Monday, July 29, 2013

Alton Brown - Donut Thief

Alton Brown - Donut Thief

For the longest time on the early days of Good Eats, Alton Brown would shoot segments at Koger, which is for any Georgian, a staple market you'll probably go in to. For the rest of the country, it's just called Ralphs. In any event, after a certain point they stopped filming there. Here's the reason as to why;

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Powdered Milk

After pouring over yogurt research for hours on end this Sunday, I finally got an idea that I could invest in: a fast, easy and delicious method for making yogurt from scratch. Experiments would be required.

I threw my worthless hound in the truck and struck out for hardware - a few jars from the Container Store, a shiny new probe thermometer (Pyrex I might add - nice design) from BB&B and a secret weapon or two from Target. Then, I turned towards a quality mega-mart for software.

Upon entering the market and snagging a hand basket I spied a Krispy Kreme display (strategically placed) featuring a food I have a tough time resisting: donut holes - Krispy Kreme donut holes. Since I hadn't eaten all day, their siren song was strong. Before I knew it a box was in my basket. Somewhere between the canned goods and the bakery, discipline and good manners dissolved in a puddle of lust and I cracked the carton and gobbled not one but two of the luscious nuggets. I could have done the entire box but that would have made an ugly scene.

My hunger temporarily silenced, I returned to my research. The "natural" dairy case presented me with several half gallons of milk with varying fat contents and a couple of yogurts with culture counts high enough to use as starters. The last thing on my list was powdered milk so I cut up through soft drinks to get to the baking aisle. I only made it halfway up before spotting another guilty pleasure: Tab - the only soft drink I like (something about that saccharine aftertaste I guess). Since my hand basket runneth over I had to empty the contents and repack to make room for six pack.

Five minutes later I finally gave up on the powdered milk and headed for the checkout. As soon as I settled up I was approached by what I thought to be a loyal GE fan wanting to chat about skirt steak or maybe the merits of tapioca as a thickener. Believe it or not, talking to people in markets is the best part of my job.

But, before I could say "kosher salt" the rather large gentleman flashed a badge and "escorted" me to the managers office, where he made me feel even more at home by cuffing my hands behind my back. He then confronted me with my crime.

The donut holes.

I'd left the donut holes on the shelf in the soft drink aisle.

I'd opened the box, eaten two of the holes and abandoned the rest.

Busted - like Benjamin Bunny.

I apologized profusely for my absent mindedness and stupidity. I tried to explain that I had been deep in thought, trying to work out a food experiment that was a bit over my head.

The officer told me not to patronize him and asked me if I could make $500 bond. I told him that I wouldn't be able to get hold of that kind of cash until morning which seemed to amuse him a bit. As they ran a background check the store manager took the opportunity [to] lecture me on the evils of stealing. When I assured him that despite their deliciousness I had no intention of attempting to lift a two dollar box of donut holes, he just shook his head and said "It's not like we don't put out plenty of samples". With that he headed off into the store, perhaps to keep an eye on that toddler on aisle 3.

As my captor and another, newly arrived officer conferred over my record (a couple of traffic tickets - no arrests) and my possible fate, I thought back to all the days I'd spent shooting scenes for Good Eats scenes in stores belonging to this chain. I thought about dropping names - I knew who the manager's boss was and his boss too, but I didn't. The way I figured it, it shouldn't have mattered. This could have happened to anyone - my mom for instance. I wondered if my daughter had been with me if they would have called family services.

Forty five minutes later they decided to let me go. I really think it was the fact that I'd left my dog in the car that loosened them up. If they'd hauled me downtown there would have been a howling basset/beagle mix in the parking lot and that couldn't be good for business.

Of course they took my picture for store records and made me sign a form saying that I understood that I had been given a criminal trespass warning and that if I ever set foot in that particular mega-mart again I would be arrested "on the spot". I assured the officer and the manager that they didn't have to worry about that one bit. I was then uncuffed and escorted downstairs where I was allowed to pay for my doughnut holes.

In the end I know what happened was my own fault. After all, it was me who picked up the donut hole box. I knowingly opened said box and purposely ate two of them. I then "conveniently" left them on a shelf in the soft drink aisle. I also know that shoplifting is a serious issue to American retailers.

But what if:

What if a store employee had simply said, "Sir, you forgot your doughnut holes" and handed me the box before I had moved past the register and into custody? I would have been a thankful, happy customer. I have to think that this approach would have required a lot less of the store's manpower. They could have kept a loyal customer rather than losing one.

So what did I learn? I learned to not assume that I live in a world where a person can make a simple mistake without getting his picture taken in cuffs for "the record". I learned that I don't like handcuffs. I learned that I'll have to find another grocery chain to shoot Good Eats in. And I learned that one should never, ever open a package of anything in a grocery store.

The donut holes were great though.

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