As the cronut frenzy sweeps the nation and, for that matter, the world, it seemed the appropriate time to weigh in on the flaky, sugary, buttery hybrid of donut and croissant.
So, we kind of love the cronut.
We know this is odd coming from us. Omada Health is dedicated to preventing chronic diseases like diabetes, and the cronut is not exactly a vegetable.
In fact, there are dozens of articles already condemning it as symptomatic of everything wrong with the American relationship with food.
And yet there’s still plenty to love. Because while the cronut is no health food, it does represent a healthy eating behavior that we’d like to see a whole lot more of.
1. It’s Celebratory
Standing in line for a cronut transforms the pastry from a sugar fix to an experience rich in meaning and ritual. It is eating with intent, and it reminds us of a time, not too long ago, before pastries were accessible on every street corner courtesy of Starbucks. It celebrates the special treat.
2. It’s Social
By nature of its prominence, the cronut is social. Waiting for that fresh cronut is a shared experience; it reinforces the celebratory aspect and adds a level of meaning. Standing in line is about more that wanting a cronut; it’s about being a part of a neighborhood, and indeed a city, that is experiencing this food craze together.
3. It’s Laborious
Finally, and perhaps most important, the cronut is not easy to make or to obtain. It takes three days to make a cronut and several hours in an early morning line to get one. By nature of this experience, the cronut takes us back to times when food was harder to come by and perhaps more appreciated. There’s nothing fast about a cronut.
But there’s a catch. The cronut is going mainstream. The celebratory, social and laborious elements that embody the original cronut experience will not be found at your local Dunkin Donuts shop. In other words, pretty soon we will start to engage with the cronut as we do all other fast food – in a solitary, overly accessible, and ordinary way. Like all other “treats,” the highly-caloric cronut threatens to become an everyday habit and yet another factor in the obesity epidemic plaguing our country.
So where does that leave us? Wanting to defend the cronut from its seemingly inevitable journey from fringe oddity to mainstream routine.
Because there is a lesson in all this. Blanket condemnation of unhealthy foods, no matter how decadent or over-the-top, forgets the critical role food rituals play in human society. We are less what we eat than we are how we eat. So I will be standing in line for a cronut in the near future. But only if I can convince a couple girlfriends to join me, and only if we can laugh at the ridiculousness of waking up early to do so, and, once we’ve each got one in our eager little hands, take the time to appreciate the real craft that went into each bite. Otherwise, it stops being a cronut. It just becomes yet another bad idea.