Sharon Vilsack pulled into a San Clemente strip mall on a recent morning to perform one of Southern California’s most quintessential rituals — picking a pink box of doughnuts to share.
She chose carefully: an old fashioned, plenty of glazed, a few sprinkles, and a puffy maple bar, all tucked neatly into that familiar container that so often blends into the background of daily life here.
“I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs when I see a pink box,” said Vilsack, 29, outside Rose Donuts & Cafe. “My mouth starts watering because I know what’s inside.”
The pink box is a distinctly regional tradition, one so ingrained it often requires an outsider to notice. The Northeast has...