In Pursuit of a Trans-Fat-Free Doughnut

A doughnut shop in Oregon is taking on a challenge — making trans fat-free doughnuts. But Voodoo Doughnuts is famous for more than its high-calorie sweet snack.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY. Maybe Homer Simpson said it best.

(Soundbite of television show, "The Simpsons")

Mr. DAN CASTELLANETA (Voice Actor): (As Homer Simpsons) Doughnuts, is there anything they can't do?

BRAND: No, I don't think there is. Well, maybe. Maybe they might present a little problem with losing weight, but a quirky shop named Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon is trying to make doughnuts without all those dreaded trans fats. Miriam Widman headed straight for the deep fryer.

MIRIAM WIDMAN: The fire at Voodoo Doughnuts is in the store's cramped kitchen. The shop goes through some 600 pounds of oil a week. The biggest challenge in making trans-fat-free doughnuts, say co-owners Kenneth Pogson and Tres Shannon, is finding large quantities of trans-fat-free oil, but even after the new oil is in the fryer, doughnut eaters shouldn't fool themselves: getting rid of trans fat doesn't make a doughnut a health food.

Mr. KENNETH POGSON (Co-owner, Voodoo Doughnuts): A doughnut, it's still loaded with sugar. It's still fried in oil.

WIDMAN: That's co-owner Pogson, who goes by the name of Cat Daddy. He says Voodoo Doughnuts offer some traditional value. Many varieties are topped with cereal.

Mr. POGSON: Add some cereal, you get seven essential vitamins and minerals. You've got the Triple Chocolate Penetration, which is a chocolate cake, chocolate frosting and chocolate cereal. There's The Captain, which is a raised doughnut with vanilla and Captain Crunch.

WIDMAN: The store sits on a wide street in a bar-laden section of downtown Portland, and many a Voodoo customer is also a patron of the bars. Cat Daddy says their doughnuts can sop up the ill effects of alcohol.

Mr. POGSON: We used to have a doughnut that was specifically for that, but it's been banned. It was a Tums doughnut, where we had a Pepto Bismal vanilla frosting with crushed Tums on top, and the whole philosophy behind it was if you came in and you were really drunk and you had one, you got bread, you got sugar, you got, you know, a fried item. You got the Tums, you got the Pepto all in one.

WIDMAN: But Cat Daddy said the county health department said you can't sell food mixed with medicine, and they had to take the Tums doughnut off the shelf.

(Soundbite of music)

WIDMAN: Yet it isn't only the doughnuts that have put Voodoo on the map. The store is only four years old but has become a Portland institution.

Unidentified Man #1: Ladies and gentlemen, we're here at the world-famous Voodoo Doughnut to have a wedding, and the wedding here between Jacob(ph) and Andy(ph).

WIDMAN: Yes, you can get married at Voodoo Doughnuts. For $175, you get a legal ceremony and doughnuts and coffee for 10 people. They host about 30 weddings a year and some 100 intentional commitment ceremonies.

Unidentified Man #2: Chew, chew, swallow, chew, chew swallow.

Unidentified Woman: Eat that doughnut. Eat it.

WIDMAN: You can also stuff yourself at one of several doughnut-eating contests, like this one held on the first Friday of every month. To win, you have eat a half dozen carefully selected doughnuts faster than your competitors.

Unidentified Man #3: Eat it up.

WIDMAN: But these days, Voodoo owners are pursuing loftier ambitions.

Mr. TRES SHANNON (Co-owner, Voodoo Doughnuts): Since we've opened the doughnut shop, people like just see us, and they're like oh, you smell so good, and like when we see our friends and we hug them, they're just like oh, and that's the smell we're trying to recreate.

WIDMAN: Yes, a doughnut perfume. Co-owner Shannon says the perfume mind be called Voodoo Mandazi. Mandazi is Swahili for doughnut. That's another one of Voodoo's extracurricular activities. They have an employee who will soon be offering Swahili lessons at the store on Monday nights. For NPR News, I'm Miriam Widman in Portland.

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