In her show “Andrea sings Astaire,” cabaret diva Andrea Marcovicci first introduced me to the Portugese word “saudade” which, to quote web resource http://www.answer.com, is a “vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist.” Marcovicci uses the term to characterize her encounters with the film story world of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire–one which Marcovicci longs to inhabit, recreate, adorn, grasp and ultimately invoke through her own cabaret stylings.
Most of my own adult life is fevered by various strains of saudade–saudade for the gold rush outfits found in old Filson catalogues, saudade for Kurt Weill tunes sung by Lotte Lenya, saudade for my past life as a character in a John Ford cavalry film, saudade for French and Italian lugged steel bicycles which I vaguely remember seeing for sale in a local Schwinn shop thirty years ago and saudade for restaurants which have gone out of business and/or foods which I consumed as a child (cheesey, bready, sugary items for which a nostalgia cookbook contract will never be extended).
I’m in my hometown again this weekend occupying a strange sliver of experience–eating a spudnut donut which both undermines my saudade while reinforcing the time sensitivity of nostalgia. Although the spudnut (potato flour) donut remains available, and has been available since the late forties, it really only can exist in the real, in the mouth, for an instant, as ephemeral pith, before it hits the memory bank and bloodstream (in that order). In short, spudnuts must be consumed within a very specific unspecified time after their creation or else they will seize up and harden–transforming themselves into something loaflike and unmemorable.
Each time I’m in Richland, Washington, I time my visit to the Spudnut shop (fortunate that it remains in business) so that I may possibly experience the spudnut donut in its most perfect state of resting decay: here, insert perfect donut description to which I add the following adjectives: airy, lofty, golden hued, lightly glazed.