Why Are There Two National Doughnut Days?

jchizhe/iStock via Getty Images
jchizhe/iStock via Getty Images

For those of us who prefer our blood sugar to remain relatively stable, doughnuts are an occasional treat—nutritionally bankrupt but delicious fried dough laced with flavors from chocolate to bacon. You might even choose to indulge only in honor of National Doughnut Day, which is observed each year on the first Friday of June.

Curiously, a second National Doughnut Day pops up just five months later, on November 5. We don't have two Thanksgivings, two Halloweens, or even two National Hot Dog Days. So why do doughnuts get to claim two dates?

It helps to know how the June date originated: During World War I, volunteers who wanted to support troops were charged with preparing food to deliver to soldiers on the front lines in France. The Salvation Army dispatched over 250 women there, who found that battle-tested helmets were perfect for frying up to seven doughnuts at a time.

In 1938, the Salvation Army decided to honor these proclaimed "doughnut lassies" by recognizing an annual pastry holiday that could also raise awareness (and money) for their charitable efforts. National Doughnut Day was born.

Cover of the Salvation Army Magazine "War Cry", November 9, 1918, depicting "Doughnut Dollies"- American volunteers serving in France
Cover of the Salvation Army Magazine "War Cry" from November 9, 1918, depicting "Doughnut Dollies," the American volunteers serving in France.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Its calendar doppelgänger is harder to trace. According to food holiday historian John Bryan Hopkins, who cataloged several fringe holidays for his site Foodimentary beginning in 2006, mentions of the November Doughnut Day could be found as early as the 1930s in copies of Ladies' Home Journal. Hopkins speculated that the November 5 date is close enough to Veterans Day on November 11 that a retail outlet likely introduced the date to acknowledge their service.

While not all doughnut chains (or connoisseurs) celebrate both dates, brands like Dunkin' and Krispy Kreme have been known to give doughnuts away on both dates. But considering June's date has a proven—and noble—lineage, many people consider it the more official of the two holidays.

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Why Do We Eat Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving?

gjohnstonphoto/iStock via Getty Images
gjohnstonphoto/iStock via Getty Images

While it’s possible—even probable—that pumpkins were served at the 1621 harvest festival that’s now considered the predecessor to Thanksgiving, attendees definitely didn’t dine on pumpkin pie (there was no butter or wheat flour to make crust).

The earliest known recipes for pumpkin pie actually come from 17th-century Europe. Pumpkins, like potatoes and tomatoes, were first introduced to Europe in the Columbian Exchange, but Europeans were more comfortable cooking with pumpkins because they were similar to their native gourds.

By the 18th century, however, Europeans on the whole lost interest in pumpkin pie. According to HowStuffWorks, Europeans began to prefer apple, pear, and quince pies, which they perceived as more sophisticated. But at the same time pumpkin pie was losing favor in Europe, it was gaining true staple status in America.

In 1796, Amelia Simmons published American Cookery, the first cookbook written and published in the New World colonies. Simmons included two recipes for “pompkin pudding” cooked in pastry crust. Simmons’s recipes call for “stewed and strained” pumpkin, combined with a mixture of nutmeg, allspice, and ginger (yes, it seems our pumpkin spice obsession dates back to at least the 1500s).

But how did pumpkin pie become so irrevocably tied with the Thanksgiving holiday? That has everything to do with Sarah Josepha Hale, a New Hampshire-born writer and editor who is often called the “Godmother of Thanksgiving.” In her 1827 abolitionist novel Northwood, Hale described a Thanksgiving meal complete with “fried chicken floating in gravy,” broiled ham, wheat bread, cranberry sauce, and—of course—pumpkin pie. For more than 30 years, Hale advocated for Thanksgiving to become a national holiday, writing regular editorials and sending letters to five American presidents. Thanksgiving was a symbol for unity in an increasingly divided country, she argued [PDF].

Abraham Lincoln eventually declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 (to near-immediate outcry from Southerners, who viewed the holiday as an attempt to enforce Yankee values). Southern governors reluctantly complied with the presidential proclamation, but cooks in the South developed their own unique regional traditions. In the South, sweet potato pie quickly became more popular than New England’s pumpkin pie (mostly because sweet potatoes were easier to come by than pumpkins). Now, pumpkin pie reigns supreme as the most popular holiday pie across most of the United States, although the Northeast prefers apple and the South is split between apple and pecan, another Southern staple.

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What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?

iStock
iStock

For carbohydrate lovers, nothing completes a Thanksgiving meal quite like stuffing—shovelfuls of bread, celery, mushrooms, and other ingredients that complement all of that turkey protein.

Some people don’t say stuffing, though. They say dressing. In these calamitous times, knowing how to properly refer to the giant glob of insulin-spiking bread seems necessary. So what's the difference?

Let’s dismiss one theory off the bat: Dressing and stuffing do not correlate with how the side dish is prepared. A turkey can be stuffed with dressing, and stuffing can be served in a casserole dish. Whether it’s ever seen the inside of a bird is irrelevant, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be met with suspicion, if not outright derision.

The terms are actually separated due to regional dialects. Dressing seems to be the favored descriptor for southern states like Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, while stuffing is preferred by Maine, New York, and other northern areas. (Some parts of Pennsylvania call it filling, which is a bit too on the nose, but to each their own.)

If stuffing stemmed from the common practice of filling a turkey with carbs, why the division? According to HuffPost, it may have been because Southerners considered the word stuffing impolite, and therefore never embraced it.

While you should experience no material difference in asking for stuffing or dressing, when visiting relatives it might be helpful to keep to their regionally-preferred word to avoid confusion. Enjoy stuffing yourselves.

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