Free Doughnut Day!

On Friday we'll celebrate National Doughnut Day, a holiday that wouldn't sound nearly as pleasant if we called it "National Oily Cakes Day" or "National Treats-Fried-in-Mili tary-Headgear Day."

Well, get it back again because free doughnuts -- the correct spelling, no matter what those Dunkin' people tell you -- is coming to hundreds of shops across the United States.

The history of those oily cakes. 


Although there are legends aplenty no one can pinpoint the birthplace of the doughnut. According to Smithsonian Magazine the treat "supposedly came to Manhattan (then still New Amsterdam) under the unappetizing Dutch name of olykoeks -- 'oily cakes'."

 

National Doughnut Day was created by the Salvation Army in 1938 as a way to raise funds for the lingering Great Depression, and as a nod to the "doughnut dollies" who served the fried treats to World War I soldiers. In 1917, the Sallies had set up a mission of 250 volunteers to provide a few comforts to men on the front lines: clothes-mending, writing paper and stamps, coffee and baked goods, and the smiles of pretty young volunteers.

 

Turned out that their huts were ill-equipped to allow much baking, so two enterprising women decided instead to fry doughnuts in Army helmets. The Salvation Army website does not mention whether the young women told the soldiers exactly how they produced the treats.

 

Incidentally, World War I soldiers were not known as "doughboys" because they ate so many doughnuts. The word was in use as early as 1840, according to a book of Mexican War letters published by the University of Kentucky.