God bless the Amish and their otherworldly donuts. In January, I wrote a piece about the “forbidden” Amish donuts and other treats available in Cattaraugus County, New York, and this week I returned to the area for yet another feast. As I wrote in the previous piece, the Route 62 Amish corridor in Western New York is convenient to nothing and en route to nowhere, so anytime I make a trip there, it’s a serious detour.
On my last visit, I practically had to twist my wife’s arm to make the 60-mile detour, and this time, she flat-out refused to go.
“You’re going to drive 60 miles to buy a donut?” she asked condescendingly.
“It’s not just a donut,” I replied. “I’m probably going to get a whole bunch. And there’s the chocolates too.”
My mother, who lives near Buffalo, only 60 miles away from Amish country, but never goes there, was even harsher.
“You’re not going all the way down there for donuts,” she commanded. “We have a place right down the street called Paula’s, which has even better donuts than the Amish.”This sounded like blasphemy to my ears, but after noticing that the place has 38 reviews on Yelp with an average rating of five stars, I figured I had to at least give the place a shot. So my mom and I went to Paula’s the following morning and I bought a half dozen donuts.
How good were they? I have to admit, they were very solid. But their glazed donuts (right) are heavier, and more cake-like than the Amish ones, and most of the glazing caked off and was sitting in little bits on my plate after I finished it. Not only that, the Paula’s donut costs 15 cents more than the Amish one and is about half the size. With all due respect to Paula’s, their product is good, but it’s not a sell-your-soul-to-the-devil-it’s-so-good Amish donut.
The following day, I told my wife and mother – the Amish donut heretics – that I was taking my dad and my two sons, ages 2 and 4, to get some Amish donuts and chocolates with or without them. They elected not to come and we called it a men’s Amish excursion.
I felt nervous as we pulled up in front of the Miller family home at 12624 Rt. 62 in Conewango Valley for two reasons: I always live in fear that they’ll be out of my favorite maple-glazed donuts, and I’d printed out a copy of the Forbidden Donut story I wrote and planned to give it to them.
I’ve written close to 1,000 stories for a wide variety of publications over the years, but, thanks to email, I have never actually printed out a story, hand delivered it to the person I wrote about and then stood there as they read it. But one cannot email the Amish, and I wanted them to see what I wrote about their magnificent donuts, so this was the only option.
In the winter, the Millers sell their baked goods inside their home but in the summer, they use a shed out front, so I stepped into the little shed, surveyed the shelves and panicked when I saw no donuts.
“Please tell me you have some maple-glazed donuts,” I said to the teenage Amish girl sitting at a small counter in the shed.
“They’re all gone,” she said. “Yuri took the whole tray we baked to a wedding.”
I repeated the second half of her statement in complete disbelief. He took the whole tray to a wedding?
“What wedding?” I asked, probably sounding like a lunatic. “Where is it?”
The teen measured me and the wild look in my eyes and wisely chose to change the subject.
“Well, we do have some regular glazed donuts I could give you,” she said.
I took a deep breath and felt a huge sense of relief. I did not want to return to Buffalo with no donuts, only to have the two heretics say, “You drove 120 miles round trip and they didn’t even have donuts!?”
I bought a half dozen of the sweet, beautiful monsters and asked to speak to the teen’s mother. Her mom came out and I introduced myself and handed her the printed copy of the article for her inspection. She stood there reading it on the side of the shed as I bit into my first donut and felt overcome in a wave of euphoria. It wasn’t quite like the maple-glazed baby – damn you Yuri – but it beat the crap out of Paula’s donut and any other one available in a shop.
I watched Mrs. Miller and took delight in noticing a sly, little smile and a sense of satisfaction on her face as she read the piece. But after a minute or two, she looked up from the paper and said, “My name is not Sarah, it’s Barbara!”
I wrote the piece based upon my recollection and had confused her with another Amish shopkeeper I’d met that day. Whoops. But she didn’t seem bent of shape about it, and although she didn’t say so, I could tell she liked the article because after she read it she was beaming.
My dad, my two year old and I sat in the car devouring our donuts in the mid-day sun, as my four year old stubbornly insisted on eating a ring pop rather than the world-class donuts.
“Can we go to the candy shop?” he asked.
Only in Amish country does one not think twice about bringing kids to a donut and bake shop and then proceeding directly to a candy store, but when in Rome, right? So our happy little sweets caravan moseyed over to Malinda’s Candy Shop at 12656 Youngs Road, and I presented Malinda with a copy of the piece I wrote.
She sat and read it while we perused $3 bags of peanut butter bars, coconut clusters, chocolate covered pretzels, cashew clusters and chocolate covered Oreos and then elected to get one of each.
Malinda smiled as she read the article but didn’t offer a comment or opinion on what I wrote. But I knew she liked it, because when I asked to film and photograph her kitchen, where she makes the chocolates, the last time I was there she said no but this time she said, “Well, it’s not very clean but sure, go ahead.”
We made a few more stops, dodging horseshit and buggies in the region’s wonderfully quite, bucolic, hilly country lanes and then returned home to share the booty with the two unbelievers.
“Was it worth it?” my mom asked, her mouth half full of cashew clusters.
“Damn right it was,” I said.
Long live the Amish, and their killer donuts and sweets.
Update July 17: I received a message from a reader (see photo right) who took a detour to get some forbidden donuts and they report that by 4 p.m. the donuts didn’t taste very fresh. Nonetheless, they still enjoyed the experience but this is probably a good tip. There are no preservatives in these donuts and they’re probably best in the morning, right after they are baked. The photo above is of Timmy with some forbidden donuts.