Monday, May 14, 2007

Donuts and Age

I am in my 46th year. Some days I feel every minute of those four and a half decades, others I feel as I did in my teens. My wife would say that, maturity-wise, I am still in my teens… early teens.

I ate breakfast this past Saturday and felt older than I have ever felt before. Sadly, I have reached an age where I can’t eat donuts and feel good afterwards. It was 7:30 a.m. and I was instantly tired, listless, bloated, and ready for a nap. Et tu donut?

Donuts are the universal breakfast treat. Sure eggs and bacon might rule the roost, but donuts were the first hand-held, drive-through breakfast item out there. Long before egg-filled burritos, French toast sticks, and pancake sandwiches with the syrup built into the bread, there were donuts. They were simple and they were good.

I have a long and storied history with donuts. As a kid, I stopped by the donut shop on my way to school. My church always had donuts on Sunday morning, and at Sunday-night church, we ate the leftover donuts cold. While working at a radio station during high school, I finished my air shift at midnight and stopped by the donut shop for a couple of custard-filled donuts and a pint of milk. As a bachelor living in Destin, Fla., I often visited The Donut Hole in the wee hours of the morning— all this and a 32-inch waist, too.

When my daughter was born, I used to take her to the donut shop every Saturday morning to watch the men make the donuts. She loved it.

Recently, I have used the donut shop as a rare, surprise treat for the kids, as I occasionally stopped by on the way home from church or another activity. The first time I did it the kids went wild. “Donuts at 8:30 at night? Dad, you’re the best! Mom is gonna kill you!” Those surprises have become less common as the no-more-donuts-for-Robert realization has begun to sink in.

Granted, donuts might be one of the most unhealthy foods out there—bread, deep-fried in grease, and then topped with sugar and chocolate— but I used to have an iron constitution. I could eat anything and it didn’t affect me.

I used to be able to drink highly caffeinated beverages at bedtime and sleep all night, not anymore. Last year I learned that I can no longer enjoy a roller coaster ride. Somewhere in my late 30s, my thrill-ride equilibrium flew out the window. Today I have more hair on my back than I do on my head. And where did this hair in my ears come from?

I see old men hanging out in donut shops all of the time. Their mornings are filled with newspapers, gossip, cigarettes, gallons of coffee, and donuts. They have hair in their ears, too. How do they walk away from the donut shop not feeling poorly?

As a kid I could eat anything. I ate a lot and I ate often. When I reached my mid 30s, my metabolism took a nap— a long nap— and has yet to wake up.

I am past middle-aged. Some say that 60-years old is middle aged. Sure, it’s middle-aged if you are going to live to be 120. I figure I hit middle age around my 43rd birthday. I’ll take 86 years on the planet— men die young in my family.

I wonder if there are any other foods that I will have to stop eating. If so, I will gladly give up Brussels sprouts right now if I can have my once-a-month donut fix returned. I would give up cauliflower and kiwi for a few more years of roller coaster riding. Apricots for chocolate cake, that’s an easy trade. What if rib-eye steak starts making me feel poorly, or bacon? I don’t know if a life without bacon is worth the effort.

Before long I’ll be wearing goofy pajamas, reading the obituary column, and reeking of Bengay, while surviving on a steady diet of Cream of Wheat, and Ensure. But I’m not going down without a fight, so pass the donuts (and the Mylanta, and the aspirin).

Amaretto-Brulee Breakfast Bread

1 /3 cup Butter, melted
3 /4 cup Brown sugar
2 Tbl Honey
2 Tbl Pecans, chopped (optional)
2 Tbl Almonds, slivered and blanched (optional)
8 French bread croutons, cut into 1-inch thick rounds
4 Eggs
2 /3 cup Milk
1 /4 cup Heavy cream
1 /8 tsp Cinnamon
1 /8 tsp Nutmeg
1 Tbl Vanilla
1 Tbl Amaretto

French bread croutons should be cut out of a baguette-style French bread loaf. Slices should be one inch thick.

In a cast iron skillet, combine butter, brown sugar and honey over medium-high heat. Cook mixture, stirring constantly until bubbly and sugar has dissolved. Add nuts. Pour Brulee into the bottom of a round, two-quart Pyrex baking dish. Allow Brulee to cool slightly then top with the French bread croutons.

In a large mixing bowl whisk eggs, milk, heavy cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and Amaretto. Pour mixture evenly over the croutons. Using the tips of your fingers, press bread down gently to force custard into croutons without breaking. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Allow custard to come to room temperature one hour before baking. Bake uncovered until French bread is puffed and edges of croutons are golden brown, (approximately 40 minutes). Place a plate on top of the baking dish. Using dish towels or pot holders, invert dish onto a plate. Top with powdered sugar. Yield: four to six servings

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