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Notable Sandwiches #60: Doughnut
The pillar of unvirtue, the Aleister Crowley of sandwiches
Welcome to Notable Sandwiches, the feature where I, alongside my editor David Swanson, trip merrily through the ever-evolving document that is Wikipedia’s List of Notable Sandwiches in alphabetical order. This week, a sweet stunt: the doughnut sandwich.
I started this column four times. I wrote a little opening about Passover and leaven, about the difficulties of creating homemade doughnuts (yeast, precision, boiling oil), even a shoehorned segue about the current zombie shambles that is Twitter. Then I realized I was clearing my throat too much, and when that happens, there’s usually something to say obscured by some obstruction: some kernel of truth hidden in the hollow center of the doughnut sandwich.
The truth is the doughnut sandwich is a shamelessly indulgent kind of culinary object—all vice and spice, no salubrious veil—and that made it in its own way curiously hard to write about.
If you encounter a doughnut sandwich in the wild, it’s probably going to come factory-glazed, filled with grease-sweating beef or machine-breaded chicken, and contain at least an ounce of either dairy, mayonnaise, or both. It will be saccharine-sweet and tongue-puckeringly salty and so fatty it will drip down your chin. You’ll probably like it because you are evolutionarily designed to like it. But still, you’ll eat it mostly to say you ate it, and not seek it out on a daily basis—there’s a reason it’s more of a stunt menu item than a dollar-menu staple. You’ll still like it, though.
As you eat your sandwich, somewhere in the universe, a columnist will wring their hands and write an article about the “Epidemic Tsunami Plague of Obesity That Is Killing America’s Future With Disgusting Fatties,” featuring photos of doughnut sandwiches interspersed with the headless torsos of fat people. Other very serious public intellectuals and their eager petit-bourgeois audiences will spread the article and murmur thoughtfully at their dinner tables about how fat people are a scourge—unsightly as the homeless, and even more numerous.
Someone else will spend most of her day plotting out how to dip below 1,200 calories, that arbitrary starvation-grail of a number most every one of us has tried to adopt at one time or another; will measure her waist with tape and cry at its circumference. You’ll go to the doctor for something pretty apparent like vomiting or a twisted ankle and get back reports reporting that you’re fat and it’s a matter of concern. You will nonetheless have eaten the sandwich and you’d do it again, because at the end of the day it’s not like these jagweeds will see you as human if you eat enough fucking salad. They will still see you as a germ in a plague.
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If you’re fat you probably don’t eat in public if you can possibly avoid it. Hell, most of the time, you don’t even eat solid food, just subsist on coffee, cigarettes, yogurt and self-punishment. How many years of your life have you spent wishing yourself smaller? How many bargains have you imagined with a jinn or a demon or an angel or a liposuctionist to make yourself less, less, less, please? How much self-deprivation equates to one doughnut sandwich?
Whither all those 1,200 calorie days if one day you snap at sub-sustenance levels and you’re going to eat the doughnut sandwich—or at least something that makes you feel full for a whole hour or even a whole afternoon? What is the point of all that sorrow and angst, all those days feeling light-headed and murderous, if you’ll gain it all back and more and go right back to being a headless and disappointing torso? What if all the people who deigned to see you for a moment or a month turn into magicians, able at a second’s glance to vanish you into your own size? Why not, beforehand, and to spare yourself the wild peaks and troughs of dieting (and the “wellness” “tracking” apps that are just thinly rebranded diets) and just eat the fucking sandwich to begin with?
The doughnut sandwich. The pillar of un-virtue. The Aleister Crowley of sandwiches. Waving one at Gwyneth Paltrow three times counterclockwise makes her vanish into the quartzite prison from which her soul was allowed to escape, I’ve heard. Come out riding Oprah’s little red wagon of fat, on your squishy throne, a doughnut sandwich in each hand like a scepter. Defy them to make your life a tragedy and get Brendan Fraser to play you in a fat suit, to great critical acclaim. Better yet: display such joy you’ll never, ever become the subject of a solemn Oscar grab, never the skeleton for someone else’s fat suit, because fat people being happy is the one subject no one ever, ever wants to see.
If your body is by its very nature a screen for the projections of those whose headiest meal is virtue, let it play fuckin’ Looney Tunes, the good screwball gags with Bugs in drag, ideally. Leave the gun—and the flail and the modern catechism of self-deprivation—and take the sandwich. Allow yourself the chance to look in the mirror and enjoy the soft folds of yourself, become thereby, as William Carlos Williams once said, “the happy genius of your household.”
It’s not true that no one can shame you but you; the world can be cruel in much more material ways. But you can obtain and consume that sandwich if you so desire. And more. You don’t have to wait to be thin to seek pleasure. Even pleasure that seems ribald and lewd and disgusting to those who already find you to be a Rabelaisian horror (even if they express it through those dual horsemen of the fuckoffpocalypse, Worry and Concern). You can put the XXX in XXXL if you wish to. You can be loved. And lusted after. And fiercely.
And you can love, and lust, and yes, you are entitled to your hunger. You do not have to be an avatar of moderation and virtue at all times. You do not have to shrink into yourself, fantasize about halving yourself and halving that half. You do not have to keep your head down and attempt to diminish the space you take up. You can be immoderate; use the full volume of your voice; extend your limbs as needed; buy clothing that fits you that you think is cute, even if you have to scour the Web to find it.
Yes, you can do this. You can eat the doughnut sandwich. You can cease writing your own apologia for being alive. I rather like the idea of a scepter—two scepters—two halberds topped with doughnut sandwiches, with which to stride out of the castle dungeon and into the great hall, beheading the whispering council of malefactors that will tell you to retreat and retreat until you die. You can take yourself out from the gray hidden dusk of great shame and out into the lemon-custard dawn of the knowledge that you too deserve your great big bite of life. Chocolate glaze and creme pat and boneless breaded thigh for preference. Fuck them all. It’s your life. Rise like leaven, unhindered, into all it holds.