Public Service Announcement, Re: Mister Donut

At last, the Mister Donut post. My defense is that it was such a traumatic incident that it took me a month to get over the sensation of nausea… However, upon remembering it, I am not over the sensation of nausea.

If you ever walk out of Taipei Main Station and into the Station Front Mall which runs underground towards the Shinkong Mitsokushi department store on your way to Guancian Road, you will enter the Station Front Mall by going down an escalator or set of stairs. You will descend into a heavy, sickly sweet buttery scent that engulfs your throat and tugs at your stomach.

That is Mister Donut.

I was in blissful ignorance of the source for months living here and going to dance class every week through that smell. It did prompt me to breathe through my sleeve a few times, but I’d be rushing off to class and miss its full gag-inducing impact.

Before I go further, I should note that I’m a bit sensitive to scents, not as much as my mother, since I’m generally congested and fighting off a cold (that would be the entirety of my first six months here, knocking on wood that the universe won’t seek to give me the hacking cough/flu that has been walking about lately), but cigarette smoke (no matter how much Marjane Satarapi seduces me with lovely descriptions of it, or Billy Collins rhapsodizes it) causes my eyes to burn and my throat to close up, and Starbucks is fairly gag-inducing too (my friend says it’s a good smell, it’s coffee, but I respectfully disagree, and upon learning from one on the inside, Starbucks is actually burnt coffee). On the plus-side, I stop in my tracks at the scent of jasmine at twilight, and glory in walking past a boulangerie in the morning.

(Another random aside: I am now going to impose an italics moratorium. No, I’m really not a teenage girl, thank you for asking.)

I did not learn the source of that smell, until I was stuck for something to give my ultra-fabulous cousins in Taichung (or Taizhong or Taijung– the various romanizations of Chinese get a bit nutty here). I’m a paranoid gift-giver too, perfectionistic in wanting to get the perfect thing and not a white elephant. Upon consultation with my suitemate, who practically pointed out that food is never amiss, and Mister Donut has not yet infiltrated Taichung, I learned that Mister Donut is a marvelous concoction very much in demand.

Soooo…. I thought I’d try to bring it. I was crunched for time to make it out of work and onto a bus before the hour got too indecent for my arrival that Friday night, and wasn’t sure if I could, but upon getting on the train and realizing I’d be missing the next bus anyway, I figured I might as well pop out at Taipei Main Station and pick up some donuts quickly before popping up the rest of the way to the bus stop.

Slipping through the floods of people, I dashed down the escalator to the Station Front Mall, and turned right into the golden light of Mister Donut. I ended up in a line at eight-o-clock on a Friday night that was around fifteen people long immersed in sickly sweet smell central.

You would think, at this juncture, that I would realize this was a bad idea.

However, being chronically sleep-deprived with impaired judgement and really wanting to do something for the amazingly awesome cousins that had looked after me and supplied me with bing bang (popsicles), Apple Sidra, and mangoes on my visits back to Grandpa’s house long ago, I stuck it out through the long line. After much contemplation, I got chocolate donuts, and round rings of puffs, and a donut braid, and nut-encrusted donuts, and cakey donuts and my favorite plain glazed donuts. I ended up with two big boxes of donuts for the cousins, the aunt and uncle, etc.

Then, after wandering around the dim streets by Shilin nightmarket, I finally found the little bus stop for the new City Express bus line with the promotion of a roundtrip for the price of one-way recommended to me. So I popped onto the bus and settled in for a nice three-hour ride past dark mountain sides.

There was only the bus driver and one other passenger, a fairly young guy with a duffel bag.

My apologies to them both.

A half-hour in, the sickly sweet heavy buttered stench began to rise, and I had to put down my scribbles, give up on my travel book, stuff away my knitting, and press my face against the sealed window. I tried to sleep. I shifted the bag from the seat next to me to the floor to no avail. I then concentrated on not throwing up for the rest of the ride.

City Express takes you around quite a bit of Taichung, and, as luck would have it, I was at the last stop. The young man got out at the first stop, and I moved up to the front so as not to miss mine. The poor bus driver buried his head in his arms and groaned at a stop light at one point. I felt dreadful, and wasn’t good enough at Chinese to apologize properly. My face was buried in my sleeves too. After half an hour of meandering Taichung, I finally got out into the dark night by a little stream, and embraced the fresh air with a few dry heaves. Thankfully, by the time my cousin was able to pick me up at the handy 7/11 nearby, I was better, if still somewhat queasy. We stuffed the donuts in the trunk. I got to my other cousin’s apartment, and we popped the donuts in the refrigerator. I was certain that I never ever wanted to see or smell another donut again. Instead we had some yummy dohua (sort of a custardy sweet tofu) to fortify our catching up into the wee hours.

When the next afternoon woke us, we popped into the car with two plastic baggies of donuts, broke them apart to share, and in spite of my earlier misgivings, I actually had some.

Mister Donut was actually almost as good as its hype. Not worth that amount of nausea for, per se, but the fact that I was able to eat it and enjoy it was really incredibly remarkable. The Pon de Ring has this lovely spongy consistency that isn’t melt-in-the mouth, but slightly chewy, sweet, and really quite yummy and unique. And yes, I’ve had Krispy Kreme before. The strawberry-glazed donut was really very strawberry-ish, and not actually sickly sweet-ish. And the chocolate was quite satisfyingly chocolate. Thankfully, my cousins enjoyed them, and though they were no longer fresh enough (apparently they have a freshness life of one day) for me to feel good giving them to my uncle that Sunday, I suspect they had a fulfilling end anyway.

However, I highly doubt I will ever haul Mister Donut on a three-hour bus ride again… At least, not without some sort of vacuum seal or means of hanging them out of a window or sealed away in a luggage bin .

But if you can stand the stench of waiting in line, and are not worried about cholesterol or fat– I do highly recommend the Pon de Ring.


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Free Rice

April 2007
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