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Farewell Mr. Entenmann, your cookies and cakes live on

The Entenmann’s Freezer was taller than I was.

To be fair, at 5-foot-2, most things are taller than I am: grocery store shelves, that chain to turn on the overhead fan, your average adult human.

The Entenmann’s Freezer was an iconic part of my childhood. Most families that have an extra freezer use it to store meat or frozen vegetables. Ours was packed to the brim with boxes upon boxes of Entenmann’s. Sure, there were the classics: the chocolate chip cookies, the cheese danish twist, the crumb coffee cake. After all, these were the stand-by staples of any Entenmann’s connoisseur.

But there were also enough donuts packed into that freezer to give diabetes to anyone who cracked open its door. At any given moment, you could find a dozen boxes of Entenmann’s donuts in just about every variety: plain, glazed, crumb-topped. My all-time favorite was the “rich frosted,” a no-frills black donut so pure and perfect, I often wonder if it had divine origin.

The inherent spirituality of Entenmann’s was never far from my mind. I grew up the son of a rabbi. Each of my four older siblings would eventually become rabbis or marry them. My dad, in his infinite wisdom, thought it best to build a 1,000-square-foot synagogue onto the side of our home, an addition so large drivers slowed down as they passed to gawk. Rio de Janeiro had the Christ the Redeemer statue; suburban Atlanta had a comically large chapel attached to my living room.

The Entenmann's chocolate chip cookie is a synagogue classic.

The Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookie is a synagogue staple.

We hosted services every Shabbat and the highlight for many of us, my dad’s sermon notwithstanding, was the kiddush afterwards. It was all Entenmann’s, all the time. I was tasked with setting up, which basically required me to open the freezer and carry as many Entenmann’s boxes as I could into the sanctuary. If there was a bar mitzvah, we would also serve crackers and herring. I mean, we’re not Neanderthals.

Some families had a swimming pool or premium cable; we had loaf cake. I remember being shocked to learn that not everybody had an Entenmann’s Freezer in a synagogue attached to their house. Whenever we had friends over to play, they all asked for an Entenmann’s snack.

And filling that freezer was just as fun as emptying it. You see, we didn’t buy Entenmann’s retail at the grocery store like any civilian. Each Thursday after school, I would go with my mom to the Entenmann’s bakery outlet shop on the corner of North Decatur Road and Scott Boulevard, a 20-minute drive from our home.

I was sure this magical place was reserved for VIPs. Like it was only because my dad was a member of the clergy that we were allowed into this hallowed storefront that sold day-old donuts. At the very least, I thought the outlet was a secret, a sort of sugar-filled speakeasy that required a password and a glucose monitor to gain entry. I guess it didn’t dawn on me that the average consumer did not require enough Entenmann’s in bulk to merit a trip to a separate store.

Each week, we’d clear out most of their discounted supply. The cashier had this special machine that tied the boxes together with a thin white string. It was a thing of beauty.

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My childhood love for all things Entenmann’s never really dissipated. A couple of years ago, I decided to go on an intense diet, concerned about the impact of decades of eating baked treats every day. When I reached my goal weight after two months of practically starving myself, there was only one reward I wanted.

I went straight from the scale in my bathroom to my car and drove to the nearest grocery store, where I grabbed a box of my beloved black, rich frosted donut. When I popped the first one into my mouth, I was so lightheaded I had to sit down. To this day, I always keep a box in my freezer for special occasions, the way others might save a bottle of Champagne.

And, yet, despite my devotion to the brand, I never realized there was an actual Entenmann behind it all. That is, until this morning, when I read about the death, at 92, of Charles Edward Entenmann, who helped turn his family’s New York bakery into a national brand. Turns out, he wasn’t Jewish. And, even more shocking, he did not have a sweet tooth.

“I’m going to tell you something that’s been pretty much a secret, most of my life anyway,” his son told Newsday. “He didn’t eat Entenmann’s cake,” and “just wasn’t a dessert guy.”

So to Mr. Entenmann, I raise a glass of milk in one hand and a raspberry danish in the other. Thank you for providing me and my people so much sustenance and joy.

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