We found out not only how National Doughnut Day got its start, we’ve delved into the history and mystery of these fried wonderments. Makes a good read while you enjoy a donut on National Doughnut Day, celebrated in donut shops across the country, every first Friday in June.
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About National Doughnut Day
The Salvation Army started National Donut Day in 1938. But the story begins much earlier.
In 1917, The Salvation Army began to provide support for U.S. soldiers fighting in World War I. Volunteers traveled overseas and to work near the front lines and supply soldiers with clothes and other needs, including baked goods.
Of course, baked goods don’t keep long or travel well. So, two volunteers, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance (i.e. an administrative assistant) began frying donuts. Having limited resources, but being incredibly resourceful, they used soldiers’ helmets as a fry bucket. The task boosted morale, who nicknamed the ladies “Donut Lassies”. Salvation Army continued the practice in WWII.
From 1917-1920 doughnut day history continued on the home front, bake sales were held to sell doughnuts at premium prices for charitable purpose. In 1927, Chicago-based Salvation Army began selling “tags” (paper doughnuts) along with real doughnuts.
In 1938 the modern Doughnut Day, launched in Chicago with a “Doughnuts to Dollars” charity drive selling paper doughnuts that today has grown into a “holiday” about free doughnuts and discounts, rather than charity.
The wHole History of Doughnuts
FoodTimeline.com reports doughnut history begins much earlier. Doughnuts have a long history with roots in European and even farther back in West Asian and North African (aka Middle Eastern) cuisine. Washington Irving is generally credited for introducing doughnuts to America in 1809.
A Smithsonian article about doughnut history reports that archaeologists keep turning up fossilized bits of what look like doughnuts in prehistoric Native American settlements and there is a convoluted dougnut history (full of who knows how many holes) that includes Dutch immigrants, Russian exiles, French bakers, Irving Berlin, Clark Gable, and a number of Native Americans.
Food historian Tori Avey also reports from doughnut history that Arabs made fried dough coated in sweet syrup which spread to Europe in the 1400s. But the doughnut also makes appearances in ancient Greece and Rome.
Encyclopedia.com states that bread history goes back to 8,000 BCE in Egypt.
So, I can only imagine that somewhere between 8,000 BCE Egypt and 800 BCE Greece or Rome, some enterprising soul (and likely several at the same time in different places), had some dough and a vat of melted fat, and a match was made. Any good cook worth their salt (or anyone hungry), would figure this out. It’s as logical as meat and fire, rice and beans, macaroni and cheese.
So, is it spelled doughnut or donut?
“The word [doughnut] is presumably an allusion to the small, rounded shape of the original doughnuts; the element -nut is used similarly in gingernut and its now obsolete synonym spicenut.”
—An A to Z of Food & Drink John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 113)[NOTE: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “doughnut” was first printed in 1808. “Donut” is a 20th century USA phonetic rendering.]
What about donut holes?
To any well-rounded cook, it’s not a mystery; in fact, it’s obvious. It’s not like you need to be a detective.
First of all, if you cut a ring of dough, you may as well fry the ball of dough you took out in the middle. If you re-formed a bunch of holes into another ring, the resulting doughnut would be tough. And nobody wants a tough doughnut (the horror!). And no good cook wants to make bad doughnuts.
Second, the hole is cut out to help the round doughnut fry more evenly. Simple as that.
Seattle National Doughnut Day Deals
National Doughnut Day (aka “Donut”) is the first Friday in June.
Some of Seattle’s local and America’s favorite national donut shops are offering a sweet freebie or other deals. Listed below is a round-up of our favorite shops and if they offer a “hole-y” deals:
- Frost in Mill Creek.
- Krispy Kreme (Seattle, Issaquah, Tacoma) is changing National Doughnut Day to National Doughnut Week 2020! That’s right, you get to choose not only your doughnut, but the day to enjoy it. Ye, celebrate National Doughnut Week and your favorite doughnut June 1 – 5. Any Doughnut is Free.
- Luke’s Donuts in Puyallup (12314 Meridian Ave E) opens at 5:00AM. Celebrate with awesome deals.
- Mighty-O Donuts (4 Seattle locations) as a tradition of giving back every National Donut Day. This year Mighty-O has chosen to donate 10% of all donut sales to essential workers. Delivery will be available through Caviar, Doordash, and Uber Eats. Pre-order online or over the phone at the location of your choice. Our Greenlake, Ballard, and Capitol Hill locations will be open for take-out from 6am to 2pm and will be offering curbside pick up available for all pre-orders.
- Super Six restaurant in Seattle, 3714 S Hudson St, 98118 in Columbia City offers malasadas–Hawaiian style donuts on their menu.
- Top Pot Doughnuts (over 20 locations throughout the Seattle-Tacoma metro area) offer takeout and delivery from most locations.
- Wink Doughnuts in Seattle is currently closed.
But wait, there’s more!
- Our big list of annual food festivals
- Where to find food trucks in the Puget Sound region
- Free (and cheap) cooking classes and food tours
- Find free and cheap things to do every day on the Greater Seattle on the Cheap calendar.
- Visit the Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page and choose from a menu of free and cheap activities in the Puget Sound region.
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