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Corporate Headquarters for the Southern Maid Donut Flour Company

 
Homage To The Ultimate Donut

By Scott Simmons
May 2001 feature from www.Emeril.com
Used with permission

On the western side of Shreveport, Louisiana, a modern day totem rises high above Interstate 20 decorated simply with a relief of giant red neon words that light up the night sky - HOT, HOT, HOT. Those three steaming red words, together with a logo in green neon, signal a shrine for the Southern Maid faithful. Everyone who has grown up in that neck of the woods, and to those who have ventured into the shop at the behest of a devotee, would think it blasphemous not to make a quick detour from the interstate, park at the base of the towering totem, go inside and sit down at one of the round counter stools, and order a pint of ice cold chocolate milk and a whole dozen HOT, glazed Southern Maid donuts.

To those who have had the glorious experience of enjoying one of these uncommon donuts, the mere mention of Southern Maid will arouse a wide toothy grin and a watering mouth.

HOT donuts are the main reason to go to Southern Maid. Oh yes, the shop has a wide assortment of other goodies ranging from eclairs to bear claws and apple fritters. Those fabulous treats and others rest inside a glass case after being made fresh in the wee hours of the morning before the shop opens at 6:00a.m. But from 4:00 p.m. until midnight, a Southern Maid customer can request HOT donuts to be made on the spot.

For any poor soul who has only eaten supermarket bakery department donuts or even the pitiful national chain's attempts at donut making, you may be wondering why all the ruckus about Southern Maid.  There is cause for the ruckus as well as for the grins and the watering mouths!  When HOT glazed donuts are ordered, a singular process begins. 

Beautiful rounds of smooth supple dough are dropped into hot grease.  The dough immediately puffs full of air and rides on bubbling clouds until they are golden brown on both sides.  The donuts are then drained, engulfed in a delicious glaze of sugar, water, and vanilla, and finally placed in two rows of six inside a shallow pasteboard box. 

A box of HOT glazed donuts is the rich bounty of Southern Maid.  HOT donuts.  HOT donuts that are so hot that the bottom of the box has burned the skin on the tops of my thighs as I have ridden home with them on my lap.  HOT donuts that are light enough in texture that the donut literally melts in your mouth.  HOT donuts covered with enough glaze to sweeten each wonderful bite as well as form pools of glaze that are left behind for sopping when the donuts are lifted from the box.  HOT donuts that are manna from heaven.

Shreveport and Bossier City Natives have grown up eating Southern Maid donuts  and the cult of the HOT Southern Maid Donut is naturally perpetuated from generation to generation.  But then there are the converts from around the country---truckers, salesmen, people who pull off the interstate because a distant relative or friend said not to miss the little shop that could be found by looking for the red "HOT" neon sign.  And once a newcomer tastes the first bite of a hot glazed donut a lifelong relationship is born.   

At one time, a true convert may  have opted to head east, across the Red River to the Southern Maid Donut shop on Barksdale Boulevard in Bossier City.  At the base of a similar giant totem, the same women made the donuts by hand for as long as anyone could remember.  The women who created hot donuts every day would take automated machinery to task as they orchestrated a production that was magic to behold.  Alas, this eastern branch of the Southern Maid shrine has closed.

These women worked in a large kitchen filled with long, deep tables, scalding hot fryers, and broad trays filled with glaze.  They would transform a mass of potato flour, powdered milk, egg powder, shortening, and yeast into a dough that was kneaded, allowed to rise, cut and shaped, and then allowed to rise a final time.  At the pint when the dough reached perfection, large, knowing hands dipped the drained puffs of air into the milky glaze, and with fleeting flicks of the wrist, with a swiftness that is not unlike the movements of a remueur turning Champagne bottles, one of the women would have scooped up six donuts which she would slide perfectly into a waiting box.  She then made her way to the cash register beside the glass counter and served up a dozen HOT donuts she just created.

In an age when factories turn out endless streams of food products with aspirations of long shelf life, it was refreshing to see the women on Barksdale Boulevard work with such ease to create a food that was fresh and that was intended to be enjoyed immediately.  They made the donuts by hand to be eaten HOT, not saved for later, not saved for tomorrow, not put on a grocery store shelf to idle for days.  At the other local Southern Maid shops, machines still turn out HOT glazed Southern Maid Donuts that are meant to be eaten now. 

In order to provide their loyal following with unfailingly fresh donuts, each independently owned Southern Maid location makes batches of fresh donuts throughout the day.  The shop by the interstate began its daily, afternoon production many years ago when "route men" would deliver fresh donuts to the local grocery stores.  Then Southern Maid customers around the city could pick up fresh donuts on their way home from work without making a pilgrimage to the source.  Today however, with myriad preservative infused bakery products lining aisle after aisle of grocery store shelves and the prohibitive cost of retaining route men, Southern Maid  no longer stocks grocery stores.  Luckily though, HOT donuts are available each afternoon and every night for the faithful flock of pilgrims who need their fix. 

South Maid has been luring converts and maintaining its lifelong relationship with devotees for many years.  The shop on the side of the interstate is run by the third generation of a family that started this franchise in 1942, in old downtown Shreveport near the foot of a brick bridge that crossed the Red River.  This wasn't the first Southern Maid Donut shop though.  In 1937, J.A. Hargrove began Southern Maid Donuts in Dallas, Texas.  The company is now run by Mr. Hargrove's two children, Doris Franklin and Lon Hargrove.  Ms. Franklin boasts that there is not secret to the all out heavenly goodness of Southern Maid.  She relies on the same recipe that ahs been used since 1937 to produce their trademark donut flour, and she declares that Southern Maid Donuts are only made from "good food ingredients with the objective that customers eat a fresh donut today."

It is the goodness and freshness that keep people coming back to Southern Maid again and again.  Besides the red and green neon sign hailing the faithful, some of the only advertising Southern Maid of Shreveport ever did was back in the 1950s when the company sponsored a local television program that showcased amateur talent.  Throughout the show, Miss Merry Mary, a French poodle dressed in a blousey dress and matching bonnet, would push a baby carriage filled with Southern Maid Donut boxes across the screen.  Miss Merry Mary was an instant sensation with the television audience, and even thought she only advertised for a few months, Miss Merry Mary is immortalized on the top flap of each box of the Southern Maid Donuts.  Emblazoned in green ink that matches the neon of the logo on the sign, Miss Mary is dressed in her finest, forever pushing her carriage, tongue lolling, with a telling caption wrapping around her: Miss Merry Mary, star of TV and stage, says, " There are no donuts like our donuts!"

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