We had our donut party on Sunday.

Every year I think to myself, Self, no one is going to come this year. They’re all tired of this sorry affair. Why would they leave the comfort of their homes to come stand around in your yard and eat a couple donuts? I mean, really.

And then I go and get ready anyway. On the off-chance that someone might show up.

This year we wiped down walls and scrubbed tables and potted plants and mowed and washed the porch and set up tables and ordered cider and apples and filled a shopping cart with a shocking amount of sugar and oil, and people came, of course. I knew they would. But still, it catches me off guard every year.

The party, from our end of the deal, was kind of fraught. Nothing big—no oil burns or food poisoning or salt-instead-of-sugar in the dough—just…off. I felt unfocused, out-of-balance. Kind of sideways weird.

Me, being fraught.

We had decided to start frying early this year so that we wouldn’t have such a mad rush once the party started and so I wouldn’t have to stay behind a pot of hot oil the entire time.

But we cut out the donuts too soon and forgot to take rising time into account so suddenly we had hundreds of donuts simultaneously ready for frying.


wooden skewers for glazing: my husband’s genius idea

And then the glaze separated.

My mother—this was her first time to attend the party—took a bite and asked, “Is the milk sour?’

I about lost my head. “Oh my word, Mom, no. Just NO. Do not even suggest such a thing. Are you out of your mind? Do you want to put me over the edge? BECAUSE I AM GOING OVER THE EDGE RIGHT NOW!”

She backpedaled right fast, let me tell you. (And no, the milk was most certainly not sour. Good grief.)

We’re still not sure why the glaze separated. Maybe it was too thin? My husband added a bunch more sugar and that seemed to help a bit.

Another reason for my off feeling: a couple nights before, one of the kids suffered a bout of random and repeated puking. So I was queasy. Or rather, I was worried I might be queasy. Bubbling pots of oil are enough to make a healthy stomach feel twitchy, and after bearing witness to all that retching— well, I felt ill just thinking about the possibility of feeling ill.

And then, an hour before the appointed time, my older daughter got stung by a bee and started up with her big old reactions—huge swelling that lasts for days and lots of pain and tears.
To top it all off, the kids were bugging me silly—the youngest in particular. Probably because we were frying donuts two hours before the party was to start and he had nothing better to do.

The naughty boy took pity on the naughty puppy and read him a book.

Right around four o’clock when the party was supposed to start, I had all these sad feelings. The no-one-would-come feeling was front and center, but there were other feelings, too. There was the I-can’t-do-anything-right feeling, and the I’m-not-jiving-with-the-day feeling, and the my-kids-are-hellions feeling, and the I-just-want-to-curl-up-on-the-sofa-and-read-a-book feeling.

But then cars started trickling in the drive.

The trickle soon turned into a downpour. Cars flooded the field. The yard teamed with people.

“So, um,” (clears throat) “I ate nine donuts and six holes. You?”
“Five? Are you kidding me? What ARE you? A lightweight?”
“Aw man, I just got here! Give me a little time!”

There were teenagers on the porch, chicken-lovers in the hen house, and sugar-buzzed kids jumping on the trampoline. Some parents took a bunch of kids over to the other side of the house for organized games. One girl, a budding lover of all things English related, came up and recited The Highway Man for me, her mouth full of donut. People gave me hugs.

Still, things were off. I ran out of donuts to fry and panicked because I suddenly realized that I really liked standing behind a pot of hot oil the entire time. And then all the hundreds of donuts somehow got eaten and I panicked because, Oh my word we are running out! This never happened before! Eep! Eep! Eep! Freak out! Freak out!

My husband ran into the house and rolled out the ball of dough seconds—the tough bits of dough leftover from the first cuttings—but he rolled them out super thick and we didn’t have time to rise them so I ended up frying up disgusting balls of half-cooked, burned grossness. And people ate them, ew!

By then, however, I wasn’t feeling so bad about all my “off-ness” feelings. Clearly, people were having fun. How I felt was beside the point.

And then I realized, the reason I felt so sad right before people came was because we were frying the donuts early. See, whenever I’ve fried donuts before, I always had a crowd of people around me. It was a fact, a mathematical equation: frying donuts = a party.

But—and this was my mistake—it wasn’t a party because of the donuts, oh no! It was a party because of the people!

I know this, I do. Deep down I know that people only need a welcoming space to be together.

But I still get caught up in the little details, in my angsty self-esteem issues, in my I-want-to-be-the-best mode. The thing is, when it comes down to it, those things really don’t matter one wit.

(Though I doubt many people would come if we just served cold, leftover oatmeal. So maybe the details do matter. Just a little.)

This same time, years previous: the donut party 2011, no special skills (homeschooling rant), apple cake, Italian cream cake, The Stash of 2008


  • Anonymous

    This essay captures the complexities of emotions and and social dynamics so poignantly — it completely resonated with me. Thank you for sharing.

    — Susan

  • Anonymous

    Years ago, when I put my deep fryer on the garage sale table my 20+ year old son said, "Does this mean you're not going to make doughnuts any more?" If I had thought of a doughnut party at the time (even a small one) that might have encouraged me to keep it. Just reading your story and seeing the photos makes me wish I could once again fry up a batch and share them with family and friends near and far.

  • Jules

    Donuts! (Or is it doughnuts?!) 🙂 I read the title and the kids came running – so we would definitely show up if anyone we knew threw a donut party!! We've done ice cream parties in the past summers, but I love the idea of a fall party too

  • Anonymous

    I made a half batch of your doughnuts this past Monday and they were delicious! Since it was my first ever doughnut making attempt, I let the kids have as many as they wanted. It was fabulous. I may just be inspired enough to have a neighborhood doughnut party next year. But if we do, I'll have to get my husband make a way cool doughnut holder like yours – that thing must be indispensible! 🙂 Vicki

    • Jennifer Jo

      Oh Vicki, This makes me so happy! Every kid should have the opportunity to have all-you-can-eat-homemade-donuts at least once in their childhood.

  • Ayrie Joyce

    Great post. It looks like amazing fun. How many people were there? It looked like a ton! We're having our big fall event this weekend – so your post was perfect timing. I often need to stop and remind myself of exactly what you've said… we have parties because of the people.

  • Kathy

    Your bit about the oatmeal makes me laugh. Every summer we say "I'm making red beans & rice on Tuesday, come on over" or "I'm making burgers every Thursday, come as you are" & we have droves of people at the house. This summer we said "I'm turning vegan, come on over on Tuesdays for something good" and no one came over the entire summer…

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