“You people love — that come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey.”Don Cherry, “Hockey Night in Canada” rant
“[Cherry] panders only to the lowest common denominator of “old stock Canadians” living in Cherry’s idyllic, predominantly white, Christian, poppy-wearing, Tim Hortons-drinking hockey towns across Canada.”Omari Newton, “A Requiem for Racist Uncle Donny“
“The donut in Canada is a history of continuously making Canada, by welcoming new people into the nation.”Irina D. Mihalache, “Canadian identity is… donut shaped?“
You could fill a room with the myths that Canadians tell about themselves; in fact, we often fill our books with these exact myths. In these books there are stories of soldiers who call themselves peacekeepers, stories of ‘antiracist’ prime ministers who moonlight in blackface, stories of polite, kind people who call themselves ‘Old Stock Canadians’ or ‘Canadian-Canadians’, or just ‘real Canadians.’ The “us people” of the equation, so to speak.
These stories all love Canada, the land of peaceful, polite people. In the stories, Canada is a good place, maybe even the best place. It’s a promised land of milk and honey (and donuts?). A place where the living is good, or at least better than wherever ‘they’ might have come from before. That’s why ‘they’ must be here, isn’t it?
These stories are special ones, close to the Canadian’s heart. These stories have back stories too, a history. Stories of how Canada was the end of the Underground Railway, a place of freedom away from slavery. Stories of welcoming refugees into our colorful mosaic, stories of gun control, universal healthcare, and immigrants who have found a place to, with some hard work and a desire to fit in, make their way and become Canadian too. After all, we are a nation of immigrants, the story goes.
Other stories, however, are forgotten or told in hushed tones. Stories of interned Japanese Canadians, torn from their homes because of where they came from. Stories of how there were people who lived here, who had homes and nations and laws before Canada was Canada. The stories of Indigenous women who are murdered and made missing. Stories of Black men shot on streetcars or beaten to death on their own doorsteps. The stories of Canadian mining companies profiting off of slave labor and the theft of Indigenous peoples’ lands in Canada and abroad, a long held Canadian tradition. These stories go missing.
And deep among these stories is the story of the donut. The Tim Horton’s donut to be specific. Sure, there are other donuts in the country, and sure they’re now owned by a Brazilian multinational corporation, but what other donut shop inspires Canadians to create political controversy out of it (as it did just this past week)? Tim Hortons, and donuts in general, are woven among the fabric of a country: what story do these donuts choose to tell?
Tim Horton’s, Canada’s top purveyor of donuts, has built itself on promoting a Canada that welcomes everybody. It’s ads often have nothing to do with the quality of their donuts (for good reason some might say…) but instead usually choose to focus on community, coming together, ‘everyday’ people, and hockey (Tim Horton was an NHL player and what is Canada without hockey, they say?). They are supposed to represent what Canada is ‘really like’: blue collar, community oriented, and welcoming. But they also act in another way: “they are very much the commercials about newcomers to Canada learning ‘how to be Canadian.” How to fit in. Donuts become a story of assimilation. But what if you don’t like donuts or don’t want to become part of the ‘real Canadians’ in that way? What if the way you experience ‘real Canadians’ has a lot to do with racism and colonialism?
I doubt someone is likely to tell you about ‘those people who come here’ in those exact words, but there will be a lot of nodding heads if you do hear it. In many ways, the stories of the donut and of Tim Hortons are about ‘those people’ and ‘us people’, with clearly defined roles often illustrated through racial and religious markers. Behind the stories we tell ourselves about our diversity, is the ugly, racist truth about what ‘fitting in’ has to look like, and how we view those who don’t fit in. Tim Hortons traffics in those polite veneers, ignoring the realities behind it. If the donut carries stories of welcoming newcomers to Canada, behind the layer of icing is some ugly truths that also need to be swallowed.
I walk into my closest Tim Horton’s and each of the women behind the counter looks weary, despite it only being 10 in the morning. They’re each, also, a different shade of brown, each a slightly different brown than the one on their uniform. This isn’t the story in the Tim Horton’s ads. Nor do they tell about their labor practices, how these folks (who are sometimes newcomers) who work in their shops are treated by the company that champions diversity. If you ask these women behind the counter, what stories would they tell about the donuts? About Canada?
The story of the donut is an interesting one. Many different cultures have some form of fried dough, often sweet. The donut itself is not particularly Canadian, but we believe it to be true. Like many of the stories we tell ourselves, it doesn’t really matter if it is so long as we keep telling it enough times to believe it is.
I remember coming off of a late-night shift at the restaurant I worked at, and just missing the bus that trundled down the dark, rural road to take me back to the city where I lived. At that time of night, the next bus wouldn’t be there for another hour. It was chilly, so I walked the 10 minutes into the small town nearby where the only light was the one that emanated from the donut shop. A burnt coffee to nurse, a chocolate dipped donut from the few remaining in the case at that time, leftover from the morning’s bake. Yes, donuts are always there for us; that’s part of their appeal. No matter when, no matter where, there’s donuts.
There’s a brown woman behind the till that night too; though as I think back on that night, I doubt I would find another brown woman in that town at that time of night. She looks tired. I wonder if she enjoys donuts. Or, milk or honey for that matter.
Yuzu Lemon Curd Donuts with Earl Grey Sugar
This is a delicate donut, a sophisticated donut even. It’s also a bold donut, full of flavors. It’s a complex donut I guess. I would say it is an adult donut, except that my kids also loved it. Who doesn’t love a good donut?! It’s beautifully fried dough body is stuffed with a tart, perfumey yuzu curd and coated with an Earl Grey sugar. The citrus and floral notes of the Earl Grey (which uses bergamot, another citrus to achieve that!) is complemented by the aromatic notes of the yuzu. Lemon is also commonly added to tea for a tart, citrus hit and this combination does that as well. Take a bite and the crunch of the sugar is met by the softness of the dough and the gush of custardy curd that dribbles down the side of your mouth, getting licked up before it drops. It’s unlike any donut you’ll have at Tim Horton’s, and that’s okay: it doesn’t make it any more or less Canadian.
- For the curd:
- 8 tablespoons (115g) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup yuzu juice
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 3/4 cups (150g) sugar
- zest of one lemon
- pinch of salt
- 3 large egg yolks
- 3 large eggs
- For the donuts:
- 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 50g butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon loose leaf Earl Grey tea, ground
- vegetable oil for frying (about 6-8 cups)
For the curd:
In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the butter, yuzu juice, lemon juice, zest, sugar, and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and the yolks.
When the butter has melted and the mixture is warm, gradually pour some of the warm yuzu lemon juice mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. This is so the eggs don't curdle and form lumps in your curd. Scrape the warmed eggs back into the saucepan and cook the mixture over low heat.
Stir the mixture constantly over low heat, using a whisk, until the filling thickens and begins to resemble soft jelly. You'll need to be both patient - as it takes time to thicken - and diligent to not let it go too far and boil.
Cool the curd in the fridge. Once it has cooled, it should be thick and creamy. It's ready to use. This step can be done ahead of time, so that it's waiting in the fridge for your donuts!
For the donuts:
Mix the yeast into a large bowl with the lukewarm milk and about a tablespoon of the sugar until dissolved. Cover and let 'proof' for about 10 minutes (you should see bubbles forming on the surface).
Add the eggs, egg yolks, the remaining sugar, vanilla extract and butter. Sift the flour on top and then mix and knead until you get a nice smooth dough. Form a dough ball, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until about doubled in size.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a about the thickness of a finger (1 inch). Cut out rounds with a size of about 3 inches - if you have a cookie cutter you can use that or I just used the rim of a glass to cut out the rounds.
Collect the remaining dough and roll out again. With whatever you have left over, you can make donut holes!
Place on parchment paper and cover loosely. Let the rounds rise for another 20-30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
While they are rising, heat up the oil in a pot (Dutch Ovens work great to hold heat!) until you reach a temperature of 350°F (175°C).
You can also mix up your sugar and ground up Earl Grey onto a plate. Have it off to one side, ready to meet your donuts when they come out of their oil bath!
Once the donuts have risen, carefully add the dough rounds to the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden brown (about 2 minutes on each side) - do 2-3 at a time or however many your pot can handle without crowding them. When each donut is done, take it out, let drain for a second or two on a bit on a paper towel or a wire rack, then roll it in the Earl Grey sugar until it is completely covered. Let them cool down an a wire rack while you finish cooking all the donuts.
Take the curd out of the fridge and add to a piping bag with a long narrow nozzle or a plastic squirt bottle with a narrow tip (you need something that can get the curd into the donut!). Cut a small hole in side of the cooled donuts and, using the handle end of a thin wooden spoon, push it into the donut to make a bigger opening, giving some space for the curd.
Fill this space with the curd.
These are best served and enjoyed on the same day they're made.
If you don't have access to yuzu juice, you can go with all lemon juice for the curd or, even better, add a percentage of fresh squeezed mandarin juice, as the yuzu has mandarin parentage.