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
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.
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
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