Robert St. John column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 16, 2007

St. John: Fall Break means time with kids at Donut Hole watching Red Tide

WATERCOLOR, Fla.- It’s Fall Break at my children’s school. I don’t remember having a Fall Break when I was in school. We were set free the day before Thanksgiving and a week or so at Christmas and that was it.

No Fall Break, no Spring Break, no teacher’s meeting break, I don’t even think that we got a break between classes.

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We did, however, have the entire months of June, July, and August off as a summer vacation. Today, my children have to return to school in the middle of August, so I guess a few days off throughout the year make sense.

We’re in the Florida Panhandle chilling out before the next book tour begins.

The Donut Hole restaurant is like an old friend. While living down here as a bachelor, I visited the Donut Hole at all hours of the morning. It was the perfect late night stop for a single man with a 32-inch waist.

Before my wife and I were married, and I could actually stay out later than sunset, we frequented the Donut Hole after a night on the town. My 34-36-inch waist was no worse for the wear.

As a dad, I take my kids to the Donut Hole whenever we’re in the area. I waddle up to the counter with my 38-inch waist and order a few custard filled donuts and wash them down with a pint of liquid rationalization (skim milk). It’s as good as it has always been.

My physique, that’s another story.

There is a red tide in the area. According to one local I spoke to, a red tide is “A sudden concentration of algae in the water. Somehow it becomes airborne and makes everyone cough.” That sounded scientific enough for me. No one was in the water and everyone was coughing, so there must be some truth in his explanation.

Note to the reader: Never eat at a surfside restaurant during a red tide. We had lunch on the upper deck at Bud & Alley’s in Seaside and the wind was blowing from the South. The entire restaurant was coughing simultaneously. It was like one collective cough, and one of the most surreal things I have witnessed.

I am not exaggerating for effect when I say that everyone was coughing. Everyone in the restaurant except for the staff, who must have grown immune to red tides and airborne algae.

Red tide or not, the Smoked Tuna Dip and Spicy Crab Dip are as good in the off-season as they are during summer.

While standing in line at the Publix grocery store, I read a headline on one of the checkout counter magazines. The headline read “Angelina Jolie Gains 10 pounds.” My first thought was: Is this news? My second thought was: Who buys these magazines? My third thought was: Ten pounds? That’s nothing.

I have gained five pounds in one sitting. I could gain 10 pounds over the course of a weekend, or an extended Fall Break. Two visits to the Donut Hole and I’m halfway there.

 Ten pounds. That’s easy, I thought. So I set out to prove my hypothesis. Unfortunately, I did.

(For this week’s recipe, Grilled Leg of Lamb with Raspberry Mint Sauce, go to the blog on Robert St.John is an author, chef, restaurateur, and world-class eater. He is the author of five books and the upcoming “Southern Seasons.” He can be reached at