“We need doughnuts!” FBI special agent Dale Cooper once exclaimed on the ’90s cult television series “Twin Peaks.”
And, boy, did they have doughnuts. In Sheriff Harry S. Truman’s office, doughnuts were laid out in meticulous stacks of two, looking like a geometric painting by Mondrian. The hardworking officers of the Twin Peaks police department ate doughnuts in their patrol cars and savored them in diners over a strong cup of joe, which Cooper liked “black as a moonless midnight.”
“Twin Peaks,” David Lynch’s surreal detective series set in the Pacific Northwest, is returning May 21 on Showtime after a 25 year absence. For “Twin Peaks” fans, this also means a renewed craving for doughnuts.
In the series, doughnuts (and another Cooper favorite, cherry pie) represent the sweetness and innocence of small-town America, in contrast to the dark underbelly of Twin Peaks, where corruption rules and doughnuts are not on the menu. The teenage homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, around whose murder the series revolves, was sucked into this hole of drug addiction and prostitution.
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As Lynch once said in an interview, “The hole is so deep and so bad, but the doughnut is a beautiful thing.”
Agent Cooper would certainly give Kansas City doughnut purveyors a big thumbs-up. Whether you prefer avant-garde creations or American classics, you can find any sort of doughnut to accompany your “Twin Peaks” binge-watching.
The exterior of Donutology, which is in a former Tower Dry Cleaners and Laundry, has the retro art deco/gothic look one associates with Lynch’s visual style. As far as doughnuts go, Donutology covers the classics, but you can also dip your doughnuts in frosting and toppings like Froot Loops to individualize your fried dough.
Doughnut Lounge, just blocks away, takes doughnuts one step further. Not only can you get crullers and cream puffs, you can also get cocktails. Yes, you can now buy booze at a doughnut shop. What took so long? Doughnut Lounge is the sort of place Audrey Horne, “Twin Peaks’ ” teenage vixen, would try to sneak into with her fake ID.
Agent Cooper, a real straight arrow, might not appreciate mixing alcohol and doughnuts, but he’d probably gobble down a Doughnut Lounge long john topped with a strip of bacon. It’s a combination of Cooper’s two favorite foods, doughnuts and bacon, which Cooper likes “super-crispy. Almost burned. Cremated.”
When “Twin Peaks” first aired, veganism was almost unheard of. Now the movement that eschews all animal products has gone mainstream. With culinary creativity, there’s no reason a vegan must forgo doughnuts. Mud Pie Vegan Bakery and Coffeehouse makes a delightful chocolate glazed that would satisfy any doughnut lover, vegan or not.
Mud Pie’s decadent creations are getting noticed nationally. The bakery carries a wide range of items from muffins and brownies to Mostess cupcakes, which taste remarkably similar to (maybe even better than) the commercially produced cupcake we all know and love.
But one senses that Cooper is a traditionalist when it comes to doughnuts and prefers the classics. Sort of like Ken Behrmann, a local doughnut connoisseur. When Behrmann isn’t managing the box office for the Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College, he enjoys hunting down the perfect doughnut.
“A glazed is the touchstone,” Behrmann said. “Whenever I go to a new place, I’ve got to have their glazed. It has to be light and fluffy with a bit of yeastiness to it. The glazing should not be sticky. Hot and fresh is most important. And the doughnut should be kind of misshapen under its own weight. I don’t like the mechanical, perfect glazed doughnut.”
Behrmann also says he likes the classic cake doughnut, which he says needs to be denser than a raised, but not too dense, and with the thinnest of crispy shells. That’s the sort of doughnut that has been perfected by Louisburg Cider Mill.
Josh Hebert is the current owner of the Louisburg Cider Mill, which feels a bit like the Packard Saw Mill, the source of so much conflict in “Twin Peaks.” Hebert’s wife’s grandparents opened the Louisburg Cider Mill in 1977, and it has been turning out cider and doughnuts ever since. Forty years later they still make only one type of doughnut: apple cider cake.
“They’re very simple and sometimes people are surprised at how simple they are, but in their simplicity they’re just really, really tasty and hard to only eat one,” Hebert says.
Louisburg’s doughnuts were not originally made with cider. However, there was often a lot of leftover cider that was starting to ferment, so the owner decided to use that fermented juice instead of buttermilk.
“They just became a huge hit,” Hebert says of the doughnuts. “The cider we use in the doughnuts is no longer fermented, but they still have that distinctive apple taste from Louisburg’s high-quality cider. We make doughnuts fresh every morning. We oftentimes make secondary and tertiary batches in the afternoon, based on the day’s traffic flow, but we’re prepared at all times to have doughnuts when anyone comes through the door, seven days a week.”
Another thing that makes Louisburg’s doughnuts special is that they’re not too sweet, Hebert says. They are lightly sprinkled with a cinnamon/sugar mix and, because the doughnuts are made fresh, no preservatives are used.
“Louisburg’s doughnuts are amazing,” says Aimee Duke, who might very well be the world’s most devoted “Twin Peaks” fan.
Duke, a director for Pure Romance, an in-home party company, is such a fan of the show that she traveled to Portland, Maine, six times to have tattoo artist Chris Dingwell cover her entire left arm with a tribute to the series. At the top of her arm, you can see Agent Cooper sipping a cup of coffee, and the lower arm is covered with, you guessed it, doughnuts.
“I was only 3 when ‘Twin Peaks’ first came out,” says Duke, 29, “but I had a teacher in middle school that introduced me and my mom to ‘Twin Peaks,’ so I basically fell in love with David Lynch when I was around 12. I watched ‘Eraserhead’ when I was way too young.”
Duke, who considers herself a foodie, appreciates the emphasis on food in “Twin Peaks.”
“In almost every scene they’re interacting with food,” she says. “It’s like an inside joke that keeps on going. I love that in this sheriff’s office, where they probably only have 10 employees, there’s like a hundred doughnuts stacked up fresh every single day.”
The doughnut has become so associated with “Twin Peaks” that Showtime’s promo for the series’ reboot simply shows Lynch eating a doughnut for 30 seconds. That makes sense to Duke, who considers the doughnut the perfect symbol for the show.
“There are so many different kinds of doughnuts, and every one has a different personality,” she says. “And they’re portable. It’s like a portable dessert you can eat. It obviously plays on the joke of law enforcement and doughnuts, but it’s just so quirky. And that’s what I love about ‘Twin Peaks’ and doughnuts. They’re both very quirky.”
For Lynch, the doughnut expresses an entire mystical philosophy, which he summarized in an interview with “Eyes on Cinema”: “There’s the doughnut and there’s the hole, and you should keep your eye on the doughnut.”
Where to watch
“Twin Peaks” premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 21, on Showtime.
Where to nosh
▪ Donutology, 1009 Westport Road
▪ Doughnut Lounge, 4117 Pennsylvania
▪ Mud Pie Vegan Bakery and Coffeehouse, 1615 W. 39th St.
▪ Louisburg Cider Mill, 14730 Kansas 68, Louisburg