Driving west on my scooter through London’s evening traffic. Over my shoulder looms the outline of Harrods, picked out in bright dots like a department store shaped constellation against the dark Knightsbridge sky. Something solid turned to air. In front of me, its outline slips like liquid over the curved piano-polished skin of a Taxi. Warping as though my Vespa is jumping into hyperspace. Inside my helmet, I’m muttering in awe while my visor passes the Taxis surface, like Dave Bowman drifting over the monolith in 2001 …it goes on forever…and oh my God, its full of stars… before vanishing into a white out lens flare nothingness.
One reason why I might be experiencing deep reverie at 30 mph on the back of a Vespa is the aroma of frying doughnuts wafting Bisto-like out of a hole recently cut into Harrods Food hall. It’s Krispy Kremes first franchise outside North America.
Harrods Food Hall is already a strange landscape. Krispy Kremes 30′s Americana is entirely inappropriate, which given the context, is completely appropriate. Stepping into the food hall is like slipping on beige tinted sunglasses. Bays, islands and counters, shelving, racking and refrigeration drawn from the history of architecture, all splayed at 45 degrees. Amongst these snatches of Greece, Italy, New York, and Anytown USA, powdery old Knightsbridge Tories sip tea. Surrounded by tourists stocking up on Beefeater Teddies and After Eight mints, oblivious to the way that passing time has eroded their world.
Krispy Kremes stand displays the process of manufacture – the ‘doughnut theatre’: a mini production line of doughnuts rolling from formless gunk, to cute ring through rotating oven stacks, dropping onto a conveyor belt, baptised in a ‘glaze waterfall’, then skidding onto chrome rollers where they await an eager public.
Despite the billions of hours spent designing the world, there are very few things completely flawless. And Krispy Kremes are one of them. Like Marc Dorcel pornography, Phillipe Stark interiors or Beyonces ‘Crazy in Love’, there is a kind of design hysteria. They are things that start with a climax, then just keep building. No light and shade, simply light blinding in their own bright flawlesness.
Krispy Kreme have dissected, studied, and recomposed the pleasures of eating. The doughnuts are comforting like a pillow, soft like snow but warm inside, squidgey and warm like a pet. Light reflects from the glaze as though it has just licked its own lips. It is hard to imagine more concentrated designed pleasure: First, the aroma of fried fat as you lift it to your lips, then the cracking of the thin glaze tickles your lips, before the sugar dissolves into tingles of nothingness. Then the feeling of fat melting in the warm wetness of your tongue, the soft warmth of the dough enveloping your teeth like a thick fog of numbing gas.
There is a kind of sugar rush oblivion about three quarters of your way through. A taste version of lens flare – where the equipment is overwhelmed by abundance of phenomenon. Its a moment that’s almost supernatural, where you loose your bearings and forget your place. These small dough rings bring a kind of exhilaration and amazement that is a puzzling, mysterious, existential and unknowable.
Its not just the taste. Its the shape too, a ring of dough :
Here are Matthijs Bouw and Joost Meuwissen of One Architecture on the circle: ‘In former days circles had a meaning. In the Renaissance they were a symbol for a heavenly body. Today circles don’t mean a thing. They are both vacuous and sublime.’
Yum! … Lipsmackin vacuousness!
Here’s Karl Jung on circles: “Weltering confusion is held together by the protective circle.” His argument – that a world in turmoil was unconsciously and collectively projecting circular symbols of unity into the sky was an explanation of UFOs rise during the cold war.
Munch, munch … fingerlickin’ confusion!
And here’s some history: The Ouroboros, symbol of a serpent biting its own tail occurring in ancient Egypt, Phoenician culture, Greek, Norse, Hindu and Aztec mythology, sometimes inscribed with the phrase “all is one”.
Modern Ouroboros are the fibreglass statues of chip portions, a hand reaching up to pull one from the top of its head and stuff it into its own cartoon mouth. Chips, not pop eating itself.
Krispy Kreme doughnuts are kandy koated kulture. Nothing to with nutrition, they have more in common with the bodily sensations of a rollercoaster or narcotics the than they do with food. Lumps of experience that have assumed patisserie form.
Krispy Kremes disregard of anything but pleasure is an escape from the physical world. Like the Harrods lights which turn a solid mass into a skeletal array but with inifite imaginative possibility. Imagine its outline shapeshifting: Flash: Stonehenge, Blink: a shed, Snap: Harrods upside down … The sheer overwhelming experience of eating one is a moment when populism becomes sublime: A sugar rush, a push and the land is ours. And the million calorie doughnut binge offers escape from human form into fattiness. Ballooning out into unrecognisable shapes like bloated Gullivers in the landscape. Bone structure giving way to rolling hills of soft fat: Bellies like Berkshire, chins like Cheshire – So much unmapped skin to travel over.
First Published in Icon