I don’t indulge in donuts often… Yet, when National Do(ugh)nut Day rolled around, I was interested enough to research its origins. Ok, ok, it was an excuse to be treated with a sweet… but, I was also heartened by what I’d learned. Not only have I changed my associations with this deep fried doughy round, but the Day is a lovely way to pay tribute to history.
Each year, on the first Friday in June, donuts symbolise the honour bestowed upon The Salvation Army ‘Donut Lassies’ who served the treats to soldiers during World War I. The origins of the National Do(ugh)nut Day date back to the Great Depression in the ’30s, when a fundraiser was held to bring awareness to The Salvation Army’s social service programs.
The link between The Salvation Army and donuts
When the US entered WW1 in 1917, The Salvation Army set up huts near American training centres to provide soldiers with basic comforts: home cooked meals, writing supplies, stamps, and clothes mending services.
It was in France, near to the front lines, from a hut housed in an abandoned building, that the idea to make donuts was born. Due to limited resources and the difficulties in providing freshly baked goods, two Salvation Army volunteers, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance, thought to deep fry treats.
In August, 1917, fighting raged near Montiers, France, as soldiers huddled in camp – hungry, weary and drenched by 36 consecutive days of rain. In a tent near the front lines, Salvation Army lassies made donuts by filling a refuge pail with oil, made dough with left over flour and other ingredients on hand, and used a wine bottle as a rolling pin. With a baking powder tin for a cutter end a camphor-ice suck tube for making the holes, donuts were fried – seven at a time – in soldier’s steel helmets on an 18-inch stove. (Later, a seven-pound shell fitted with a one-pound shell was used to cut out the donut holes.)
Rain fell continuously, the water-soaked tent finally collapsed. However, the 100 donuts made that first day were an immediate success. Soon, as many as 500 soldiers stood in muck outside the resurrected tent waiting for the sweet taste of donuts and, before long, 9,000 donuts were being made around the clock. The tent became the first 24-hour donut shop.*source below
Years later, in 1938, Chicago’s Salvation Army held a fundraiser.
Its goal was to help the needy during the Great Depression, and to honor the “Lassies” of WWI, who served doughnuts to soldiers. wikipedia
Since then, National Do(ugh)nut Day has been celebrated annually.
Below, I share a photo of the icing ‘n sprinkle topped fried goodness my sweet husband bought for me this morning. Of all the ‘national days’, this was one of the most heartening stories to learn about; a reason enough to indulge. Enjoy, I say!
NB: Currently trending in the US: Another threat to future Donut Days could be the national drive to eat healthier. Just this week, the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomerg, declared his version of war against obesity by seeking to rein in the size of surgery drinks. latimes.com