I did not even know they existed.
And yet that very concoction from a store called The Donut Man was recently elected "L.A.'s Iconic Dish."
This made me think about the meaning of the word "icon." The word gets used many times to mean something more like "famous" or "important" rather than its truer definition, at least in this situation. "Icon" is derived from a Greek word meaning "likeness, image, portrait, semblance." The Oxford English Dictionary states that an "icon" is a "person or thing regarded as a representative symbol."
For an icon to function as a symbol in this way, it must resemble the thing it refers to. And in its function as an icon, it must signal something much larger than itself. No food literally resembles a city, but we can think of city/food combinations. San Francisco and sourdough bread. Kansas City and barbecue ribs. Philadelphia and a cheese steak sandwich. New York City and a slice of pizza on the sidewalk with a cigarette ground into it.
These foods "resemble" those cities because they are found so commonly there that they have become closely associated with those cities. This is especially true when the food indicates a lifestyle or a particular culture or region.
When one sees that particular dish, one thinks of the city and a host of other associations.
|Not a donut.|
If any donut is famously associated with Los Angeles, it is one you cannot eat -- the giant one atop Randy's Donuts, not far from Los Angeles International Airport.
I should not be upset about this. The process by which strawberry donuts were selected was not
|Now that's a donut.|
I doubt the number of voters would be impressive or very representative of the region. I think if the voting had gone beyond KCET's fairly limited demographic, Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles would have made it to the final round -- and a burger from In-n-Out would definitely have been on the charts. Roscoe's is perhaps peculiar to Los Angeles, and even those people who have not eaten at one know about them.
Meanwhile, In-n-Out Burger restaurants ARE ubiquitous in L.A., and people who eat at them can be
|Los Angeles: Burgers, palm trees,|
and smog-enhanced sunsets
One reason the strawberry donut cannot be an L.A. icon: They are not associated with cars.
Los Angeles is a city built for cars more than people. It is impossible to imagine the city without them. Remember Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons telling us that "Only a nobody walks in L.A."? I do not know whether Donut Man has a drive-thru window, but I do not think anyone tries to eat a strawberry donut while driving. Meanwhile, one of the main appeals of In-n-Out for Angelenos is the ability to order and eat without leaving one's vehicle.
In fact, In-n-Out is just as famous for the long lines of cars waiting to reach the drive-thru window and the clerks with their white paper hats and headphones taking orders from the drivers in line. Indeed, some franchises do not have inside seating available.
Honestly, I think the Final Round in the competition should have been between an In-n-Out cheeseburger and something that may not technically be food: an iced coffee drink from Starbucks (especially in a plastic cup).
Can you get more L.A. than that?