“As you ramble on through life, Brother,
Whatever be your goal.
Keep your eye upon the doughnut.
And not upon the hole.”
Until recently, I thought Doughnut Day, celebrated on June 2nd, was just a good advertising gimmick for Dunkin Donuts. I was very wrong. Doughnut Day began in 1938. It honored the doughnut girls of World War I and was used to finance the Salvation Army’s Charitable efforts during the Depression.
It was difficult to get the ingredients for baked goods during the war. Necessity being the mother of invention, the women’s auxiliary of the Salvation Army improvised and came up with the doughnut. They served these doughnuts to American soldiers along the front lines in France and were often cooked in military helmets on stoves. Nearly 9,000 doughnuts were served per day at one point. The women making and serving these doughnuts were call “doughnut girls”. Donations on Doughnut Day today support the Salvation Army’s food pantries.
There was a doughnut day in my personal history. My mother had a hysterectomy when I was about 19. She came home from the hospital on a Saturday and was told by her surgeon to go up the stairs to the bedroom and not to go downstairs again until the next day. For some strange reason, my father decided to make doughnuts after Mom was safely tucked in bed. He got out one of Mom’s old cookbooks and read the directions. We had all the ingredients needed and we got started. The first batter we made, however, was the consistency of cheese soup. Dad said “No problem. We will cut the batter in half and just add more flour.” After we did that, we still did not have anything the consistency of dough. So, we cut the batter in half again and added more flour. I think we did this four more times and still had nothing that looked like dough. We had containers of these mixtures in order of consistency all along the countertops and flour everywhere which was too bad because we still needed more flour, but the bag was empty. Dad said “No problem. We will just add more baking soda.” We were getting very silly at that point and Mom yelled down from upstairs “What are you two doing? You better not be making a mess of my kitchen.” Thank God, she was billeted upstairs. Besides having flour all over the kitchen, we had used every big then small bowl she had. Luckily, the baking soda did the trick after two attempts. The last concoction was put into the refrigerator for an hour and then we rolled out the dough and used a shot glass to cut out the holes. Frying in oil followed.
My mother’s father came to visit. Seeing the mess in the kitchen, he commented, “Holy good Jesus” and asked for a glass of Old Grand Dad, his favorite whiskey. Grandpa then went upstairs to see my mother. When he left, we gave him a brown bag with three or four of our doughnuts. The fat from the doughnuts was leaking on to the bag. We watched him walk down the road towards his house from the kitchen window. When he got to our next-door neighbor’s house, he looked inside the bag and quickly tossed it in the neighbor’s trash. I remember eating the donuts, but they were rather plain and certainly not “Superior Donuts”. We never made doughnuts again.
I recently remembered that Grandpa served in France during WW1. I bet he had one of the original doughnuts.
This experience making doughnuts may be a reason (but not the only reason) why I don’t want to do anything in the kitchen over fifty years later. I guess I will never be a “Doughnut Girl”.