I Miss the Donut Shop

But the donuts never stopped. Takeout. Curbside. Drive-thru.

The current go-to comes from Stonington, behind Sea Swirl, where when I was a kid on summer nights Pa took us for clam bellies and fried haddock. Ketchup. Vinegar on the side.

The day we buried him on the bank of the Mystic River, after the bugler played taps and the vets gave their blank-shot salute, I ordered half a dozen — cinnamon and sugar — and waited at the picnic tables. Sea Swirl was boarded up for winter. A man in a mask brought the box to my trunk. I thanked him and took a drive: Left out of the lot, right to the river road by the Seaport and the cider mill. Up the hill and past my pal Pat’s parent’s house, the high school, the ballfields where I never hit home runs, where Dad coached first, where Pa always cheered in his folding chair.

There’s an all-timer in Kittery, Maine. A piped cruller. Eggy and light. Dipped in sticky glaze. I can take down six in a sitting. We got them last summer — and will this year too, order online, select your time, and your donuts appear on a folding table outside, eat in some barren parking lot — but I miss the line, the extra hot latte, the smell of citrus and fennel seed, the sound of spattering breakfast meat.

We — Dad and me — took Pa there once. When he saw the line and commotion inside, he decided he’d wait in the car. Coffee with milk and a sugar, he said. And bring back something sweet.

As soon as he smelled them he said he’d have one now, that he didn’t want to wait. We ate crullers pulled off on a side street.

The last Father’s Day I spent with Pa was two years back. I have it on video. My wife was 12 weeks pregnant. We wrote our news in a card. On hard days I replay the footage. Pa reads the note aloud. He always read cards aloud. Then he stops. He looks up knowingly, smile wide as watermelon. Whoa, hey, he calls out into the day.

The morning after our son was born, he rang and left a message. Hi to you and your lady, he said. And that little baby, he looks pretty good to me.

A warm morning last winter, we took a dozen to his grave. The clouds were low and gray. To the north was the bridge and the soft thrum of the highway. I wore my son on my front and told him about his great grandparents, how they lived by this river for 35 years and were together twice that.

It’s true: a donut made things better.

But I miss two donuts most.

When I was a boy, Pa piled my bicycle and a basketball into the pickup and drove us to the town park. This was in Noank, not far from the mouth of the river. Pa played college hoops at UConn and still loved to shoot. But first we walked to Carson’s, where we sat at the counter and I wondered about a jelly or honey-dipped, where Pa took his old fashioned and coffee to go. He removed the top from the cup on the bench and dunked his donut in while I tore laps on my bike around the tennis courts. Once he finished, he showed me how, when he was young, they hit foul shots by squatting down and lobbing the basketball underhand. Then he dropped three in a row the modern way.

The other comes from a long-closed shop on Colonel Ledyard Highway. Now it’s a packie. This is beside the hardware store and nursery. On half days or early dismissals when Pa got me from school, we headed to the center and stopped before the roads were coated with snow.

We found a seat with an abandoned paper. He passed me the funnies, which I pretended to read but never got.

So how ‘bout them lady Huskies, Pa would say.

An old timer said he turned it off at the half.

But they pass it so smooth and fast, Pa said.

I wondered why he didn’t mention his basketball past. The counter gal refilled his cup.

UConn beat Baylor last night. On his early morning walk today, Dad bumped into one of Pa’s pals from the neighborhood. He would’ve loved that game, the old friend said.

As he tells me this, it occurs to me it’s not the donut shop I miss. It’s the trips to the dump. The woodpiles and coffees on the breezeway. More, it’s how he visited her every day, spread a napkin in her lap — she’s gone now too, buried beside him by the river — and broke the donut in two, so they could share a meal, or at least a treat, something sticky and sweet, the way they did before.

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5 Simple Summer Dinners from Laura Fuentes of MOMables

When it comes to feeding her family of five, the first order of business for cookbook author and blogger Laura Fuentes is meal planning. Like us, she’s a strong believer that planning makes the dinner struggle a whole lot easier, and it’s her key to getting wholesome meals on the table for her family. In fact, Laura is so passionate about meal planing that 10 years ago she founded MOMables, a meal planning service that aims to ease the dinner struggle with fresh meal ideas for busy families.

Laura is all about keeping mealtime simple, getting plenty of veggies on the table, and repurposing leftovers into new meals. Here, Laura shares a week’s meal plan with us, and tells us how she does it.

A Week of Family-Friendly Summer Dinners

These five summer-inspired dinners are fresh, delicious, and family-approved! Whether you choose to cook these in the kitchen or fire up the grill to cook some of the ingredients, these simple recipes give you more time for what really matters: family, daytime trips, and pool time.

Monday: Cilantro Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa

Fresh avocado, cilantro, grilled chicken: Are you thinking what I’m thinking? This is the type of recipe you’re going to want to make often. Serve it with cauliflower rice or regular rice, and save any leftovers for salads (like Thursday night’s caprese salad!). Also, if you’re of age, this dish pairs very nicely with a margarita!

Get the recipe: Cilantro Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa

Tuesday: Curried Cauliflower Tacos

If thinking about tacos brings up meat-stuffed tortillas that are hard to resist, I’m here to tell you that these flavorful and incredibly easy-to-make veggie-filled tacos are both filling and worthy of a spot on your Taco Tuesday menu.

Get the recipe: Curried Cauliflower Tacos

Wednesday: Salmon Bowls with Spicy Mayo

There’s so much to say about this recipe, but I’ll keep it simple: Salmon is delicious. And while we all intend to eat more of it, we rarely come around to it in a way that both kids and adults will like. But in this recipe adults can double up on the spicy sauce and kids can leave it out. It’s a win-win recipe for salmon that’s perfectly flaky and never dry.

Get the recipe: Salmon Bowls with Spicy Mayo

Thursday: Chicken Caprese Salads

Hearty dinner salads are a must in my summer meal plan. I love this recipe because it’s easy to make ahead by using up leftover chicken, stirring together the vinaigrette ahead of time, and keeping the salad in the fridge until the last minute, where all you have to do is dice up the avocado and dress it up.

This is also the perfect meal to turn into a salad bar where kids can build their own bowls and learn to love the fresh veggies available during the summer.

Get the recipe: Chicken Caprese Salads

Friday: Bell Pepper Nachos

End the week with a family movie night and enjoy a veggie-forward take on the classic bar snack. Whether you use ground beef, turkey, or black beans to load up your nachos, this is a super-simple recipe that will satisfy your craving for a loaded chip. And don’t forget the toppings! The possibilities are endless.

Get the recipe: Bell Pepper Nachos

Thanks so much, Laura! Be sure to follow Laura on the web, YouTube, and Instagram for more of her delicious, kid-friendly recipes.

New to meal planning? Start here.

Click below to get more tips, insights, and ideas from our Meal Plan Club crew and readers like you.

Meal planning isn’t always easy — especially if you’re just getting started. But we’re firm believers that it’s the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. We want to help you find inspiration and ease some of the pain points that come with getting dinner on the table night after night, whether you’re cooking one or a family of four or five. Every week we share a new meal plan solution specifically customized for you from reader requests or from a guest contributor, for Next Week’s Meal Plan! 

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Best Cast-Iron Skillet Cleaning Tools — Cast-Iron Brush & Other Essentials

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

The debate over how to properly clean cast iron cookware can get heated — and is one that spans generations. Should you use soap? Can you just wipe it out with a paper towel? Should you use a bristle brush or a sponge? If you use a brush, is one better than the other?

While we spend a lot of time trying to come to a final answer for these questions, today we’re here to talk about the best cast iron brushes and cleaning tools. (And yes, we like a brush over a sponge!)

It should come as no surprise to learn that one of our favorite brushes comes from Lodge, the top name in the cast iron biz. It has nylon bristles, which are effective yet gentle (so they won’t ruin the seasoning you’ve worked so hard to build up).

2. Tenacious C Cast Iron Brush and Scraper

The bristles on this brush are a bit more stiff, compared to the Lodge brush, so it’s great if, say, your style of cooking results in a decent amount of burnt-on bits. Don’t worry, the bristles are still gentle enough, though, so it won’t disturb your seasoning!

Lodge also makes these fun polycarbonate scrapers that can be used to chip off those stubborn bigger baked-on bits. Try heating the pan up a little bit before you scrape in order to make less work for yourself.

4. The Ringer Original Stainless Steel Cast Iron Cleaner

This wacky-looking chainmail scrubber doesn’t seem like it’d work on your cast iron, but it totally does. It folds and bends to get into the pan’s crease (between the wall and the bottom) and it chips off all sorts of bits, again, without scratching up the seasoning.

A Few Other Notes About Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware

What do you use to clean your cast iron skillet?

Erika Tracy


Erika Tracy is a work-from-home mama happily living in the South. She works as a freelance designer and photographer in Montgomery, AL.

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