The Cronut was birthed into this cruel, vacuous existence on May 10, 2013, making it less than a year old. In meme years, however, it’s ancient. The “most virally talked about dessert item in history,” chef Dominique Ansel’s Cronut® (emphasis on ®) caused one helluva fuss a few months ago, with lines of hungry trend hounds famously snaking around the block of Ansel’s New York City bakery.
But that was then, and this is now. In a world in which the news cycle is such that we forget about shamed politicians, rape accusations, and the existence of Joseph Kony within days, any logical person would assume the shelf life of Cronuts as a five-hour-wait-worthy snack had surely expired. But the Grove, Los Angeles’ premier outdoor mall, located across the street from a Holocaust museum, apparently is a logic-free zone. I say that because hundreds of people recently lined up there, in the rain, for a chance to purchase the passé pastry.
A promotional event for Barneys New York’s “newly converted” boutique at the Grove, a gibberish-laden postcard told attendees that “to celebrate this Fashion Mash-Up, [they would] have access for the first time in Los Angeles to the original hybrid dessert: the Cronut®.”
I got to the Grove more than an hour before the boutique’s doors were set to open; an enormous queue, snaking through the parking garage, was already at capacity. A standby line nearby held the stragglers who were unwilling to wake up before sunrise for the privilege of paying $5 for a mouthful of over-hyped sugar and flour.
The first person in line, a young, theoretically normal-looking woman sitting in a folding chair, noticed the gaze of my camera as I snapped her photo. In response, she contorted her face into a mixture of shame and displeasure. I, however, wasn’t the one who put an icing gun to her head and made her sit in a wet, drafty parking garage for seven hours in exchange for the privilege of eating a deep-fried croissant. Every time I took her photo, which I did often because I knew it upset her, she gave me a surly look. If legend was to be believed, she had been there since 3 AM.
She wasn’t the only person willing to abandon reason and personhood for a pastry. One dweeb allegedly drove up from San Diego (a two-hour drive under pleasant conditions, let alone in a goddamned rainstorm). Once allowed entry into Barneys, people wrote their own pathetic tales on whiteboards they held while posing for iPhone photos with a pained-looking Ansel, the deranged genius himself. One had to “drive on the 101 in a downpour!" Another “woke up at 4:30 AM!" My friend Rob, who witnessed the devastation alongside me, quipped that the whiteboard should have read, “This is why the terrorists hate us.”
Thirty minutes to launch time, I set up shop outside the entrance and waited for the gates to open. An endless stream of people, all of whom looked upwardly mobile enough to afford trendy baked goods, approached and took countless iPhone photos of the (ample) signage. A woman in yoga pants (natch) was among them. After she took her shot, she clicked back to her phone’s home screen. I immediately noticed she had the TMZ app installed. In that moment, nothing could have made more sense. A sharp-dressed man in his mid 20s approached and asked me to take an iPhone photo (again) of him and his equally sharp female friends, in front of the Cronuts sign. I did as asked. He immediately made me take it again because he “wasn’t smiling.”
A gabble (like a gaggle, but comprised of broads instead of geese) of fashion victims, the most excitable of whom carried a Céline handbag the internet informed me was worth more than my car, ran over to a similarly vacant, ostentatiously dressed woman. “Brad said you can’t eat a whole one,” the excitable woman gushed, “so we’re gonna get three for the four of us.” The next thing out of her mouth, devoid of any segue, was “Oh. My. God. Rachel. You Look. So. Gooooood!!” The gabble giggled and squealed and OMG can you believe this line–d for what seemed like an eternity. When the doors eventually opened, they abstained from getting in line. Hovering outside the entrance like vultures, they made small talk with the doorman, operating under the assumption that, at some point, their enthusiasm and entitlement would allow them entry over the plebes who had to wait. I kept them in my prayers.
The line itself was filled with a surprising amount of young people, squandering said youth, snapping selfies, and scrolling through Instagram. The typical cat mommies one would expect to be excited about new pastry technology were mixed with these young, “adventurous” types. When it rained, which it did on and off, both groups were sheltered from the storm, a fact I found unfortunate.
A sign, labeled "Cronut® 101," outlined the rules for consuming the pastries. They were to be eaten immediately (“The Cronut® has a shelf life of less than six hours!”). They were not, under any circumstances, to be heated, cut with anything but a serrated knife, or refrigerated or frozen (“The humidity from both will destroy the Cronut® and make it soggy and stale. Keeping it in a cool dry room for a short time is okay.”). For a baked good, these Cronut things seemed pretty uptight.
Despite the Cronut’s limited shelf life, few folks ate theirs immediately after purchase. Most seemed content to merely wander around with their tastefully boxed treats, cradling them like Céline-quality status symbols. I watched a man take an iPhone photo of his while sitting outside the Grove’s fountain. I wondered what the street value on a scalped Cronut would be. I wondered what was going on in Ukraine right then.
I finally tracked down a young man who was eating, not photographing, the mythical pastry. He and his friends had waited in line for two hours. I asked if the wait was worth it; shrugging, he responded that the Cronut was “merely OK.” As the group joylessly chewed in silence, he continued, “You’re not missing much, if that’s what you’re wondering.” One of his female friends, vacantly staring into the middle distance, told me a bakery in town called Frances made their own “pretty good” version of them (which begged the question, why the fuck was she here?).
Indeed, despite Barneys’ claims that this was the “first time” the treat had been available in Los Angeles, multiple shops sell their (non-copyrighted) versions of them. One such shop, a place called SK Donuts, hawks an iteration called the SKronut. SK Donuts is less than a mile away from the Grove. As I drove by it on my way home, there was no line.
Megan Koester is a writer and comedian who scoffs at your novelty pastries. See her and other VICE west coast contributors at ENTITLEMENT on Wednesday, March 5, with special guest Emily Heller, at Los Globos on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter.