My lunchtime trip into downtown Marshall, Michigan, to get a doughnut at the famous Louie’s Bakery was full of ups and downs, like a hilly neighborhood one might drive through to figure out where to park. First of all, it was a beautiful day. The sky was bright blue and the country road I drove only had a couple of dead deer on its shoulder instead of the countless animal carcasses I see on a daily basis during my commute. I thought I was going to get stuck behind a garbage truck, but then I was able to pass. And “Tempted” by Squeeze was on the radio. As I got into town and drove past the pretty Victorian houses Marshall is known for, I delighted to see that the fountain in the roundabout was on for the first time I’d noticed. Everything was fine! I’d never been to Louie’s before, although my coworker who lives in Marshall had brought us pastries a few months ago, and they were really good! So I was excited to try out their doughnuts. Since I’d never been there before, I wasn’t sure exactly where in downtown it was, so I accidentally drove past it and then had to loop around through back streets before I pulled into the parking lot behind its block. While I walked through the parking lot to the sidewalk, there were a few middle-aged dudes maybe working on their cars, but definitely repeatedly saying, “Your body is a wonderland.” Not singing it. Not catcalling. And I don’t think they were saying it to or about me or about each other. They were just saying the phrase over and over. Maybe they were saying it to the cars? What a strange, magical place Marshall is.
I went during lunch, even though Louie’s would be open after I got off work, because I was worried that they might run out of doughnuts as the afternoon wore on. I didn’t get any pictures of the interior of the place, because I still feel sort of weird taking pictures, and also because the place was very small and already full of people. These people include two employees, two adults, and two small children, including one who just stood in front of the front door so I could not push it open. There people were all getting cookies, and the employee (maybe the owner) in the back called out to me, “Do you want a cookie?” Granted, the cookies did look amazing! So fun and colorful. They were, in fact, the only bits of color in the store. I told the cookie lady I just wanted doughnuts, and then looked around to realize that all the other shelves and cases were basically empty!
“I’m all sold out of doughtnuts,” said the lady.
It’s the last week of classes for Marshall schools, so teachers had been coming in and buying out her stock without pre-ordering! Some lady came in at the crack of dawn and bought TEN DOZEN. I immediately left the store and found this woman and then we left the state and got married because she is a woman after my own heart. Ten dozen doughnuts!!!! Swoon.
Anyway, all they had left in the form of non-cookie pastries were cinnamon rolls, and some other stuff, and then “plain fried cakes.” I looked to where she was pointing, expecting to see something like elephant ears or something, but lo-and-behold, there was a tray full of plain doughnuts. I asked for two. I gave the woman $2.20 in exact change paying with ten pennies that I pulled out of my change purse without counting (#ladyboss) and headed out. Plain doughnuts are some of my favorite doughnuts, and especially are a ready stand-by when I’m at a new doughnut place. They looked good and crusty. I was excited, feeling flush with the joy that comes from holding doughnuts on a sunny day, and decided to take advantage of the break from work and drive by my favorite place in Marshall, the Cronin House, aka the basis for the House With A Clock In Its Walls. (Guys, Marshall is the birthplace of John Bellairs and New Zebedee, the fictional town where he sets many of his works, is not-so-loosely based on Marshall and it’s a very cute town and sometimes when I drive the back roads in this area at night I pretend that Selenna Izard is after me and everyone should come visit me because then we can pretend she’s chasing us together! I’m 33!) But as I headed up Madison, I discovered that they were repaving and the block the house was on was closed to thru traffic! Nooooo! I wanted to take a picture! Anyway, I looped around and drove past the back of the house and gazed longingly at the backyard where, unless I am mistaken, the protagonists of the book and subsequent books in the series, ate a lot of doughnuts.
Okay, I know I am far into the weeds on this. This post is about to be about doughnuts, right? I know maybe three people will freak out about this, but to those three people: I checked my copy of HWACIIW, and look what I should find on page 71!
On the table stood a gallon jug of cider and a plate of powdered doughnuts, or “fried cakes,” as Mrs. Zimmermann called them.
FRIED FUCKING CAKES.
Long story short, too late, I got very busy at work during the afternoon, and decided to hold off on eating my doughnuts until I got home and could take my time enjoying them. And if I brought them home I could share them with my favorite Louis. He loves shit named after himself!
Guys. Guys? Can I tell you? These doughnuts were amazing. I am eating the second one right now and it is perfect. As you can see in the close-up shot, there are all sorts of chunks of dough fried to a crisp and the dough is perfectly seasoned as to make you feel like it is autumn. When I bit into it I said aloud, “This doughnut is really fucking good. That’s a fucking good doughnut.” And I meant it! I have literally no complaints about this doughnut. Except that it’s not the best doughnut I’ve ever had. It hits all the points that I need a doughnut to have: crunch and spice and perfectly cakey center. It’s better than 800% of doughnuts out there, that’s a fact. But it’s not the best.
I’m going to be straight with all of you. I started this challenge with an end-game in mind. For weeks, WEEKS, I have been craving a doughnut from my very favorite doughnut place, but it’s just a little too far to drive there just to get a doughnut. So even though I’ve been enjoying all these doughnuts, I’ve been comparing them in my mind to the doughnuts you shall meet on Friday. Thank God almighty, the time is almost here.
But before we can reach the light, we must go through the darkness. Which is why Tomorrow’s Doughnut: Dunkin Donuts. The horror. The horror.