Cooking for Twin Peaks with Coffee, Donuts and Julee Cruise

Food Features
Cooking for Twin Peaks with Coffee, Donuts and Julee Cruise

Photo by Paul Velgos/Shutterstock

In 1990, Twin Peaks established a multisensory food, art and music aesthetic that defined its moment in history by reaching into the past and expanding into the future, and by combining disparate aspects of popular culture: an interest in Tibetan Buddhism and donuts; teen exploitation and dream analysis; art cinema and network television. This might not seem radical anymore, but it was then. It felt important; it felt for a minute like anything was possible.

Photo by Freda Love Smith

Food has always front and center in the fan culture surrounding Twin Peaks. During the show’s original run, viewing parties would often include coffee, donuts, and cherry pie. Its iconic food helped to support other ancillary products, and I recently discovered Damn Fine Cherry Pie: The Unauthorised Cookbook Inspired by the TV Show Twin Peaks, which contains recipes for “Great Northern Hotel Banana Cinnamon Oatmeal,” “The Black Lodge Doppelganger Black Bean Salad,” “Percolator Fish Supper,” and of course, plenty of pie and donuts.

Ben Horne truly enjoys a sandwich in S1E3.

Back in 1990, when those Twin Peaks donut-eating viewing parties were in full swing, donuts were not the trendy food item they are now. Donuts were what beer-bellied cops ate; they were super sugary and caloric, and were not at all cool in the fitness-conscious 1990s. Part of David Lynch’s quirky persona was that he was slightly out of step with his generation. While others were going on macrobiotic diets and then becoming health-obsessed yuppies, he was eating cheeseburgers and chocolate floats at the Big Boy restaurant in Los Angeles.

I loved donuts back then, but I was too prissy and uptight about food to enjoy them, and I rarely indulged. As a food item, donuts held a kitschy appeal to the yuppies and art school students who followed Twin Peaks, who enjoyed the high-low culture blend of Lynch’s vision. But if donuts were on the “low” end of the culture continuum in 1990, they’ve slid to the opposite end in 2017. Nowadays, we can enjoy a delicious vegan pineapple donut, or a gluten-free, low-sugar pistachio donut. A recent press release from Ipsento 606, a trendy Chicago café, promises “Donuts that won’t make you feel like shit,” made with spelt flour and fried in coconut oil. The world has caught up with Twin Peaks as far as donuts.

The RR Diner, a frequent pitstop for hungry loggers with appetites for huckleberry pie, bearclaws and spaghetti.

I’m not sure David Lynch would approve, but I suspect that our current donut moment is partially attributable to him. Lynch’s loving nostalgia for fifties diner food, like cherry pie, milkshakes, crispy bacon, and donuts, is apparent in every episode of Twin Peaks, and maybe the pervasive influence of the show helped that food nostalgia to permeate our collective food psyche enough to ultimately trigger the transformation of that cop’s plain donut to today’s vegan pineapple donut.

So I am preparing for Sunday, May 21 by making lots of donuts and coffee, and by listening to Julee Cruise’s 1989 masterpiece “Into the Night,” a collaboration with David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti, and the source for the show’s theme song and much of its soundtrack.

Photo by Freda Love Smith

But what to do for donuts? If I was the target audience for Twin Peaks in 1990, I am totally the target audience for a donut that won’t make you feel like shit. I don’t have a deep-fryer and I’m too impatient for yeast risings, so I confined my recent donut-making binge to simple, baked donuts. Fortunately, there’s a whole world of such recipes. Unfortunately, most of them taste like shit.

The infamous donut-meets-bird scene from S1E7

I finally found a good baked donut recipe in BabyCakes Covers the Classics: Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes from Donuts to Snickerdoodles by New York baking genius Erin McKenna. I tried her plain cake and blackberry swirl donuts — both were super tasty and easy to make, although her gluten-free recipes call for ingredients we might not all keep around the house, like garbanzo flour, fava bean flour, and xantham gum. For me, the excellent results made these specialty ingredients worth the investment.

Photo by Freda Love Smith

And what about the beverage that accompanies every single donut and piece of pie in the Twin Peaks universe? In 1990, coffee wasn’t yet the complicated capitalist phenomenon that it is today. Coffee was just a thing we drank. Some of us drank it every morning, but it wasn’t a big deal. In Twin Peaks, however, coffee was a huge deal; scene after scene revolves around the rapturous consumption—and reverential discussion—of coffee.

Dale enjoys a cup of damn fine coffee at the Great Northern.

In a recent article about food in Twin Peaks (“Dale Cooper and the Mouth-Feel of Twin Peaks”), Andrew Hageman wonders, “to what extent the Twin Peaks coffee mania may have shaped Howard Schulz’s then-nascent vision for Starbucks.” I’ve wondered the same thing myself. The Pacific Northwest connection is notable, but more to the point, Hageman observes that, “the RR Diner as social nexus seems a model of the ‘third place’ (a place between work and home) Schultz described in his 1999 book, Pour Your Heart Into It.” Just as Twin Peaks helped to pave the way for our current artisanal donut craze, the show had something to do with creating a cultural space for our Starbucks-saturated world.

And what’s on the jukebox in the RR diner? What music should accompany your donuts and coffee? The stunning collaboration between David Lynch, Badalamenti, and Julee Cruise.
Cruise, Lynch, and Badalamenti had been working together since Blue Velvet,
and together produced Cruise’s “Floating Into The Night” (1989), which was just as out of time as Lynch’s taste in food, fusing eighties dream pop with fifties rock and surreal jazz.

Julee Cruise sings in S2E7 of Twin Peaks.

I adored “Floating Into The Night” and listened to it over and over again when it was first released. There’s no better soundtrack for a night drive when someone else is behind the wheel and you’re stretched out across the back seat looking up over your head out the window as stars and power lines scroll by. Try it. Or you could listen to it while you’re baking donuts. “Floating Into The Night” still sounds wonderful; it has aged miraculously well— perhaps even better than Twin Peaks. Not only is its shimmer undiminished by time, its influence is undeniable, acknowledged openly by Lana Del Rey, and also heard unmistakably in the work of artists like Air, Biosphere, Cults, Au Revoir Simone, and Bat for Lashes.

Julee Cruise sings in S2E7 of Twin Peaks.

What will season three have to say to us in 2017? I’m as nervous as I am excited. Regardless, the original gifts of the Twin Peaks world are with us forever. And in the spirit of Agent Cooper’s advice to Sheriff Truman, I intend to give myself two presents on May 21 before I sit down in front of my television to reunite with these old friends—I’ll listen to “Floating Into the Night” while I make myself a nice big plate full of donuts. If you want to make the more obscure foods from the show, head on over to our Twin Peaks dinner party menu and recipes.

Freda Love Smith is a drummer, Northwestern University lecturer, and the author of Red Velvet Underground: A rock memoir, with recipes. Follow her on Twitter.

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