It’s only fitting that in the same week that Mayor (or should I say Emperor) Michael Bloomberg of New York City proposed a total ban on service of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in any of the city’s restaurants, delis, movie theaters, and even street carts as a means of combating obesity that we should celebrate National Doughnut Day. While the “health Nazis” are a subject for another day, you may wonder “What is National Doughnut Day?”
National Doughnut Day is a day set aside to honor the Salvation Army “Lassies” of World War I who served doughnuts to soldiers fighting in the trenches of France, as well as to raise funds to fulfill the organization’s mission to aid those in need. Celebrated on the first Friday in June, the day - begun in 1938 - actually commemorates a time when all Americans were impacted and concerned about the war effort – unlike today, when a shockingly few Americans give thought to the soldiers risking their lives in far-off lands.
At that time, shortly after the U.S. entry into what was then termed the Great War or the “war to end all wars,” the Salvation Army sent a fact-finding mission to France to identify how it could best support and improve the morale of America’s fighting men. The mission concluded that the lives of our brave enlisted men in France could be enhanced by the creation of canteens or social centers termed “huts.” These huts would provide baked goods, writing supplies and stamps as a means of communicating with loved ones at home, and a clothes-mending service to fulfill more practical needs.
250 Salvation Army volunteers were dispatched to France to initiate and staff the huts. They soon realized, however, the difficulties in providing freshly baked goods from huts established in abandoned buildings near to the front lines. Two volunteers, Margaret Sheldon and Helen Purviance, came up with the idea of serving doughnuts.
And so, to honor the “Lassies” who bravely risked life and limb to offer our troops in World War I a small taste of home and to give the “one-finger salute” to Gotham City’s imperial Mayor, enjoy a doughnut or two today!