Join me in a toast…as I raise my doughnut.

I got some good news today. It called for a celebratory moment, so I opted for a doughnut.

Some folks hoist a glass to mark an occasion. I like my rituals chocolate-frosted and not likely to lead to any test in which I must blow into a tube at the police station.

Once upon a time I would have headed for Dunkin’ Donuts, but in Portland, Oregon, that just is not the done thing.

Here one goes to a real bakery. I did not want to make do with some gluten-free, high-fiber nonsense in the shape of a doughnut, so I opted for the Helen Bernhard Bakery. All you need to know to verify the veracity of this place is that the counter and baking staff, all Women of a Certain Age, wear white uniforms. Any baker there would sooner cut off an arm than show up without a hairnet.

I got my chocolate-frosted cake doughnut, brought it home, and I cut it up with a knife to make it last. I placed it on an attractive plate.

I lifted it in a toast: “Good times!” Down the hatch.

All this brings to mind my short list of things that make bakeries so wonderful:

1. No ingredient list is ever posted with calories or fat grams.

2. Customers do not help themselves. (Laypeople do not know how to properly use those little sheets of bakery paper or tongs. Only trained professionals should get near those tools.)

3. No one ever asks, “Do you want a bag?” And in fact, any order with more than four cookies goes into a cardboard box. Tied up with string. (See No. 2; string is another thing that the customers should not handle.) This is an especially pleasing moment now that so many stores act as if handing over a paper bag is like skinning a bunny.

4. The names of the products are accurate. When they say “butter-cream frosting,” you know exactly what you’re in for.

5. No one gets surly while waiting in line.


File this under: “Better not to know.”

You might not be aware of this, but if you get one of those scope things done that sends a long hose and camera into your house’s sewer pipe, the resolution is good enough to see actual spiders. Big ones.

Photo courtesy of "SewerVision," winners of the Imaginative Name Contest

And the fervent assurances from the sewer guy  (“They LOVE the dark! They NEVER come up!) are probably not really true.

Oh, and they give you a DVD of it to keep, just in case your cable goes out some night and you don’t feel like reading.

The war in utero.

Who knew? It turns out that Washington state law forbids the paying of surrogate mothers. I learned this today by reading a piece in The Seattle Times about efforts to change that law.

Funny, isn’t it, how so many people spend energy keeping tabs on womb traffic, but fall down on the job when it comes to reproductive choices and health?

–From the minute abortion became legal, the fight was on to turn back the clock.

–When a vaccine became available for the sexually transmitted HPV virus that can cause cancer, some factions argued that it would encourage promiscuity. (I guess the day Viagra hit the market those sex police were off attending a workshop on clinic-bombing techniques.)

–Big HMOs and many private docs alike do not routinely offer women screening for sexually transmitted diseases. The subject may not come up at all in an annual physical, and not even in a medical visit intended to address some other gynecological issue.

The bill proposed in Washington is not a bad one. There are many reasons to worry about hiring women to bear children, especially the potential for exploitation. NOW and other women’s rights groups say this law will protect surrogates, which of course is a good thing.

But underneath the legal debate, I believe, lurks our society’s ambivalence about giving women full and private control of their reproductive abilities.



Food of our fathers.

Growing up, whenever we had odd leftovers for breakfast–which was often–my father brushed aside any questions about the fitness of such things.

“Apple pie? The Pilgrims ate apple pie,” he’d say.”It’s fine.”

Childhood imprints us with many traits, and this defensiveness about food is still with me.

My husband has been known to observe that while I certainly recognize good food, I may not actually know bad food when I see it.

Even though I believe the nutritional wisdom promoting fiber, fruit and lean protein, I can’t shake the familial facts: I come from a long line of people who ate horrible food and lived a long time.

(There are glaring exceptions, but those who checked out early usually did so in some spectacular accident, so they don’t count.)

Apparently this is more common than I thought.

My Southern maternal roots grew in Crisco, Coca-Cola, Moonpies, very well-done beef and fried chicken. A bit of pork rind floated in any vegetables that made it to the table.

My refrigerator today is filled with green stuff I didn’t even know existed when I was a kid.

Now and then as I stare into its interior, wishing vaguely for something with actual sugar, fat and preservatives, I feel guilty that I have strayed so far from my ancestral traditions.

A Pilgrim would starve around here.