The Unglazed Truth

Editor Rick Broussard

Photo by John Hession

When I met my wife-to-be we lived in Atlanta, but she was a New Hampshire girl by right of birth.

I heard plenty of stories about the granite state's charms, but when we finally moved here there was one charm i was most eager to sink my teeth into - a chocolate donut from a place called Janet's in Concord.

I had been regaled with stories about Janet's for so long I could practically smell those luscious, sweet brown creations, rolled in granulated sugar and still aglow with the oily heat of their creation.

In real life, as I recall, the donuts were perhaps not the magical experience I had hoped for, but they were quite tasty. What was more impressive to me was the place that made them.

Janet's was a small, plain, stand-alone building on West Street in Concord, conveniently situated right across from the West Street Ward House where voting took place for matters of city, state and country. It looked like it belonged there.

It was walking distance from our home on South Street and it seemed like a hub for the whole city. Donut preparation started around 4 a.m. and customers began arriving soon after to lean on the counter and watch as the morning crew would pat the hot pastries into the sugar, slip them into clear cellophane bags and staple them at the top with a paper label.

My wife now volunteers at the West Street Ward House during elections and she often hears, mostly from voters much older than herself, about how people still miss Janet's.

I suspect that's how the folks in Lebanon would feel if they ever lose their "true" donut shop, Muriel's. We gave Muriel's a Best of NH nod last year and this year we returned to praise it (click here for the story), not so much for the donuts (which are quite tasty) but for its staying power. More than 40 years in business and Muriel still rolls her own dough and dips her own donuts.

I came up with the "Last True Donut Shop" moniker for Muriel's and I've taken a little heat for it. There are certainly other places to get a crispy cruller and cider donuts are currently all the rage at general stores and farm stands, but the traditional donut shop as an institution has all but disappeared. To someone who knew and loved Janet's or some other hometown hole-in-the-wall with a sheet of sweet dough and a bucket of boiling lard, stumbling upon Muriel's on a back street in Lebanon will be a pleasant shock. Sort of like finding a woolly mammoth munching dandelions in the back yard.

It's a reminder that good things come and go, but "trueness" comes with time.

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