By OWEN MORRIS
"Foods to eat before you die" has become a popular Internet meme. Two of our sister blogs Fork in The Road from Village Voice and Eating our Words from Houston Press put their own spin on it, so I have decided to do the same for Kansas City. This list is my own and purely subjective. I chose what I did for a variety of different reasons. If you don't like it, send me your own list or put one in the comments. I'm counting backwards and today is my Number 10 Kansas City food to eat before I die.
Number 10: Lamar's Cinnamon Twist
This listing is based purely on nostalgia but hey, that's a big part of what food is about. I am just old enough to remember driving to the inner city with dad in our (even then) old Volvo station wagon. Driving to the city meant that my dad was going either to a junkyard or to get some food. The junkyards I never cared much for, but the food always excited me. And nowhere moreso than LaMar's Doughnuts.
While LaMar's is now a franchise with many locations in various states (its headquarters are sadly no longer in Kansas City but in Lincoln, Nebraska) at the time there was only the one store and even as a four- or five-year-old I could tell it wasn't very nice aesthetically. Fortunately, I was too young to know anything of cleanliness. Not that any of that mattered anyways.
It's difficult to describe as a somewhat grown-up adult just how humongous those cinnamon twists seemed. I remember holding one up horizontally -- it was longer than my face was wide, by a good margin. They took up entire plates. They were heavy too. The two pieces of dough twisted together looked as thick as the rope you see on a fishing vessel and if you picked it up in the middle it sagged on the ends. Today that might seem obscene but to the five-year-old me, this was no mortal doughnut, it was a superhero doughnut.
The odd thing is that I do not, nor have I ever, liked cinnamon on my doughnuts. I just like plain glazed doughnuts. Looking at the twists on the bread racks behind the counter it was difficult to see the cinnamon. I'd always order one, and it would always have cinnamon. That didn't keep me from eating them, nothing could. It wasn't so much about the taste as it was about the experience.
You could feel the warmth of the doughnuts through the box and to this day, I've never had a doughnut that kept its warmth like a LaMar's doughnut. (Krispy Kreme doughnuts are incredibly hot and then suddenly, without warning, cold.) My dad would tell me stories about why LaMar's doughnuts were always warm. He said it was because Mr. Lamar never got into work early enough so the first doughnuts were coming out just as the first customers were coming in. I like his "late bird gets the worms story" but I realize it was more likely the doughnuts were warm because the fryer couldn't keep up with all the customers. It wasn't uncommon to have to wait outside the door because only five or six people could fit in the store, a converted gas station.
Today, LaMar's is just not same. Ray Lamar died in 2005. He had sold the rights to the store many years earlier, but the event marked the end of an era. Now, LaMar's is just another franchise serving decent doughnuts and twists. To experience the real LaMar's doughnuts was to experience that cramped and dirty original store, to see the rack behind the counter crowded with doughnuts and too feel the warmth in your hand. For influencing my childhood (and my waistline), I give LaMar's twists the number 10 spot.