Let us put by some hour of every day for holy things...

I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails.
I will believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil, worketh good for me.
And though I weep because those sails are tattered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered:
I trust in Thee.
--Ann Kimmel

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive shall fail and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold and there shall be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Doughnut Girls (And Boy)

A friend of mine posted a homemade doughnut recipe on her facebook site today, and that started me reminiscing.

My grandpa had a wealth of stories from his World War I service, and used to regale us grandkids with them until we knew them just about as well as he did, I imagine.There were stories about foolish and annoying officers, funny anecdotes about his fellow soldiers, the great flu epidemic decimating the troops, and of course, some harrowing battle stories--though he told them with such good humor and laughter I don't remember finding them frightening in the retelling. 
(For example, he had one tale about his time in France--a nation he didn't have much use for afterward when he shared his accounts, his perception of the French being that they were unreliable and flighty. He always made us laugh when he shared an incident in which he and a buddy were pinned down by enemy fire somewhere in France, and they were scooping out dirt as best they could to burrow down and keep from being hit. As they pressed their faces to the earth to protect their heads, Grandpa reportedly complained to his buddy, "I hate this country! Even the ground stinks!" Shortly afterward, a few more scoops of dirt revealed why--they were pinned down on top of a very shallow grave--gag!)

 I remember Grandpa didn't have much use for the Red Cross volunteers, surprisingly. (He claimed they were very miserly and grudging with handouts) but he spoke highly of the Salvation Army doughnut girls, or "doughnut lassies", as they were also called. Who were the doughnut girls? They were young women volunteers, bravely and cheerfully providing hot coffee, fresh homemade doughnuts, and the welcome glimpse of a pretty face to weary soldiers slogging it out in the muddy trenches of "The Great War" (also known, ironically, as "the war to end all wars").

It's a fascinating bit of history to delve into, and there are many sources online for historical information and photographs if you'd like to do some research. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but it's my connection with both family and world history and I value it as such. In common with the World War I veterans, there are no longer any surviving doughnut girls, so I'm very glad their story has been preserved.

That's my grandpa on the far right. I don't have any idea of who he's posing with. He served in Ohio's Rainbow Division.

My grandpa was already an old man when my local newspaper published a short article about the doughnut girls and printed the original recipe--though I'm realizing now there are other versions of this "original" recipe, so I'm thinking it was probably varied according to what supplies were available. I was fascinated, and decided to try making a batch myself. They turned out great, and I later had fun shipping a boxful of them to Grandpa for a Christmas present. He was delighted!

4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsps. salt
1/2 tsp. butter
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
4 tsps. baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg
Put flour in shallow pan, add salt, baking powder, and sugar.
Rub in butter with fingertips. Add the well-beaten egg and milk
and stir thoroughly. Toss on floured board. Roll to 1/4" thickness.
Shape, fry, and drain.
(AND, I recommend shaking them in a paper bag with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar to coat while still warm--a fun job for the little ones!)
A really simple, frugal recipe, but they taste great!
Years afterward, when in my homeschooling years, frying doughnuts became an annual tradition, particularly when the kids were studying World War I. The last time I made them my youngest son was barely a teenager and when I look the pictures of him then and me now, the resemblance is quite amusing. No wonder he decided to grow his hair long!

The original doughnut boy?

Anyway, that's it for this round. Just thought you might enjoy the historical photos and the recipe.
Happy frying!

For a short history about the doughnut lassies, you might start with this blog post:
Their recipe differs slightly from mine, using a large quantity of lard and no butter, but otherwise, it's basically the same..


  1. Thank you for sharing precious memories and the history lesson!

    1. You're welcome! So glad you enjoyed it.