Down East 2013 ©
The school teacher left me a message last week something along the lines of: “Of course you know that Friday, June 4, is National Doughnut Day. If you should happen to be celebrating that particular holiday, count me in.”
That’s pretty typical of the sort of messages I get around here.
I looked up National Doughnut Day. It’s a real thing. Evidently the idea back in the 1930s was to recognize the Salvation Army volunteers from World War 1, and ever since. The doughnut as a morale-booster, wartime or otherwise, is an honorable piece of American history.
On Matinicus, we endeavor to make doughnuts for all public gatherings, whenever possible: island funerals, general elections, scheduled explosions…
When the state police bomb squad guys were here, I told one of them that if I’d had the time, I would have made some doughnuts. He sort of rolled his eyes, shook his head. “That’s such a cop cliché,” he muttered. “No, I didn’t mean that,” I scrambled to explain. “Anything like a planned detonation or something so exciting ought to involve…refreshments.”
Homemade doughnuts being one of my favorite topics — humble, lowbrow, unstylish and these days in the shadow of the ubiquitous and somehow gentrified Maine whoopie pie — I am indeed prepared to celebrate this festive occasion. Of course, this being Matinicus, we’ll have to reschedule the holiday.
That’s normal for us.
My daughter’s birthday will be celebrated a week and a half late, when she is done with her exams and her brother can get off work. The Fourth of July around here is often shoved one way or the other to get out of the fog. Thanksgiving frequently has to wait until people can manage to cross the bay through the November gales, and even wedding anniversaries had better be flexible around here. The weather is everything, as you’ve heard before. I won’t be here on the Fourth, but we’ll have National Doughnut Day somehow.
Making old-fashioned, homemade, lard-fried doughnuts these days is almost an act of civil disobedience considering the diets we are all supposed to be on and the constant news about trans-fats and other culinary evils. The doughnut is used again and again in news stories about our nationally disgraceful eating habits — an example of the worst of the worst. I, for one, am offended. The homemade version bears little resemblance, anyway, to the over-sugared, chemically, trucked-in pastry those celery-chomping foodie reporters are thinking of anyway. (By the way, a commercial doughnut is still a welcome comfort for anyone hard at work at two in the morning when nothing else is open! Thank you, Tim Horton’s!) But a homemade doughnut is a beautiful thing. It brings the neighbors in. Their dogs can smell fresh doughnuts frying a mile away, and they pull on the leash. My friend Suzanne makes chocolate doughnuts in the winter, and word goes around among the few of us still here on the island, and we gather by her fireplace for cabin-fever-relief.
I’m not going to hammer the commercial operations too badly. After final exams this week at my daughter’s school in New Hampshire, the entire student body musters at 4 a.m. on some selected day and gets in line at the local Dunkin Donuts. That little shop is utterly swamped each year with sugar-craving, coffee-swilling teenagers who have just completed a work week largely devoid of sleep, fresh leafy green vegetables, and common sense. It’s a tradition.
There’s a lot of tradition in doughnuts. Final exams. Policemen. Election Day on Matinicus. You name it.
Some of the big national doughnut brands were also celebrating National Doughnut Day last Friday with a free one when you buy a beverage. Why not? I still encourage you to make your own, though. Few enough people do. It’s almost a lost art. Like building stone walls and spinning wool and writing letters to friends on actual pieces of paper, a few rebellious brave souls need to keep this lost art going.
To quote a takeoff on the old gun-rights bumper sticker: “When they outlaw doughnuts, only outlaws will have doughnuts.” I didn’t make that up, but it makes sense on Matinicus (credit to whatever smart-aleck out there did make it up. Thank you.). If we are truly outlaws, as the supposedly serious Maine press likes to paint us, we shall always have doughnuts here. If this is the last place in the country that makes doughnuts, we will have doughnuts.
Of course, we’ll never be the last place. They fry doughnuts on Monhegan too, and on the blue-collar side of Islesboro and many of the other islands, and in quite a few small mainland towns around this part of the world. Some of us have to hold out against the food fascists.
Fry the doughnuts of the resistance.
This day should be especially meaningful in the town of Rockport, which claims a native son, Captain Hanson Crockett Gregory, as the inventor of the doughnut hole. Doughnuts in one form or another are popular worldwide, and the folklore gets pretty thick, so I’m not sure that any one place can truly claim to have invented them, but Rockport, Maine, does deserve a tip of the hat on this august occasion.
Get your handmade local Rockport doughnuts at The Willow Bake Shoppe (Route One, Glen Cove). How’s that for being a “locavore?” (Take that, food snobs!)
Last week we waited for the fog to clear so that hopefully the superintendent of schools could fly to the island for the annual budget meeting (no daily ferry, remember). The weather was promising at best a good, solid maybe. We were planning to have doughnuts for the meeting, and for the first aid class afterward (which got postponed), and for our one teacher when she got back from her appointment on the mainland, should she make it home with the murk hanging over the water.
The weatherman assured us that the rest of the state is in the sunshine. Goody for them. Maybe I should make a batch of doughnuts just to make us feel better. Just because I can. Out here, where there is no law, just let them try and stop me.
Wednesday, June 9, is also Aland Island Autonomy Day. Eva will no doubt be baking something to celebrate that holiday on Matinicus Island as well.