“They go together like cats and doughnuts*” is not a metaphor which springs to most people’s minds, I guess, which means today’s blog entry requires some exposition.
I mentioned in a previous post that the Night Cats are based on my friend’s cats; we met them during a weekend visit. As a sort of hostess gift, we brought along a dozen doughnuts from Jack Frost Donuts, a staple in our neighborhood for over 80 years, and frequent winner of “best doughnuts in Cleveland” competitions. They are, simply, the best doughnuts ever.
Anyway, my friend’s cats concurred, evidently, because when we brought the box into the living room, they ran up to the box and sniffed it, eyes agog, in one long continuous sniiiiiiiiffffffffff. I don’t know if they actually ate any of the doughnuts, or if they even tried, but the cats were clearly fascinated by them.**
The other vague inspiration here comes from the fact that my friend and I, who had attended the same undergraduate institution, coincidentally attended the same graduate institution at the same time, although in different departments; we didn’t discover we’d been there together until much later, long after we’d left.
One of my strongest memories of that tiny university town is the odd little bakery which as far as I could determine, or can remember, was not open to the public. When I was a teaching assistant, my department made a set amount of money available every semester to each professor or T.A. for the purpose of providing snacks or other treats to their students. This allotment was called “popcorn money,” although many teachers used it for doughnuts, and as the department secretaries patiently explained to generations of graduate students, you had to place your doughnut order ahead of time and arrange to pick them up the morning of your class … at the Shell gas station.
The … Shell gas station?
The doughnuts, it turned out, were created at the odd, apparently secret, bakery over by (but not affiliated with) the one grocery store in town, the one near the KMart, and then sold at the small convenience store in the Shell station.
As my career in graduate studies progressed, I became increasingly nocturnal, and often did my grocery shopping at night. I’d pass the odd little bakery at 3 or 4 in the morning, just as they were making that day’s doughnuts, and the smell was intoxicating and heavenly, a large cloud of sugar and comfort wafting through the night. (The doughnuts were just as good.)
La Pâtisserie de Nuit Chats recalls a little of that magic (and if I could have somehow made it a scratch-and-sniff page, I would have). LPdNC is open to the public, but around 4AM, it’s patronized almost exclusively by the Night Cats.
That’s how it is in my imagination, anyway.
Merci to my French teacher pal Mme. A., who helped me sort out the differences between pâtisseries and boulangeries (though frankly I think I ended up using pâtisserie out of my unabashed fondness for the circumflex rather than a desire to be accurate about which one would be more likely to offer doughnuts for sale). Any translation mistakes beyond that are my own.
*I use the “doughnut” spelling because that’s what most dictionaries say is preferred. (Obviously the fine folks at Jack Frost Donuts disagree.) The only reason I used “donuts” on this particular page of Night Cats is because “donuts” has three fewer letters and takes up less space. This is important if you’re not skilled at lettering (hello).
**Our late cat Gingersnap — wonderfully, and accurately, described by my husband as “not the brightest bulb in the cat chandelier” — was similarly fascinated by doughnuts, though in his case, the lower the quality of the doughnuts, the better. We think there was something about the over-processed fats typically used in mass-produced baked goods which attracted him. Once, my mother-in-law gave us some leftover commercially-made doughnuts; we set the box on our kitchen table and left the house to run a few errands.
We came home to find the box on the floor. As Henry David Thoreau did not quite say, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a cat’s ass sticking up from an open box of doughnuts on the kitchen floor and then he raises his head, a mad light in his eye, a deranged rictus contorting his features, and powdered sugar all over his face, making him look like a small, furry Tony Montana from Scarface.”
My friend’s cats were much more genteel and courteous about the doughnut situation.