Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Donut Dollies

During one of the episodes of The Great British Bake Off, I found out that the Red Cross during WW2 used Clubmobiles providing the soldiers with fresh coffee and donuts. These were run by American Red Cross women who risked their lifes while caring for the servicemen.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) spoke on the U.S. Senate floor on the importance of honoring the Red Cross Clubmobile women of World War II.

“A visit from a Clubmobile was one of the most significant events for a young G.I. in combat far from home, and the women of the Clubmobiles, young women from every single state, acted as friends and sisters to the troops with whom they interacted,” said Senator Collins.

“These women were trailblazers,” she continued. “The dangers of war were real. During the war, 52 Red Cross women lost their lives, some of them from the Clubmobiles. Their stories are those of a nation at war….Their stories are every bit as vibrant and important to our victory as those of the men who valiantly fought to defend our freedom.”

Katherine Spaatz was the youngest member of the Red Cross Clubmobile, here with a batch of donuts. Photograph by Bob Landry, Time Life Pictures/Getty. (Source: The New Yorker.)

The first Red Cross Clubmobile arrived in France just a few days after the D-Day invasion began, when troops and military equipment were still coming ashore. In July and August of 1944, 80 Clubmobiles and 320 Red Cross volunteers crossed the English Channel. The Red Cross volunteers prepared the coffee and donuts on the converted buses. But these women gave much more than hot drinks and warm food; they were a friendly face, a morale boost and a comfort from home.

“We were standing in the village street in a row serving our coffee and donuts and I was at the end of the line with the coffee dipper. And a G.I. came up to me, a very young guy, a 19-year-old, like a lot of them were, and he said his name was Jerry and he just needed to talk to me,” said Barbara Pathe, a Clubmobile worker with the troops in Germany. “And so he stood there and talked to me the whole time we were serving.… Listening was the biggest thing we did. Nothing else, just listening.”

And here is the recipe for the Red Cross Donuts:

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp butter or substitute, melted
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4/ cup sour milk (buttermilk)
  • 1 egg well beaten

How you put it all together:

  1. Combine half of the flour with the soda, salt and ginger.
  2. Combine the egg, molasses, sour milk and melted butter or substitute.
  3. Blend with flour mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
  4. Add remaining flour to make dough of sufficient to be rolled.
  5. Roll, on floured board, to thickness of 1/4 inch.
  6. Cut with a donut cutter.
  7. Fry in deep hot fat (360 degrees) until lightly browned, about 2 03 three minutes.
  8. Drain on brown paper.

Featured image shows an American Red Cross truck. Photograph by Cpl. J.E. Watson, 46th Armored Infantry Battalion, 5th Armored Division, US Army. Via Janice Bernard.

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