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National Donut Day: The round ones' history, threats to its future

June 01, 2012|By Michael Muskal

So you think you understand National Donut Day? After all, how hard could it be to figure out a carb-laden pastry that even Homer Simpson adores.

Guess again. It is not a day created by cops or sedentary office-bound workers. The celebration actually has historicity and a past wrapped not in spun sugar, but in patriotism and concern for the economically disadvantaged.

Friday was the 75th annual celebration of the confection best known for its round shape – like what the eater eventually becomes. According to the Salvation Army website, the holiday (which may be a slight overstatement), is held the first Friday in June and commemorates the “Donut Lassies” who served the treat to soldiers in World War I.

While it is true that U.S. soldiers in that war were known as doughboys, it is a misconception to think that there any connection between the name for the soldiers and the gracious gesture of giving them fried dough. That is not the only lexical error to come from that era: World War I was known as the War to End All Wars which, in hindsight, turned out to be misinformed as well.

Doughnuts, however, may have some predictive value. In French, the pastry is usually referred to a beignet (similar process, different shape), while in German it is often called a krapfen. Which one would you bet on to win a war? As Homer would say, D’oh.

By 1938, the official start of the National Donut Day tradition,  the idea had morphed into a fund-raiser and consciousness-building event to deal with the Great Depression, according to the Salvation Army. Entenmann’s will donate up to $25,000 to the charitable group this year.

"National Donut Day has become a true American tradition in which the Salvation Army and Entenmann's Bakery asks the general public to remember those who fought in World War I, as well as their neighbors who may have fallen on hard times," said Maj. George Hood, national community relations and development secretary for the Salvation Army.

Hard times, of course, have continued beyond the Great Depression, a point hammered home on Friday with the latest monthly jobs report. Unemployment rose to 8.2% in May, the Labor Department reported. Perhaps more worrisome is that a net of just 69,000 jobs were created, about half of what is needed just to keep the unemployment rate on an even keel.

Another threat to future Donut Days could be the national drive to eat healthier. Just this week, the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, declared his version of war against obesity by seeking to rein in the size of surgery drinks.

It is just a question of time until someone figures out that a doughnut has the same shape as a target.

michael.muskal@latimes.com

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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