The first Friday in June is National Donut Day. The purpose of a national day dedicated to donuts is not to remind us of good health practices, or lack thereof, but to honor the ladies of the Salvation Army who first served donuts to the soldiers on the front lines during WWI.
One day in France two of the Salvation Army officers, Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon, decided to make a surprise for the soldiers. They made sweet dough and patted it into shape by hand, but later discovered they could use a wine bottle as a rolling pin. Since they had no doughnut cutter, the lassies used a knife to cut the dough into strips and then twisted them into crullers
Frying them was back-breaking work using an 18” potbellied wood stove. Someone had to lean over and tend it constantly to keep the temperature even for frying. Finally Ensign Purviance ended up kneeling in front of the stove for hours. They worked nearly all night but managed to make only 150 doughnuts. The next day they doubled the count. With better equipment and more help, the ladies fried as many as 9,000 donuts daily.
Photo Credits: Various from the actual “dollies” Photo source: worldwar1.com/dbc/doughnut.htm
In 1938, the Salvation Army decided to honor these proclaimed "doughnut lassies" by recognizing an annual pastry holiday that could also raise awareness (and money) for their charitable efforts. National Doughnut Day was born.
▼Cover of the Salvation Army Magazine "War Cry" November 9, 1918, depicting "Doughnut Dollies"
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain - Photo Source: mentalfloss.com/national-doughnut-day
The origin of the donuts is not clear cut. There seem to be numerous versions of where and how the food originated and, probably, most of them have a basis in truth. What people eat has to do with available materials and technology at the time.
Ideas or inventions, and recipes, do happen through pure synchronicity of thought. Two people are trying to solve the same problem with the same basic available knowledge, and come up with the same or similar answer.
Donuts are basically made from sweetened flour dough which has been fried. There are cake donuts and yeast-raised donuts, usually enhanced with fruit, sugar, honey, cream or other food stuffs. Just about every corner of the world has a local equivalent of the donut made in a similar manner, although not necessarily in the same shapes.
▼Dutch olykoek (oily cake) - Photo source: wikiwand.com/doughnut_varieties
I’ve listed below some of those taken from Wikipedia which have different ingredients, going back to food stuffs that were available in that location in the past, and those with different shapes.
Today, just about every country has what Americans call donuts and refer to them as “donuts” or another word in their language. I didn’t list those. A donut is a donut is a doughnut. Also, all of these countries have a wide variety of donut variations, not just the one shown below.
Koeksister Hroštule / Kroštule Gaoli dousha/ Jung Mandarin yóutiáo Gulgula
Favored with zest, orange Meringue filled w/ red bean paste, Sweetened deep-fried
liqueur, or limoncello. made w/ egg whites, not dough. flour balls
Donat kentang Zoolbia / Zulbia Bamiyeh Mekici Kuih keria
Ring shaped fritter made w/ Ring shaped fritter made w/ flour
flour and mashed potato and mashed sweet-potato
Sel roti Struffoli Bánh cam Churro Kurma
Ring shaped rice doughnut Made with Potatoe dough Deep-fried, filled with mung
prepared for Hindu Festivals bean paste, a vegan/ vegetarian
substitute for whipping cream.
Somehow the consistency Filled with Cottage Cheese Everywhere in Germany these Eight separate balls attached,
of dough keeps cream are called Berliners except in Berlin. made of tapioca flour and
inside in liquified state There they are called Pfannkuchen, Pancakes and wheat flour