Monday, June 10, 2013

National Doughnut Day: the hole story

Patty here...

Friday, June 7, was National Doughnut Day, which is celebrated each year on the first Friday of June. Out of respect for Jim Born, who is not a fan of cops-eating-doughnuts humor, none will be included here.

 Okay, so maybe just this one little picture.

Today, the holiday is mostly known for offers of free doughnuts from retailers but that’s not what the day is all about. The holiday was first observed in 1938 as a depression-era fundraiser to honor the 250 Salvation Army “Doughnut Lassies” who were dispatched from the U.S. to Europe during WWI to make pastries for service men. Doughnuts were a no-brainer because they were easy to make. The only supplies the lassies needed were the dough ingredients, grease and an upturned helmet to deep-fry them in. Perhaps that WWI influence is why a couple of my favorite doughnuts are named Bismarck and Pershing.

 Consider this:

Soon after the US entrance into World War I in 1917, The Salvation Army sent a fact-finding mission to France. The mission concluded that the needs of US enlisted men could be met by canteens/social centers termed "huts" that could serve baked goods, provide writing supplies and stamps, and provide a clothes-mending service. Typically, six staff members per hut would include four female volunteers who could "mother" the boys.
These huts were established by The Salvation Army in the United States near army training centers. About 250 Salvation Army volunteers went to France. Because of the difficulties of providing freshly baked goods from huts established in abandoned buildings near to the front lines, the two Salvation Army volunteers (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance) came up with the idea of providing doughnuts. These are reported to have been an "instant hit," and "soon many soldiers were visiting the Salvation Army huts." Margaret Sheldon wrote of one busy day: "Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee."

Hmmm, I can imagine how the combination of "mothering" and doughnuts would be irresistible to young men far from home...

Back in my college days, I worked in a bakery hawking pastries and scraping sticky bun goo off the floors in order to pay tuition. I know my doughnuts. My favorite is the apple fritter, that dense, crunchy, amoebic-shaped glob of glazed wonderfulness.

Another favorite is the Pershing, a cinnamony-fragrant spiral of heaven topped with maple frosting.

 Or the squishy custard-filled Bismarck, topped with maple frosting.

Or the majestic Maple Bar, topped with—what else?—maple frosting. Leave the bacon off mine, thank you very much.

I was going to wax poetic about my favorite L.A. doughnut shops but I think I'll save that for another day. Raised? Cake? Plain? Frosted? What's your favorite doughnut and where can I get one?

 10948 Weyburn Avenue, West Los Angeles (Westwood Village)

 2918 Sawtelle Boulevard, West Los Angeles (at National Boulevard)

Happy Monday!


  1. from Jacqueline

    Oh Patty, how could you make the morning agony for someone who has to eat "gluten free." Yes, I know you're supposed to be able to get gluten free anything now, but for the most part it's like eating your shoes (though there is the odd exception - the Mariposa Baking Company in the Bay Area, or Petunias in Portland, Oregon, or even Baby Cakes in LA and NYC. As you can see, I do my homework). I must admit, even before I had to give up gluten, I missed English doughnuts. They are much softer than American doughnuts, and are filled with strawberry jam then dusted with sugar, just wonderful. I think we all prefer the doughnuts of our childhood. Oh well, nice to dream - back to the gluten-free oatmeal now.

  2. It must be a pain to eat out, although I suspect most restaurants have gluten-less menu options these days. Truthfully, I mostly dream about doughnuts. If I actually ate them with any frequency...oh my, I hate to think what would happen.

  3. Raised are my favorite, the typical round or twisted sugared variety. But... Crispy Creme glazed are sooooo tempting. Sadly, while I am in heaven EATING donuts (or doughnuts) the "oily" aftertaste has turned me away from eating them much.
    Thanks for the history lesson - I LOVE reading about the origin of things.

  4. Jackie, your willpower is truly amazing! I agree, however; one donut/doughnut goes a looooonnnnng way.

  5. Years back David attended a regular LP swap meet. On the way home he would stop and pick up a half dozen Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts for me. I would eat them pretty much in one sitting and then wait for my stomach to seize up from the grease bomb. After it passed (yuk yuk), I went about my business in anticipation of more donuts the following week. What does that say about the power of doughnuts?

    And then there is that close cousin of the doughnut: funnel cake. I eat entire funnel cakes. Looking forward to the Hall and Oates concert at the Orange County Fair this August.

    The French Cruller was my first love, but they are hard to find these days.

    I have been known to go through the supermarket checkout line with an empty doughnut bag.

    So, yeah. I'm down with the doughnut.


  6. Mims, you always make me laugh. I don't think I even know what a funnel cake is. How could that be??? And the Cruller? Never seen one. Maybe we should do a doughnut crawl of SoCal and write about our adventures. Or, maybe we should open a bakery.

  7. I thought those looked like Stan's donuts! My husband and I left Westwood happily headed north to Davis 30 years ago and about the only thing we miss is Stan's Donuts. Well Stan's and Mago's a drive-up diner in Culver City that specialized in chashu, burgers and burritos, and chashu, burgers and burritos with avocado. The menu was written in markers on butcher paper all over the windows. Thanks for bringing back happy, fattening memories.

  8. During my first year of living in the United States I was introduced to apple fritters. I thought that I had died and gone to heaven! That seems like a lifetime ago; sadly, my doughnut days are over.

  9. Lesley, I love those funky eateries. Alas, Mago's closed some years ago. Stan's is an institution. I recently watched an old Huell Howzer show, profiling the place, which resulted in a donut being named after him: "The Huell."

    Alice, the Swiss didn't invent apple fritters??? Who knew? The bakery where I worked in college had a German baker. He made apple fritters to die for.

  10. James O. Born6/12/2013 6:20 PM

    Thank you for avoiding the stereotype of the cops and doughnuts.


  11. I always obey Jim's law :O)