Important Friday News: It’s national doughnut day. Yes, this is a real holiday. Yes, it means free doughnuts.
So, first things first: where can one get these free doughnuts? ABC News has a list with the relevant caveats.
Okay, now that you know where the doughnuts are, let’s talk about why the doughnuts are.
Why is there a national doughnut day at all? The celebration dates all the way back to 1938, when the Salvation Army wanted to honor women who served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I. Of course, the doughnuts that these women were serving aren’t quite like the ones you’ll get for free today at Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme. The history of the doughnut is a longer one than you might think. Smithsonian Magazine covered the doughnut tradition, explaining that:
Of course doughnuts in some form or other have been around so long that archaeologists keep turning up fossilized bits of what look like doughnuts in the middens of prehistoric Native American settlements. But the doughnut proper (if that’s the right word) supposedly came to Manhattan (then still New Amsterdam) under the unappetizing Dutch name of olykoeks–”oily cakes.”
That story also explained the reason women gave returning soldiers doughnuts:
But in fact doughnuts didn’t come into their own until World War I, when millions of homesick American doughboys met millions of doughnuts in the trenches of France. They were served up by women volunteers who even brought them to the front lines to give soldiers a tasty touch of home. When the doughboys came back from the war they had a natu-ral yen for more doughnuts.
Lots happened between then and now, including the invention of the doughnut machine and the rise of Krispy Kreme, culminating in today’s version of National Doughnut Day. And some have tried to innovate further on the doughnut. Take the cronut, for example—half doughnut, half croissant. Here’s a fancier description from Grub Street:
Each one of these puppies is made from pastry dough that’s been sheeted, laminated, proofed, then fried like a doughnut and rolled in flavored sugar. But that’s not all: Cronuts-to-be are also filled with a not-so-sweet Tahitian vanilla cream, given a fresh coat of rose glaze, and bedazzled with rose sugar.
Unfortunately cronuts are not part of National Doughnut Day. And they’re far from free: there are reports of single ones going for upwards of $40. Probably best to stick with the classic, for today at least.
More from Smithsonian.com: