journalism that swims
against the current.
Municipal Politics

Please Advise! Why the War on Mini Doughnuts?

Surely all hunger to know where Dr. Steve lands on this bite-sized controversy.

Steve Burgess 17 Aug

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

The food stall known as “Those Little Donuts,” a beloved regular at the PNE, has been turned down for a midway spot this year. Would you describe yourself as shocked, appalled or outraged?

Signed, Not Fair

Dear Not Fair,

Gobsmacked! Dumbfounded! Those Little Donuts, rolled to the curb? And to think this could happen in Vancouver, a centre of holistic nutrition. At long last, the civic election has an issue — something people can sink their sugar-coated, cavity-ridden teeth into.

At first Dr. Steve approved of the PNE's move. But that was based on a misunderstanding. It is Dr. Steve's firm belief that the proper spelling is “doughnut,” so he assumed “Those Little Donuts” were being evicted for crimes against Canadian English. Shockingly, not so. Yet they were being shut out regardless, and the public cried out as one. Tyranny! Stop the steal! Defund the PNE!

There are other pressing questions on the PNE menu. What is the difference, if any, between a Tornado Potato and a Twisted Potato? Does Mr. Pretzels offer a non-binary option? Is the Corn Dog King a constitutional or an absolute monarch? (The PNE website also reveals that the Hell's Gate attraction is “undergoing maintenance.” Too late though — Steve Bannon and Alex Jones already got through.)

But it's the doughnut scandal that dominates discussion. Tiny doughnuts are the foundation of the midway food pyramid. They are as essential to the PNE as the wooden roller coaster and a lineup of musical acts 30-plus years past their prime.

The strange power of the mini doughnut, long known to culinary science, seems related to quantum physics. Just as the tiniest particles in our universe appear to operate by different rules, so too in the doughnut realm. A regular-sized doughnut exerts a measurable attraction. But miniaturize that doughnut and its magnetic pull will lead to lines long enough to block the entrance to the Pirate Ship and the bumper cars. No one really understands why, although most current theories involve the relative dough-to-sugar ratio.

The initial reports of the demise of Those Little Donuts drew a fierce media response. Vancouver mayoral candidates are surely even now preparing policy planks to deal with the crisis. But it is unlikely to become a small, tasty wedge issue since everyone will be on the same side. Heads must roll, like so many tiny fried pastries!

Yet as so often happens, the issue is more complicated than it seems. For one thing, as PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance hastened to reassure, there will be no shortage of wee deep-fried biscuits at the PNE. And what's more, “Those Little Donuts” are not necessarily those little doughnuts. They are, perhaps, different little doughnuts.

The “Those Little Donuts” stand was run for many years by Eldred and Rosella Johnson. Even they were not the first to achieve transistorized batter loops — after all, the name Those Little Donuts implies that there must have been earlier little doughnuts. And there were. Originally they were called Tom Thumb Donuts, and the Johnsons were Canadian franchisees of that American firm. However, the Johnsons then moved on to create their own company, and pumped out Those Little Donuts at the PNE until 2012 when they sold the business and retired. Their grandchildren now operate the Little Donut Bakery, which will indeed be at the PNE this year, even though the new management of Those Little Donuts have been shut out.

So perhaps the real question is: whose doughnuts are those little doughnuts? Is it enough to be little and a doughnut to truly be a little doughnut? Is your greasy little doughnut bag a Prada or a knock-off? Let all civic candidates choose sides and debate.

Yes, there are other pressing matters facing the city. There's housing affordability, which transforms local candidates into so many King Canutes, commanding the tide. There is homelessness, now enduring at least its second century of hand-wringing futility. There's the state of health services — terrifying. There is public safety, which is divisive.

And then there are doughnuts. Doughnuts that unify; doughnuts that energize; doughnuts that inspire. It's a perfect, bite-sized controversy. And once order has been restored to the quantum doughnut world, perhaps we can move on to the issue of health care, and hospitals crowded with people who have been eating too many miniature doughnuts. Trivial? Hardly. It's as serious as a heart attack.

But that's for later. It's PNE time! Remember, if you are worried about calories, just take a couple of rides on the Beast or the Hellevator. Gets rid of those little doughnuts quick.  [Tyee]

Read more: Food, Municipal Politics

  • Share:

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.


  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others
  • Personally attack authors or contributors
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context


The Barometer

How Do You Read Your Books?

Take this week's poll