Donuts, WWI, and the 1930’s Depression

WWI 1914 to 1918 

Nine million combatants and seven million civilians died.

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The following is from an article by Michael S. Rosenwald Washington Post Fri., June 2, 2017,

A century ago, not long after the United States entered World War I, the Salvation Army deployed hundreds of volunteers to France to soothe and bolster American troops.

The boys were homesick. They were hungry. They wanted a slice of apple pie.

But that, of course, was impossible. The many indignities of war include this undeniable one: A fox hole is a terrible place to bake.

So the Salvation Army troops improvised, frying dough in soldier helmets, producing such delicious donuts that when the war was over, when the troops finally came home, the government produced a guide for veterans to open donut shops.

Salvation Army volunteers (mostly women) who comforted the boys were called, “Donut Lassies.”

“As they dipped donuts for their boys, they dispensed motherhood,” John T. Edge wrote in “Donuts: An American Passion,” a seminal volume in the genre of historic deliciousness.

The recipe called for:

– 5 C flour;

– 2 C sugar;

– 5 tsp. baking powder;

– 1 ‘saltspoon’ salt;

– 2 eggs;

– 1 3/4 C milk; and

– 1 Tub lard.

The most important instruction: “Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool and enjoy.”

“As the nation slid into economic depression, the industry feared that donuts might go the way of the street corner apple,” Edge (a food historian) wrote. “So they aligned themselves with America’s emerging aristocracy, the ladies of gentlemen of Hollywood.”

Frank Capra put donuts in his movies. There’s that scene in “It Happened One Night” where Clark Gable teaches, as Edge puts it, “donut etiquette.” On Shirley Temple’s list of works is this: “Dora’s Dunking Donuts.” Laurel and Hardy posed for photos holding donuts.

And you know what?

Donuts survived the Great Depression. Hooray for donuts.

While their nutritional value is questionable, their patriotic value is as certain as the round hole at their center, through which eaters can look back through time and see not just food history, but the story of America – of our boys fighting for what’s right, fueled by what would become the country’s favorite pastry. Read more.

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