I'm so confused, I'm spuddering

>> Friday, January 28, 2011

So, over at Digby's Hullabaloo, there was, um, this:

I think... I think I might need to see Sarah Palin's birth certificate. I don't know where she was really born, but it's becoming pretty clear to me that English isn't her native tongue. Also, this B.S. in Communications she supposedly has from the University Of Idaho? That should have been the tell, shouldn't it? I mean, B.S. in Communications--if that isn't some kind of none-too-subtle joke on the part of Palin's foreign puppetmasters, well... then the alternative is that the University Of Idaho will give any inarticulate jerk a bachelor's degree in Communications, I guess.

Everybody else, I'm sure, will point out how clueless and lost Palin appears to be about what Obama actually meant when he said "Sputnik moment" and her obvious ignorance of 20th Century history. (And her confusion over the difference between "aspire" and "inspire." Communications, they say? Really? Really, really?) Anyway, if you'd like, you can go to the Digby piece I linked to in the first line for that sort of thing. My thing, honestly, was to wonder what in the Nine Hells Palin was talking about when she started babbling about "Spudnut moments", as I'd never even heard of this store Richland, Washington, that apparently is supposed to be the key to solving all of America's problems.

So, of course I went to the Internet, and maybe you already know what I found, since Giant Midgets readers are, as a rule, cosmopolitan sophisticates: the spudnut is apparently some kind of potato flour doughnut from the 1940s. I can only imagine. No, actually, I can't: as an avid fan of the succulent, lard-filled, yeasty and sugar-encrusted Krispy Kreme doughnut, I have no idea what a potato flour doughnut might taste like; I can't even think of a good reason you'd do that to a doughnut, though the fact the spudnut is a German recipe might go a long way towards explaining something. I shouldn't knock it, I know: spudnuts might be very, very tasty, and the fact that people were apparently willing to quixotically pursue spudnuts across North America for decades must say something about their addictive qualities. (Wikipedia, in addition to providing some historical context for the spudnut craze, claims there were also 170 Spudnut Shops in Japan in 1975, which tells us nothing. The Japanese have had 80 kinds of KitKat bar, including Earl Grey, Camembert and grilled corn. Yes, we're talking about candy bars. Yes, "grilled corn" is a candy bar flavor in Japan. No, I don't think that's terribly rational. Yes, that was the whole point.)

The Spudnut Shop Palin refers to is, as I mentioned, the one in Richland, Washington, and has been open at various locations in Richland since 1948, although the parent company the store originally franchised from has been out of business since the '70s or '80s (the previously-linked Wikipedia article confusingly says, "By the 1980s, however, the parent company closed...," leaving some ambiguity as to whether they closed in the '80s or before the '80s; huh). They seem nice enough from their website, which promises, "Before you know it, we'll be greeting you by your first name, and the waitress will be serving up your favorite Spudnut before you even order it." It indeed says something about their work ethic and reputation that they have, in fact, been around since 1948.

But I do have to wonder if Palin is thinking about the larger context of the Spudnut Shops story, as opposed to just considering this one, single store. I raise the question only because of the fact that while more than thirty Spudnut Shops endure (Wikipedia says 35, this website says 37), overall the Spudnut Shops story is the story of a franchise that ultimately failed, going out of business and leaving, out of some hundreds of storefronts (170 in Japan, alone!), a mere three dozen outlets apparently selling their own individual versions of the spudnut. The original recipe for the spudnut seems to have been lost for decades and then recovered, but the original glory of the spudnut, the height of the spudnut's spread and influence, it appears, began in World War II and ended during the Cold War.


One straining for a metaphor might suggest that a "national Spudnut moment" would be a national moment in which our larger organization--our Spudnut Stores parent company--goes belly-up out of business and our founding document--our spudnut original recipe, if you will--is lost for a generation. Lone, individual Spudnut Stores scattered here and there struggle on, some of them thriving while others go out of business and are torn down or replaced by dry cleaners, fast-food joints, florists and ethnic bistros; few of these increasingly isolated survivors, if any, still use the original ingredients and instructions for greatness. Also, lots of people haven't even heard of the stores and their major product is a fried zero.

Okay, so maybe that's a reach. Could be. But reading up on the history of Spudnut Stores and thinking about Ms. Palin's... whatever you want to call that...; honestly, I couldn't help imagining a nation's "spudnut moment" as being a postapocalyptic disaster, small city-states with their own fragmentary homebrew versions of a long-lost Constitution, facing the twilight. As a friend said when I told him about all of this, "Let's have a huge success before spiraling down into a shadow of our former glory." Which probably isn't fair to the small business Ms. Palin inarticulately dragged into the national spotlight, but, I mean, it's right there, you know?

Can a fried potato pastry carry the load of being a new symbol for something something small business patriotism families something hooray America? Should it? Do we even want to know? What I do know is that Ms. Palin has provoked a feeling deep within me, a stirring, a passion, a hunger. A hunger for doughnuts.

Mmmm... doughnuts.


Susan Robbins Friday, January 28, 2011 at 12:19:00 AM EST  

I'm stuck on the 80 kinds of Japanese KitKats.


Actually I just posted something very similar about the Palin person on my FB page, well, no, not AT ALL similar. But about her lack of comprehension, and the "aspire" thing. I have Chinese coworkers who speak better English.

Megan Friday, January 28, 2011 at 12:26:00 AM EST  

I do a lot of gluten-free baking, so I bake with potato flour sometimes. It tastes kind of like potatoes. I do not recommend baking anything with uncut potato flour: you should always cut it generously: a few tablespoons mixed with a cup or so of a blend of other flours like rice and bean.

I've never tried baking with wheat and potato flour: from my perspective there's no point in wasting expensive gluten-free flour in a recipe that includes wheat. But it might be OK in small proportions.

Potato flour makes a terrible, gummy slurry for thickening soups and gravies. I do not recommend it.

Nathan Friday, January 28, 2011 at 12:29:00 AM EST  


If you've never had potato bread (made from potato flour), rush right out and find you some. If you can't find it, let me know and I'll send you a loaf. Very tasty...slightly sweet.

Which makes me really, really, really want to try spudnuts!

Which, if I like them, will unfortunately mean that I'll be forever beholden to that twit of whom you write, since I'd never heard of them before.

Stupid accidental done-gooder!

Otherwise, yeah...we've had quite the week or so of completely rewriting American History.

Eric Friday, January 28, 2011 at 12:36:00 AM EST  

Nathan, actually, after writing this, someone mentioned potato bread to me and yes, it is tasty, and if spudnuts are fried potato bread you're probably right. But it seemed funnier to leave the musings about why someone would try making doughnuts with potatoes.

Some of the spudnut recipes floating around the Internet seem to be made with mashed potatoes, not potato flour. Which, again, sounds weird as hell, though (again) frying leftover mashed potatoes in butter as a sort of half-assed potato pancake is tasty and could only be improved by deep-frying. But (yet again!) it seemed funnier to leave the musings in place.

As I said on Twitter earlier, I finally owe Palin some gratitude: thanks to her, if I ever write a story set in the 1940s, I'll need to make it a point to have a character eating a box of spudnuts just for the hell of it. And I'd never have heard of them but for her own spudnut moment.

Jeri Friday, January 28, 2011 at 1:32:00 AM EST  

Hey - I'm from Richland! Well, actually, Kennewick 5 mi away. We swam at the Richland pool but never had Spudnuts afterward. I don't think.

mattw Friday, January 28, 2011 at 8:40:00 AM EST  

Clearly that was either a paid plug, or Palin's hoping that the next time she's in Richland Washington she'll get a couple of spudnuts on the house.

And I am intrigued by a grilled corn Kit Kat bar. I like grilled corn. I like Kit Kats. The two seem like they might work together.

Megan Friday, January 28, 2011 at 8:45:00 AM EST  

My grammy used to make potato bread with mashed potatoes, and it was indeed very good. I didn't know about potato flour until I started attempting gluten-free cooking. I don't use it very often because it needs to be used in really small quantities and it's easier to just grab a bag of another kind of flour. Plus, it turns into a mass of slime if you accidentally get it wet. YUCK.

I'm just ignoring the other crap The Crazy Lady said, as it isn't even worth the contempt that would come across my face.

Tom Friday, January 28, 2011 at 9:39:00 AM EST  

I remember Spudnuts! Early '60s, and they cost something like 59 cents a dozen. They were light and tasty, and heavily glazed! Yummm, sweet. And they were yeast doughnuts, not cake doughnuts, so very light. I didn't know they were made of potato flour, but that makes sense.

Fried zero, OK, but a light, tasty, heavily glazed fried zero, my kind of doughnut. They are the reason Dunkin' Donuts (started in Braintree, Mass, and on every other damn corner here in Boston) don't get much business from me. Yummm, Spudnuts!

So don't be haytin' on sompin' you don't understand!

tatorma (for reals!): The first lady who made a spudnut!

John Evans Friday, January 28, 2011 at 10:30:00 AM EST  

Talk about synchronicity, someone else I read today posted about the Japanese love for Kit Kats.

WendyB_09 Friday, January 28, 2011 at 1:52:00 PM EST  

I think I'm going to start referring to the Wicked Witch of the NorthWest as She Who Must Not Be Named...
the stoopid-it burns!!

When we were kids, our dad would wake us up in the middle of the night, wrap us in blankets and take us out in the back yard to view all manner of celestial wonders. Including Sputnik going over our Western New York neighborhood. I'm guessing SHMNBN would have had it shot down!

I used to be able to get a Mocha Kit Kat that was really yummy. Then the stores quit carrying them.

Eric Friday, January 28, 2011 at 2:33:00 PM EST  

Y'know, Wendy, I can't resist pointing out that every time your Dad took y'all out back, it was like you were seeing a piece of Russia from your back yard.

(And yes, I know she didn't really say she could see Russia from her backyard, that was Tina Fey.)

vince Friday, January 28, 2011 at 7:04:00 PM EST  

And her Barbiness fights back:


Eric Friday, January 28, 2011 at 7:24:00 PM EST  

Oh, for fuck's sake. Thanks for sharing that, Vince. She just doesn't understand why what she said was profoundly stupid, but what's truly appalling is that her fans clearly don't understand, either. Neither of which is surprising, but it's a sign of the miserable failure of education in America that there are so damn many of them.

She makes me un-American, you know. I read her tripe and see the hordes lining up behind it, and I start thinking that this had to be what Rome looked like in decline, that we have not only will have nobody to blame for the collapse when it comes along, but that we will, thanks to people like them, deserve it.

Sometimes, I'm only hoping that I will only live through the early part of the decline, and won't be around for the fall.

Nathan Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 9:56:00 AM EST  

Re: Vince's link...

I don't buy it.

I think the more likely scenario is that she sent some drone hunting for anything that would make her sound "not stupid". Does anybody think she's been spending her time reading Robert Gates?

But let's take her at her word for a moment and accept (cough, cough) that she really does have a brilliant grasp of Cold War history. Why didn't she say something along the lines of "Sputnik marked the beginning of the Soviet Union's long slide into oblivion...spending themselves into destitution."? Because, even that argument comes back to smack her in the face. If Sputnik represents the beginning of the end for the U.S.S.R., then Eisenhower and Kennedy get the credit for establishing a policy that would eventually force them to keep spending to keep up with us. In other words, Eisenhower, a Republican, successfully established a MASSIVE SPENDING PROGRAM which showed fruit 40 years later after spending billions and billions of dollars. (Not to mention the benefits to our economy and innovation).

Sorry, either way, she's an idiot.

Eric Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 12:13:00 PM EST  

Nathan, those are both good points.

Y'know, I'm still wondering if she even wrote the Facebook post. Assuming that she did, she's either so ignorant she doesn't realize that "Sputnik moment" is a reference to Eisenhower and Kennedy's response to Sputnik (further executed by LBJ and Nixon--weird symmetry there, if you think about it), not the Soviet program itself, or she's so evil and warped she's counting on her audience being confused and ignorant and she's willfully misleading them.

Actually, she's misleading and manipulating her ignorant and confused readers whether she knows she's doing or not, and that's what upsets me most about her response. Even taking into account that a Facebook comments thread is a very self-selecting sample as opposed to a representative or random sample, it's pretty clear there are a lot of people who are probably psychologically incapable of understanding why what she's saying is completely wrong on multiple levels. Being reminded of such things is always depressing, y'know?

Nathan Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 1:20:00 PM EST  

I think I said something similar when she was talking about Death Panels, but she's either willfully ignorant or she's a firm adherent of Goebbels' theories.

Either one is pretty nasty if she's got an audience.

Megan Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 6:51:00 PM EST  

Stop! Stop! Let's not talk about the obvious use of ghostwriters! Let's talk about potatoes!

Anonymous,  Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 2:35:00 AM EST  

Modern Mechanix blog found a good 1952 article on the Spudnuts franchise and its founders:

Eric Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 11:01:00 AM EST  

That's a great MM article--thank you for the link, Beamjockey!

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