There’s a tiny door in Community Food & Juice that takes you inside Josh Ozersky. You see the world through Josh Ozersky’s eyes, and then after about 15 minutes, you’re spit out onto a ditch on the side of the New Jersey turnpike.
“This is another example of the artisanal version being worse than the ShopRite Bakeshop version. Well, I’m very disappointed in myself and in my inability to appreciate good things.” Josh Ozersky takes mincing bites from a “Dough” doughnut, grimacing in disgust. Safely removed from the owner’s gaze, Ozersky samples each variety and, like a petulant child force-fed broccoli, bemoans his not-so-sweet desserts. “It should be sweet,” Ozersky says. “Life is too short for savory doughnuts.” Famous for effusively praising certain chefs and products, Ozersky rarely meets a food he does not like.
Dough, a bakery in Bed-Stuy serving fancified doughnut flavors like hibiscus and “real” chocolate (no cocoa powder here), applies an artisanal ethos to simple breakfast fare. Ozersky does not lament that ethos per se, but instead criticizes its consequence: an unpleasant doughnut. Ozersky describes the problem of hipsterfied and fancified food well—oftentimes, it just doesn’t taste good. Although I enjoy a Doughnut Plant creation as much as the next easily impressed sweet tooth, I appreciate the doughnut’s humbler forms, too. Like Ozersky, I’d rather eat a tasty doughnut than a doughnut with pedigree any day.
In his poem “All-Nite Donuts,” Albert Goldbarth writes:
A customer’s blowing
smoke rings almost
heavy as the dough o’s rising
out of the vat of grease.
Outside, the whores are whistling
their one note, lips thick
The artisanal doughnut feels deeply ironic—a perverse distortion of an American symbol. Whereas doughnuts once represented the seedy, too-sweet commodification of American life, now artisanal bakers viscerally reject that formulation. Of course, the artisanal doughnut embodies a bourgeois ethic, a mode of consumption that signals class separation. Dough is a product and producer of gentrification in Bed-Stuy and its wares emblematize class categories. An affordable and deviously unhealthy food made unaffordable—the violence of exclusion seems unavoidable. In an attempt to escape a sordid aesthetic, Dough reifies the latent divide between “have” and “have not.” To be bourgeois is to eat an artisanal doughnut; and the transformation of the doughnut from ShopRite to the imperative “eat right” extracts class from everyday consumption.
Oh Columbia student, do not think that the artisanal doughnut’s violence is limited to the outer boroughs. In Morningside Heights, a restaurant perpetuates this code of bourgeois consumption with gleeful fervor. This restaurant is also, in my opinion, the worst restaurant in Morningside Heights: Community Food & Juice. Continue reading