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You have to have donuts with milk. Pop simply doesn’t work.

July 11, 2011

I have a friend, Chao, who is a foodie on the most mediocre level.  This is a good thing.  Most foodies are a bit much; their blogs tend to be posts about braised rack of something I’ll never cook and pictures of oddly shaped plates of surprisingly colored food cubes with Jackson Pollock handling the saucing*.  But You Care What We Think is actually useful, letting you know what small hole-in-the-walls you can just ignore and which are the wonderful gems you’ve only heard rumors of (also, it’s more than simply a food blog).

Recently however, a challenge was raised.  Or at least it seems like a challenge to me, because when I get called out as being smart, I feel like I have to live up to that.  It’s my thing.  What else do I have to offer?**  Specifically, the relevant part of this post was:

They didn’t have any milk, which I though was odd, but it didn’t matter. I’d rough it. You have to have donuts with milk. Pop simply doesn’t work. I know a chemical engineer and I’m SURE he’d confirm this fact. It’s just science.

So… milk with donuts, not soda (I will not say “pop”).  Seems obvious, but why?  If we just assume things without understanding the reason, are we no better than those that hate America?

No, no we’re not.

shamelessly pulled from

First, why do we love donuts (or doughnuts if you’re high-brow)?  On the most base level it’s a mixture of the sweet flavor, enjoyable texture, and, if you’re lucky, optically pleasing sprinkles.  If we dig in further, we start to see the depth of donut enjoyment. First, eating is a multi-sensory experience.  Said sprinkles, the aroma of the donut (or the bakery as a whole), and any other positive stimulus only enhances your enjoyment of the flavor.  We also are predisposed to enjoying sweet foods (one theory suggests it goes all the way back to our monkey ancestors snacking on fruits up amongst the tree branches), and a general upbringing of sugary kids foods coupled with the general consensus that a sweet dessert is a reward/indulgence just goes to reinforce this fact.

For the true connoisseur, the freshness of a donut improves the experience.  The raised temperature promotes contrast and interest in your food while also allowing the food to dissolve more quickly, which increases your taste reaction rate along with the intensity of the taste.  Finally, donuts are a seriously calorie dense food.  Not only does this mesh with our base survival instincts, but, as primarily a breakfast food, donuts are a solution to the glucose depletion that occurs overnight.  For your body to function, especially your brain, you need optimum levels of glucose in the blood stream.  It’s fairly easy to manage this with meals and snacks during the day, but, after a good night’s sleep, your body has pretty much used up what supply it had available.  So, yeah, a donut in the morning does effectively make you smarter.

So donuts are good, but why does milk go well with them?  Nutritionally, like donuts, milk is a good source of glucose.  Assuming you’re not lactose intolerant (in which case milk doesn’t go well with anything… sucks to be you), lactose is easily broken down into glucose and galactose.  Thus in the morning, again your body goes “Hurray glucose!”  But better still, over time your body converts the galactose into glucose as well, meaning glucose now and glucose for later.  Plus you can’t forget the protein.  Milk usually has 8 grams or more per serving, which works to maintain your state of feeling satisfied after a meal.  Flavor wise, again we have the contrast.  A liquid to the donuts solid (which also helps lubricate the consumption process).  A cool temperature to a warm temperature.  A mellow flavor to a very strong sweet flavor.  And then there’s the umami (or savory) aspect of milk.  Milk gives the proper mouth coating sensation as well as triggering our brain’s recall mechanism back to our first experience with umami… in breast milk.  Oh, and nothing about milk is ever lame.

Why doesn’t soda work?  Well for one we lose much of the contrast.  The soda and the donut are both relatively sugary.  And the acidic bite of soda also doesn’t play well with the donuts sweetness, usually causing mixed signals at the taste buds akin to eating a cookie then having an orange.  And both the acidity and carbonation make soda a damn good cleaning agent… meaning each swig thoroughly removes whatever you were enjoying about that donut.  And nutritionally, soda has pretty much nothing going for it.  Finally, it’s an insult to the donut.  Some baker honed his/her skill to present you with that savory and delicious baby step toward your next heart attack.  Most soda is a factory produced mixture of water, (often artificial) flavorings, (often artificial) colors, and enzymatically processed corn sugars.  It’s like putting ketchup on a really nice steak.

At this point, you’re probably asking “What about coffee?  Donuts go with coffee.”  To which I reply, “do you see ‘coffee’ in the title of this post?”  All good science has a well defined boundary to a topic being researched or discussed.

Otherwise we’d be here all day.

* Interesting side note: “saucing” is a word, and it turns out I used it properly.  Also, it’s second and third definitions are “make more interesting, exciting” and “be rude or impertinent to (someone)” thus allowing one to use the sentence “Being sauced, I was saucily sauce saucing.”

**Ladies, I’m being self deprecating.  The correct answer to this question is “a lot”.  I can show you sometime.


From → random musing

One Comment
  1. I am going to call you every time I have a question now. I LOVE the answer to this dilemma and I’m glad you were so thorough. I’m looking forward to the science of the all-you-can-eat Hibachi. Is it better to starve yourself for a week so you can eat more, or is it better to slowly build stomach capacity through increasing meal size!!! I’ll let you pick which one you want to try.

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