, brought cheers from across the region, and nearly 9,000 Facebook favorites in a few hours.

This is a town that supports doughnut shops like they were pumping out oxygen. A town where people respond to a fifth Tim Horton’s opening on a three-mile stretch of Niagara Falls Boulevard by shrugging and complaining that the drive-thru takes too long. On a road, lest we forget, almost closed 15 years ago by the traffic jams caused by the arrival of a Krispy Kreme.

After Paula’s opened a second location in Clarence three years ago, its original Kenmore location closed, leaving neighbors mourning. An invitation from developer Nick Sinatra led to the store at 2319 Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda, which has been so popular the town recently decided to install “no parking” signs on nearby residential streets to deter morning doughnut-seekers. Apparently customers could find open spaces down the plaza parking lot, but chose to park on nearby streets to save themselves a few steps.

Everyone has to decide whether doughnuts make sense for them. That’s why the news that a new Paula’s is coming was met with a blend of cheers and faint groans, the latter from people whose faces went blank as they tried to crunch the numbers on how many laps in the pool they’ll need to work off one peanut stick.

Why? All over fried dough with sugar, as empty a calorie as you can find in the human diet? In an age where South Beach is more diet plan than suntan zone.

I’ll tell you why: Once you are an adult, eating a doughnut is a death-defying act. You raise that glazed orb to your face, using two hands if it’s a Paula’s number, knowing that you are being self-indulgent, naughty, and unintimidated by the nagging angel on your shoulder who wants to tell us all, between bites, that we are dying a little bit every day.

Plus, it’s delicious.

Give us the chance to defy the Grim Reaper before we finish our morning coffee, and suddenly the bacon stuck in the maple-frosted doughnut makes sense. Once you’ve broken through the thin veneer of propriety, in for a penny, in for a pound. Which, by the way, would make the worst Weight-Watcher’s slogan ever.

Figuring out how to carry on in the face of hazardous environmental factors is a Buffalo thing. Subzero temperatures, lake-effect snow, and sports teams that redefine the meaning of pain season after season may have hardened us to more subtle hazards, like dietary imbalance.

The fact that a doughnut is a one-handed walk on the wild side, dietary naughtiness that goes great with a cup of coffee, is merely icing on the cliché.


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