Cider Donuts: A Quest

My first fall in New England, after moving here from Texas, a friend brought me apple picking. Eager to embrace all things fall, I filled bags with apples, spent a paycheck on local maple syrup and tried my first cider doughnut. It was love at first bite. Fresh out of the fryer, the doughnut was crisp on the outside with a light sprinkling of sugar, and warm on the inside. It was cakey and dense and perfect. And I was thrilled with the thought that I’d be able to enjoy this fall treat every year in my new home. But it was not to be. And so began my quest.

Year after year, I searched for an apple cider doughnut experience that matched that first glorious bite. And year after year, I left apple orchards with a bag full of apples and a stomach full of disappointment. This one wasn’t fresh. That one wasn’t cakey enough. Not enough cinnamon. Too much sugar. One year I held my boyfriend’s hand as we picked apples together. Then that boyfriend, now husband, and I brought along a child. Then another. Sometimes I dragged my sleepy little apple pickers to multiple orchards or bakeries in one day, just chasing that first doughnut high. My sweet husband would turn to me eagerly as I tried a different doughnut every year. I imagine his only hope was for my happiness, but I’m sure he just hoped the quest — and my complaining — would end.

Then last year, pregnant with baby #3, I dragged my exhausted and swollen body to another orchard, family in tow, because apple picking is a family tradition, dammit. I was the kind of hungry that only a pregnant woman knows and followed the scent of cider doughnuts to a trailer beneath the hilly orchard. I asked for a half dozen and was handed a white bag full of fresh doughnuts that warmed my hands. I managed to stuff a whole doughnut in my mouth before greedy little hands snatched the bag from me, and what I tasted was perfection. My quest complete, I declared that this — this was our family orchard.

This week I asked my husband if we could go back to that orchard again. “Which one?” he asked.

“The one we went to last year,” I said. “With the doughnuts.”

“Those doughnuts were good,” he replied. “What was the name of the place?”

“I thought you knew,” I said. But he didn’t. And so my request begins anew, and like a weary warrior, I’ll pick up my apple picker, gather my children and march back into the trees.

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