Ways to Celebrate National Doughnut Day

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This first Friday in June is always National Doughnut Day! 2014 was the 77th anniversary of this holiday started by the Salvation Army. Read more about the history here. Don’t miss the video on this page that has great historic footage. The Salvation Army played a big role in making donuts the popular treat that they are today. Female volunteers, named “donut lassies” served donuts to soldiers serving overseas in World War I. After the War they continued to serve donuts at places like the Doughnut Hut in New York City’s Union Square and as fundraisers. There’s even a song from 1919, “Don’t Forget the Salvation Army (My Doughnut Girl)”. For anyone looking for ways to celebrate this delicious holiday, here are some suggestions.

Visit your local donut shop! There’s nothing better than a fresh donut, even David Letterman said so. You could also bring in donuts for your co-workers. Donuts at work are a wonderful thing to share.

Read about donuts! One of my favorites is The Donut Book by Sally Levitt Steinberg, granddaughter of Adolph Levitt, inventor of the “Wonderful Almost Human Automatic Donut Machine.” With this machine, his founding of the Doughnut Corporation of America and the Mayflower Doughnut shops (the first chain of donut shops) Levitt also played a huge role in popularizing the donut. Steinberg tells her family story and also the broader history of the donut from the times of the Bible up through early 2000, including the Doughnut Plant, an early leader in the gourmet donut movement. Another fantastic book is Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut by Paul R. Mullins. He writes, “Anthropologists have always understood that eating is among the most social acts people have shared across time,” and his perspective as an anthropologist broadens our understanding of the importance of the donut. He unearths details about the donut’s history including interviews with immigrants who were served donuts when they first arrived at Ellis Island, examines histories of various donut corporations, and also discusses developments like the Cambodian immigrants who have opened donut shops in California. The newest donut book out is The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin by Michael Krondl which is being released June 6th. Stay tuned for my review of it.

Read to your kids about donuts! My love for donuts started when I was 4. Do your part to foster the next generation of donut lovers by taking them to donut shops and reading donut books to them. While classics include “The Doughnuts” in Homer Price by Robert McCloskey and Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty, a new toddler-approved classic is The Donut Chef by Bob Staake. And if nothing else, keep in mind the motto from the Mayflower Doughnut Shop: “As you ramble on thru life brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole!”

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Donut Memories

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For many the donut is a sweet loaded with memories. This is the beginning of a project to capture, preserve, and reflect on people’s donut memories. Memories included in these first two installments were recorded at Brooklyn’s City Reliquary during the opening events for the exhibit Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut: Donut Shops past & present of Brooklyn & Manhattan.

Listen to Donut Memories Installment 1 here.

Listen to Donut Memories Installment 2 here.

Two donut items not in the exhibit, because I’ll be wearing them

Donut necklace charm and pin

While most of my collection of donut ephemera is on view at the City Reliquary for Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut, these are two objects I left out since I’ll be wearing them at this weekend’s opening events. The first is a silver charm with the Mayflower Doughnut shop motto on the front. I discovered it online and it came with very little information. On the back it has this info: DCA June 1964 GDM. DCA at that time would have stood for DCA Food Industries, what Doughnut Corporation of America was renamed in 1956. Perhaps this was some sort of award for employees of the company with the initials GDM? I would love to find out more about it.

The motto on this necklace is special to me since when I was growing up it was on a mug (on view in the exhibit) that belonged to my Mom. As a child this motto felt mysterious to me, but today I agree wholeheartedly with the optimistic perspective it promotes.

The pin is another version of signaling one’s membership in the National Dunking Association which I mentioned in a previous post. In the invaluable The Donut Book by Sally Levitt Steinberg (granddaughter of Adolph Levitt, the founder of the Doughnut Corporation of America), she tells a story of wearing a similar pin on her first day of first grade. In the exhibit I discuss the rich history of the Doughnut Corporation of America and its contributions to popularizing the donut in greater detail.

Join us this weekend for the opening events for Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut and you’ll likely get to see these two objects.
Saturday, December 7, 6-9 p.m. Opening Celebration & Donut Party
Sunday, December 8, 3 p.m. Gallery Talk and meeting of the Donut Dunkers Club

Preview: Two more items in my “Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut” exhibit & the First Meeting of the Donut Dunkers Club

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In the 1930s the National Dunking Association was founded. In addition to buttons that had names of specific donut shops, according to the membership card being a life member meant that you were “permitted at all times to dunk donuts either in private or in public, without criticism or interference.” At one point there were reportedly 3 million members! The Association’s headquarters was at 152 West 42nd Street in New York City. It seems to have been started by the Doughnut Corporation of America and they involved movie stars to help popularize the trend.  The buttons show above will be on view in the Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut exhibit at Brooklyn’s City Reliquary. One of these mentions Mayflower Doughnuts, which had a location in Times Square and became the first donut shop chain in the United States.

For the Keep Your Eye on the Donut exhibit we were inspired by the buttons of the National Dunking Association to revive the spirit of this group and we’re forming the Donut Dunkers Club. At meetings we will practice donut dunking techniques. We’ll have a few meetings of the DDC at the City Reliquary during the exhibition including the first one on Sunday, December 8th following a gallery talk at 3 p.m.. Everyone who attends will receive an official Donut Dunkers Club membership card. Donut Dunkers Club buttons will also be available. Coffee for that meeting will be provided by Oslo. Click here for more details.