Ad Spot

A low-fat doughnut, is it true?

By By Robert St. John / food columnist
Feb. 25, 2004
I have been despondent lately. Days are gloomy and downcast, dark clouds gather at every turn, and I try not to lose all hope. Unfortunately, the junk-food world has taken another blow to its collective double chin.
Just three short weeks ago I was floating on air; there was an extra bounce in my step, I always had an extra smile for a stranger and much more room in my stomach. The low-fat doughnut was on its way.
That's right folks, a low-fat doughnut. Let's pause for a moment of silence, please.
Hallelujah, praise the Lord and pass the cinnamon twists, a low-fat doughnut! Three years ago, a potentially brilliant and visionary gentleman named Robert Ligon, supposedly invented the world's first diet doughnut. This would-be genius certainly a man who was destined to sit at the everlasting breakfast table with the likes of da Vinci, Einstein and Edison dunking doughnuts for all of eternity was the culinary savior of every deep-fat-fried, sugar-coated and jelly-filled breakfast-bread lover on the planet.
Today Ligon sits in a federal prison, guilty of perpetrating of one of the biggest hoaxes in culinary history. Bigger than Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast, bigger than the rumor that the Taco Bell Corporation bought the Liberty Bell, bigger than Burger King's April Fool's Day invention of the left-handed Whopper, bigger than the ghost of Orson Welles at an all-you-can-eat catfish buffet.
It seems Ligon, the 68-year old health-food executive, hadn't invented the low-fat doughnut after all. He was merely buying doughnuts at a Chicago-based bakery and repackaging them in boxes labeled "diet doughnuts." He purchased the doughnuts for 25 cents each and resold them for a dollar. According to the "Wall Street Journal" the nutritional-information labels on the new boxes boasted that each doughnut contained three grams of fat and 135 calories, when in actuality; each doughnut contained 18 grams of fat and 530 calories.
The Food and Drug Administration launched its investigation after customers complained that they were gaining weight while eating the supposed low-fat doughnuts. The FDA raided Ligon's warehouse and confiscated 18,720 doughnuts along with cinnamon rolls and labels (the police officer with the key to that evidence locker is definitely the most popular person in the precinct).
Even though the low-fat doughnuts hadn't been introduced to my market, I was anxiously anticipating their arrival and preparing for their introduction by eating four doughnuts every morning two or three days a week.
After three months of this rigorous and demanding training plan, my stomach would have been fully stretched and ready for the roll out of this amazing product into the Hattiesburg area. My plan was to then make the switch to the diet doughnut, sit back, and watch the pounds melt away.
I stuck to my training plan like a finely-tuned and competition-ready Olympic athlete. I wanted my system to be prepared the exact minute the diet doughnut hit the local shelves. Once it was available, the plan was to then extend my morning training regimen to a seven-day-a-week doughnut-eating schedule, throwing in two lunches and Sunday dinner for good measure, a sure and certain path to size 32-waisted jeans.
Now that the hoax has been exposed, I feel like an Olympic athlete who has trained all his life for the summer games just to be thwarted by a political boycott. Except, of course, that I am 50 pounds heavier than the average Olympic athlete and get winded while walking up a flight of stairs
Last year I suffered through the Atkins diet for three pain-filled and carb-deprived months. The diet doughnut was my hope and salvation. The day I quit the Atkins diet, I visited my local donut shop faster than you could say, "chocolate clair." The All-American doughnut is the most anti-Atkins food item available to mankind and I wanted a dozen. Who needs Dr. Akins when there is a low-fat doughnut on the market?
Now the dream is over and the light at the end of the cream-filled tunnel has been blown out. Robert Ligon has broken my heart (and expanded my gut). If we can send a man to the moon and take pictures on Mars, why in the world can't we invent a diet doughnut?
In the end, we should all remember: If it tastes too good to be true, it probably is. In a statement to the FDA, Ligon said that he doesn't even eat doughnuts. This, in the long run, is a good thing, because they probably don't serve them in jail, anyway.
Robert St. John is the executive chef/owner of the Purple Parrot Caf and Crescent City Grill in Hattiesburg and Meridian. He can be reached at